How calling someone ‘the smart one’ or ‘the pretty one’ is the furthest thing from a compliment

wordsToday, I read an article in the Washington Post. A reader wrote in to ask Dear Carolyn, “Is it dumb for ‘the smart one’ to feel so much pressure over a childhood label?” The woman expressed that this label had her terrified to try something new that she may not be good at, in fear of turning that label upside down, and disproving it.

Right away, my heart sank. That’s because I immediately saw the fear and judgment this reader was carrying around with her that was limiting her life, and not allowing her to be free. She did not pick that label! In short, a childhood label is an agreement you made with your parents or teachers or whomever about WHO YOU ARE, despite being too young to be cognizant to know how that label might limit you. And then, as an adult, we kept that agreement, despite growing, and learning and experiencing and opening our minds to the possibilities of the universe. Childhood labels have sticking power. To this day, I have to fight the labels placed on me as a teen, despite giving a bare-all TedX Talk about their power to define, and OUR power to choose labels that might better suit us.

Are you the good one? The smart one? The dumb one? The jock? The pretty one? The nice one? How’s THAT working for you? You have the power to make a new label today. And parents, please, think about this, open your mind to the possibilities for your child. Even if the label you place on your child is a positive one, i.e. pretty, smart, that can have dire consequences as that child grows up and continues holding onto and embracing that limiting defining characteristic.

Read the Washington Post article


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