Labels are all around. The second you meet someone new you begin labeling them in your mind, even if you're not meaning to. We are asked to label ourselves at job interviews with the famous question "List three words that describe you;" we're labeled by the sports we play; the job we have and the clothes we wear. The truth is we are all labeled. Sometimes it is by people we will never see again, and sometimes it is by people that are in our lives every day.
When I was younger, I was painfully shy. Ask anyone who knew me back then and they would tell you what a process it was to get me to talk. I remember as a little girl hiding behind my mom's back when my parents tried introducing me to their friends, having my parents order food for me at restaurants, getting sent to the principal's office a number of times in high school for refusing to give presentations. And and of course I always got 15 percent of my final grade deducted for not participating in class.
Being shy was not something I could just decide to not be, I struggled with it a lot. I don't think many people even realized how hard it was for me to open up. I was happy, I was always laughing with my friends and I was on the cheerleading squad smiling each Friday night in front of basically everyone I knew. Well, let me tell you that finding the courage to express my feelings was a lot more difficult than yelling "Go Shamrocks!" in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. I have to say I was thankful and lucky to have such great friends in high school that I felt comfortable with and they always allowed me to be me. But when I wasn't around my friends I still felt trapped in my shell. Even if I had something to say it was almost as if I physically couldn't.
I was faced with a huge challenge that any shy person would understand when I went to college and didn't know a soul. I used this as my starting point. This was a new chapter in my life. I didn't need to pretend to be happy all the time (no one is happy all the time), I didn't want to just cheer people on anymore as my way of finding my place and I certainly didn't want to let myself feel like I couldn't be exactly who I wanted to be.
I made it a point to show people who I was and I no longer allowed myself to keep quiet when I had something to say. My family and friends were shocked when I chose communications as my major and it's amazing at how much it helped me find myself. I became so comfortable at giving presentations and speaking in front of my peers, I just recently gave a speech to 300 people without even having to glance at my notes!
The thing that changed for me was that I learned to accept myself. I finally gave myself permission to be me, 100 percent of every day and not care what others thought about it. Sometimes it is hard to get comfortable in your own shoes, but that's really the only shoes you will ever be comfortable in. Everyone is different, but we all have something amazing to offer that is unique to each of us. My point is, just because everyone knows the "you" that you have been your whole life, does not mean that's the only "you" that you have to offer.
Don't let what people label you, define you. Just because someone calls you a word doesn't mean that is what you are required to be. If you're labeled as shy, loud, lazy, dumb, fake, it does not mean that is what you are. Instead, go out and define yourself. You'll find that you have so much more to offer than you ever imagined. I think the most important part is we need to learn to love ourselves first. This is the hardest part for most people, but it should be so simple. You are your own biggest critic.
You look in the mirror and see everything you wish you could change. In fact, the only time you ever see yourself is when you're looking in the mirror. You don't get to see the peaceful you when you are asleep at night, you don't get to see the laughing you when you are out with your friends, you don't get to see the kindness in your smile when hold the door open for a stranger and you never get to see the look in your eyes when you're talking to the person you love. But these are just some of the things that other people get to see and these are the simple things that people love you for. No matter the day and no matter the situation, be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Never let anyone tell you that you are anything less than amazing.
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