Wife. Mother. Author. Friend. Teacher. Optimist. Artist.
To a lesser extent… Chef. Organizer. Gardener. Runner. Risk taker. Philanthropist.
And just a little less… Activist. Adventure-seeker. Traveler.
Have you caught on yet? These are just a few of my labels, the hats that I wear. (Or that I think I wear. Maybe I should have let my husband or my friends write these lists.) And, you know, as much as I resist being labeled, I actually like these distinctions. I like the woman that they strive to define. But I know there are other things that I am. (Or that people think I am.) Less appealing things…
Opportunist. Narcissist. Pacifist. Cynic. Worry-wart. Even (and I hate this one) dumb blonde (I am a natural blond after all).
All sarcasm aside, I have to admit that there is a sliver of truth in even the things that I passionately resist — I fit the label of a dumb blonde. Sometimes. Not too long ago I ran an entire 5k in a shirt that was on backwards and inside out. Everyone I met on the trail got a good look at my tags and the big, yellow logo of my Under Armour shirt. See? A little ditzy sometimes… Though, in my defense, I did get dressed in the dark.
The problem with labels (no matter how true they might be)? They make us feel cornered. They make us feel like we’ve been backed into a place that we may or may not want to be — but the point isn’t that we’re there, it’s that someone put us there. I resist the label novelist because I also consider myself a poet, a lyricist, a storyteller. And sometimes I don’t like being called an optimist because I have a pretty wicked cynical streak.
Labels limit us. They dump us in categories with people that we may not like or want to be associated with. They come bursting at the seams with all sorts of connotations and baggage. Sometimes they even drive us to be reactionary — to do everything in our power to be the exact opposite of the label we’ve been given. (And sometimes we just do that naturally… Ever met a timid extrovert? You just did — I can be, in turns, wallflower shy and the life of the party.)
Labels still make me feel cornered, but I’m starting to stake my claim in the landscape I’ve been given. Starting with the only label that matters: worthy. I may claim (and cry over) a myriad of different labels, but at the end of the day I am a valuable human being in my own right. Unique, exceptional, worthy, beloved. It’s the most important thing you’ll ever know about me–and this label applies to you, too. I pray that no matter where you find yourself, you have the grace to accept that you are deeply, passionately, extravagantly LOVED. Your life matters, and so do you.
My challenge for you this #MuseMonday? Look in the mirror and take a moment to appreciate the person you see. You are magnificent. And we all need a little encouragement from time to time—especially on a Monday.
Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, Little Broken Things.