One morning I woke up to this…
The retractable cord on my hair dryer was stuck in its retracted position. The sticker stating “Don’t drop me in water, or I’ll explode,” decided to fold itself up a few times, let it’s sticky side show, and climb its way up a hole only big enough for a single-strand cylinder (not wrapped in goo).
I yanked on it, only to watch the free part of the rubber cord stretch, discolor and almost tear, as the sticker didn’t move from it’s lodged position.
The first phrase that came into my head was this:
“That warning label you put on your life to manage how people act around you just got stuck up your ass and is limiting your potential.”
I don’t even use that language, it made me laugh, and it felt a lot deeper than just the hair dryer. Therefore, this bold statement made it to a blog.
I instantly thought of the kids I used to work with in the juvenile hall and alternative schools. (If you are one of them and you are reading this, I’m sure I am not talking about you…). While they may never have claimed to listen in english class, they had a good daily dosage of definitive promises and cause and effect statements.
If you [do this], then I will [do that].
1. If you…
look at me wrong, come at me, touch my stuff, talk about my mom…
2. I will…
explode, go off, bust a cap, go crazy, etc. (add explicatives throughout for effect if desired).
Granted, some threats to fight, including hitting, were acted on, producing negative consequences for both parties, but often the threat of response was more of an internal combustion impacting the “threat-et” more than anyone else they intended to influence.
1. You called me that name under your breath…
2. I cuss you out, out loud in class…
3. I get detention.
1.You looked at me again and I told you not to…
2. I punch you…
3. I get removed from class to go back to my cell (remember… I worked in a juvenile hall).
In most contexts, unfortunately the words spoken worked more effectively as negative self-fulfilling prophecies than they did as scare tactics against other people, and the 2nd perpetrator didn’t factor in the cause, effect, effect scenario that often goes into play when there is someone in authority standing by.
It seemed as if the threats they tried to throw on their peers were actually warning labels over themselves as if to say, “I am a ticking time bomb. You can make me go off very easily.”
As a hairdryer, if you plug me in and put me in water – I will spark. As a child, I am aware of my capacity to handle you, so if you step outside of that capacity, I will be unpredictable and out of control.
Some call it self-awareness, but I would venture to say that sometimes these statements are simply self-limiting beliefs.
This may be an extreme example, but this habit of speaking negatively over ourselves may be more pervasive, even outside of juvenile hall, than we think.
Our “warning labels”, or self-limiting mindsets, tell others how to act around us or convince ourselves of how we would act in a situation. They grant an expectation for response; these definitive statements, assuming that we can or cannot handle something, actually only position us to be powerless and limited in our abilities and scope of influence.
To allow another’s action, or a pending circumstance, to so influence your emotions is to take a baton labeled “power over me” and give it away.
How many times have I, in a new situation, anticipated failure and proclaimed it?
“If you hand me the mic, I will have nothing to say.”
“If you leave me with cooking dinner, you might be served something burnt.“
“If I was in charge here, it wouldn’t turn out half as great.“
“If I tried bungie jumping, I’d freeze up.“
“If I had to run a marathon, I would probably die.“
Negative mindsets about ourselves, our abilities and about God are like warning labels. We position them over our present and future as a guardrail for what we have pre-determined that we can or can’t do. Unfortunately, they’re typically placed based on past experiences or yet-to-be-attained-wisdom and we somehow forget… ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
And, while self-awareness is great and warning labels about inanimate objects including live wires and water are very helpful, we are called to be supernatural and we are constantly growing into new abilities and discovering new things about ourselves.
Next time you are given the opportunity to step out on a limb in life, in love, in work, in play – please remember:
The warning labels we are tempted to place on our lives, to manage how people act or respond to us, will limit our potential.
When it’s time to try something new, especially if it is “not your personality” or you think “you’re horrible at that,” remember that sometimes we just have to pull off the label, jump in the water, and watch the sparks fly.
“Don’t say, ‘take care,’ say ‘take risk.'” – Andrew Canon White