Have you seen the movie Old School? It came out in 2003 and is about three adults who are trying to relive their college days by starting a fraternity at a local university. It certainly didn’t win any awards, but it does serve for good escapism on a rainy day.
Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because of a particular scene that I LOVE. One of the characters has kids. In order to protect his son from his friends’ (and his own) foul mouths, the father says, “All ya gotta do is say “earmuffs” to him.” As soon as the father says, “EARMUFFS” the kid covers his ears. Then the obscenities start to fly. It’s classic.
Movie becomes reality when we realize that we are constantly bombarded by judgment just as this boy was bombarded by foul language. Especially with the holiday season upon us, we berate ourselves with statements ranging from, “Boy, I haven’t accomplished much this year” to “I may as well stuff my face because I’m already so fat.” Let’s not even talk about when those judgments are *confirmed* by the comments of
asshole *well-intentioned* family members.
Human nature, it seems, compels us to label. We label ourselves and we label those around us in order to categorize and prioritize. These labels we live by don’t just provide order, however. They can also do just the opposite by creating chaos in our souls. When we internalize those labels, when we begin to believe that we can be nothing other than what we’ve been labeled, we cut off our energy source. Our souls wither when we stop being who we are and choose to be who everyone else thinks we are. Heck, we even do it to ourselves.
We can protect ourselves by muffling the main sources of negativity, (1) what other people say and (2) our own internal monologue.
In order to preserve your own energy, to give light and purpose to who you are on the inside, I propose you put on your earmuffs each day. With the aid of your earmuffs, my friend, you will be the master of your own Label.
Here’s an example:
A very wise woman I know, (let’s call her JS) sent me an e-mail awhile back as we were discussing the label “runner.” Here’s an excerpt of JS’s e-mail:
I have a friend…that has run 2 marathons and at least 3 half marathons and still insists that she is not a runner. This was hard for me to hear when I was thinking about getting up and moving because if she wasn’t a runner after all of that then there was no way I was ever going to be a runner.
Do you see what happened there? The words that this other woman used to describe herself made JS feel bad! I’m quite certain that Ms. “Not-A-Runner” had no intention of affecting JS’s view of herself. But, she did! This woman’s self doubt, her self imposed “I’m not a runner” label made JS doubt herself and her own abilities. I’m sorry, but it does not require competition to achieve the title “runner.” Even so, if you’ve competed in ANY race … not to mention 2 marathons and 3 half marathons … you are definitely a runner by ANYONE’S definition. This is a huge pet peeve of mine … but that’s for another day.
What’s really important is how JS reacted. She is incredibly self-reflective. She has a natural set of earmuffs and was able to muffle the influence of “Not-A-Runner’s” words:
…today…I just smiled a cheesy grin and thought, I AM A RUNNER. End of story. We all have our own definitions of what BEING something is and it is a matter of deciding that you are instead of deciding that you aren’t.
While she didn’t have her earmuffs on the whole time (Who could? My ears sweat just thinking about it), JS realized that what other people think is irrelevant. With earmuffs in place, you’re capable of creating and maintaining your own labels. You empower yourself to be YOU. And by anyone’s definition, YOU are the best YOU you can be, right?
That same theory can be applied to your thoughts about yourself. With your earmuffs on, you get to decide what thoughts are important and worth “listening” to and what thoughts are best reserved for the circular file (my code name for THE TRASH CAN). You don’t HAVE to listen to anyone … not even yourself. Especially when it results in hurt or upset. We do more pain to ourselves than anyone else could do to us.