There was a girl — a fidgety girl who wouldn’t stay in her seat during class. No matter how much her teachers pleaded with or punished her…she just couldn’t sit still.
Concerned, the teacher suggested this girl see a therapist. Perhaps some one-on-one time or medication could help the girl behave.
The girl and her mother went to the therapist’s office. They spoke for a while. The therapist observed her behavior. After some time, the doctor asked the girl to leave the room so she could talk to her mother privately.
The little girl went out into the hallway while the adults talked.
At this point, the mother was concerned. Why did the therapist ask to speak alone? Was there something seriously wrong with her child?
There happened to be a radio playing in the hallway.
The therapist directed the mother to look out into the hallway.
“Your daughter doesn’t have a behavior problem,” the therapist said.
“She’s a dancer.”
After the meeting, the mother decided to enroll the girl in dance classes.
The little girl — the one who could’ve easily been mislabeled as having problems instead of gifts — went on to become a world-famous choreographer who developed dance routines for Broadway musicals.
Sadly, stories like these don’t always have a happy ending.
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will believe it’s stupid” — Albert Einstein
In the real world, the girl in the aforementioned story would likely be prescribed medication more often than not. It’s easier to place a label on someone than it is to do the work to discover what they’re actually capable of.
I have another illuminating anecdote; a study actually.
A teacher was given reports on the children in her new class. Per usual, the abilities and the behaviors of the children ranged from polite, gifted, and model students to troubled, struggling, poor students. Except the reports were switched. The labels between each type of student were purposefully switched.
The teacher cemented the profiles of these students in her mind before meeting them and treated them accordingly. The “gifted” kids grades started to slip while the “troubled” kids showed a marked improvement in their performance. All because of how they were treated, labeled, classified, and organized.
Can you see somewhere in your life where someone tried to put you in a little box?
Maybe you weren’t considered the smart sibling.
Maybe you didn’t get straight A’s in school. Maybe you did. Each can be debilitating in their own way.
You’re the analytical one, not the creative one, or vice versa. You’re good with your hands but not math. Blah Blah Blah.
These generic statements about what constitutes your personality and ability are useless.
You’re a human being made up of one of a kind combination of billions of strings of DNA. You’ve lived a life colored by a set of experiences unique to you. You’re complex — much more so than the labels society or other people try to put on you.
So today, this week, this month, the rest of the year, spend some time not only learning who you are but embracing who you are.
Focus On Your Strengths and Don’t Give a F*** About What You Suck At — Gary Vaynerchuk
I’ve talked about the process of unlearning the labels society places on you in my book, but I want to expand on the idea of leaning into your positive qualities and ignoring your negative ones.
I’m not very organized. I can be messy and absent-minded. If I were a surgeon, I’d probably get sued for malpractice because I left a scalpel inside of a patient. Does this mean I’m not as valuable as a surgeon, or an accountant, or an air traffic controller — professions who must pay attention to detail? Absolutely not. Those professions are trees, and I’m a fish who can’t climb them.
I focus on my strengths. I’m a decent communicator working on becoming a great one. I’m a thinker and have an insight into the world people seem to find helpful. I’m a dreamer who’s good at visualizing the future and painting a picture of people’s potential.
How did I learn these strengths?
I took tests — Gallup Strengths Finder, the Meyers Briggs Typing Index, and the Enneagram test are great places to start. They give you detailed personality profiles with recommendations on how to build on your strengths and use your traits to your advantage.
According to the Meyers Briggs test, I’m an ENTP. ENTP’s are contrarian thinkers who have a fascination with…everything. The downside of being an ENTP? They’re great at starting things but terrible at finishing them. They have too many ideas.
How does a disorganized ENTP like myself commit to writing books? I utilize the help of others and build safeguards against my own weaknesses. I’m not a stickler for detail, so I must work with professional editors and have multiple rounds of revision for my books.
I take note cards from books I read and store them for later. I’m okay with taking the notes while I’m curiously reading, so it mitigates my disorganized nature.
I’ve learned to prioritize. I know I can’t do everything, so I do my best to act on the ideas I’m pulled toward right away,
In your case, you want to create systems to shore up your weaknesses, but DO NOT FOCUS ON THEM.
Society wants you to focus on your weaknesses and shortcomings so you can be sold solutions and products to solve problems you don’t even really have!
Instead, you’re going to magnify the light inside of you.
Guess what? Those little handcrafted earrings you’re good at making…someone might want to buy them.
You’re an avid sports fan…the type who knows every detail about every player on every team? That’s a skill… a highly marketable one.
If you weren’t good at anything, you wouldn’t be interested in anything. There’s no human being on earth that has zero interests. Those interests you shrug off as little hobbies are actually gold mines.
You are a wildly talented human being. I don’t say that lightly, just to make you feel good. If I didn’t believe you were capable of anything, I wouldn’t drag my ass out of bed at 5 a.m. to write for you…on a Monday.
You just have to find a way to get out of your little box.
You have to escape the prison you’ve built with your past and your excuses. You’re the label maker. Not the world.
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Originally published at medium.com