What Label Are Your Wearing?

By Nancy Fredericks

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Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.thrivewithnancy.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.


Sometimes we get buried in the labels others have assigned us—or even the ones we’ve consigned to ourselves.

Why is this a bad thing?

Labels are much like a lake at night, with the moon rippling and glistening in all its beauty. But that descriptor only embodies a fraction of what that lake truly offers—fishing, boating, swimming, photography, and so much more.

We need to move past the shallowness of labels to search the secret places of ourhearts rather than the external voices consciously or unconsciously limiting our potential.

Ready to hear some of mine?

My Child’s Moniker: As a kid, my parents called me “lazy.” A label I shamefully wore for years. I secretly hid my “true identity” from the world even as I confirmed its truth by measuring one lackadaisical moment after another—and thus hammering the characteristic more profoundly into my being. 

This label shadowed my early career decisions until it came to light one day as I whispered the secret to a friend. She’d been encouraging me to launch a career as a consultant after watching me work for years as one internally for companies.

“No,” I mouthed with trepidation, finally releasing the label I’d never shared. “I can’t. I’m lazy. I’ll sit on the beach reading books all day without the structure a company offers.

She laughed: “Lazy? You? Never in a million years. Where did you ever get such a crazy idea?”

I chronicled my history.

She said, “Get your head on straight. Instead of believing this BS, check the facts out for yourself. Examine the projects you’re currently working on and ask yourself: ‘Did I initiate the project, is anyone bird-dogging me and is it moving forward?’”

Oh my gosh, did that reframe that old lazy analysis? Yes! Poof! Inadequacy gone.

Within six months, I launched my now 30+ year business.

Why did I allow this thought to constrain my life?

My parents weren’t terrible people… they were great…and they had a clear-cut concept of what their daughter should be doing. As an introvert, I loved reading, writing, and knitting. These activities didn’t match their expectations of a healthy child.

But I was in alignment with my future calling. Full circle confession. The writing and reading were all pivotal to the success of my business. And knitting came back after the death of Linda, my beloved sister, as I lovingly hand-knit prayer shawls for the hospital’s patients in remembrance of her.

Where has the world labeled you with their misjudgments? What are you going to do to shake it off?

My Woman Moniker: Yes, that’s my sex and persuasion, but it limited my career choices. Leadership wasn’t even a vague possibility as I was coming up the ranks. None of the options—nurse, teacher, housewife, waitress, etc.—floated my boat. I wanted more. Since hearing my father’s storytelling relating to his business dealings, I have been fascinated by corporate America. So, every step of the way, I fought against the labels placed on me. I’m so thankful women today aren’t as constrained in the same way I was. But that doesn’t mean you’re not facing your own labels that don’t fit. To cast them off requires an awareness of who you are. To do less will place restrictions on who you can be.

My Baby Boomer Moniker: Do I reflect some of the generational characteristics. Oh yes. I must confess I still get stirred by the theme music of Perry Mason. Most of you probably haven’t a clue or have even watched the program. But there is far more to me than enjoying an old, old TV show. The label of Baby Boomer doesn’t come close to describing the totality and significance of who I am. Without clarity on my distinctions, I certainly wouldn’t be who you know me as today.

I’m sharing the insidious labels that promised to minimize or kill off the stirring of my calling throughout my life in the hopes it will inspire you to throw off anything that doesn’t resonate with you.

I encourage you to make choices based upon the greatness of your dreams—not the limitation of the labels placed on you. They are the making or breaking of a career. Don’t let others erase the potential you or name you something you aren’t.


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