Rewriting Our Labels

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

-W.C. Fields

I felt God scoop me up in his arms and while he held me, he told me that I do not have to be what they tried to define me as. I am his child and I can choose to be whatever I want to be.

They made me believe that I was worthless, unlovable, disgusting, dirty, crazy, and bad. That I could never surmount to anything more than a pretty face and nice body to be used and defiled by others. God told me that I was smart, beautiful, kind, loving, and had the potential to help others. I know I am loved because the creator of the Earth tells me that I am his child and that he loves me.

God loves me so much that he sacrificed his only son on the cross for me, breathed his life into me and protected the kind heart he created from all the people who tried to destroy it. He loves me so much that he carried me to the other side of abuse, horrific trauma, and mental illness. He loves me so much that he journeyed through the world of chaos, insanity, pain, and trauma I once lived in, just to find me. So, that he could bring me to a world of love, happiness, hope, and peace. This is the God that I know, the God that loved me to life and loved me to live.

-The Anonymous Survivor

Over the summer, I participated in a leadership program. On the first day, we did an exercise where we wrote down some of our labels. We could choose labels that we had taken ownership of that others gave us. Or, we could write down labels we had given ourselves.

Similar to most in the program, I had written down one positive label and one negative label: resilient and unworthy. Both labels were products of my trauma. I was resilient because despite everything I had been through, I was still there. At the same time, I felt unworthy because negative experiences and negative people had taught me that. I didn’t feel worthy of success, happiness, help, hope, love or respect.

I have learned that when trauma occurs, it can change the way we see ourselves and lead us us to label ourselves negatively. We may also take ownership of the way our perpetrators and other negative people in our life labeled us. When we define ourselves negatively, it affects other areas of our lives negatively.

Throughout my trauma, I gave myself and took ownership of many negative labels. I defined myself as bad, a slut, stupid, disgusting, unworthy, a failure, unlovable; the list goes on and on.

During my leadership program, I figured out that I had the ultimate power over my labels. I had the power to not only change the way I labeled myself, but to change what labels I accepted and owned. My faith played a huge role in changing how I define myself and how I choose to let others define me.

Sitting in church one night, our pastor spoke to us about the lies told to us and the lies we tell ourselves. He talked about how those lies come from evil. Then, he encouraged us to pray and ask God who we are and how he sees us. Over and over again, I heard God whisper for me to lift my head because I am his child whom he loves. The poem written towards the top of this page is how I believe God sees me and was the beginning of me working on rewriting my labels.

I redefined myself through trauma recovery as well. I broke down where some of my negative labels originated. Many of them resulted from my trauma and people who had hurt me. At some point, I took ownership of the things they said to me and the way they made me feel about myself. I learned those labels not only from the words I repeatedly heard, but also the way I was repeatedly treated. Eventually, I started to believe those words and experiences defined me. However, in the end, my counselor and I were able to tare down those negative labels because they were lies. One part of that process included using a very wise saying, “Consider the source”.

By the end of my leadership program, I was proud that many of us, myself included, had worked hard to change the negative labels we wrote down that first day. I know now that I am worthy of happiness, success, love, kindness, help, hope, and respect. One of my favorite quotes goes, ” I am worthy of love and respect because I breathe”.

Every human being deserves to be treated like a human being. Period. If anyone defines or treats us as anything less than, we have the right to refuse that. If we are labeling ourselves negatively, we owe it to ourselves to change our own labels. You can start by listing things you like about yourself or positive things others have told you. I already know that you are beautiful, capable, valuable, resilient, strong, worthy, and loved. You are a survivor.

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