It’s no secret that I’ve put on a few pounds in the last year. I’m actually mostly okay with it. More to love, right? The only problem is I’m not comfortable in my clothes anymore. This is a bigger problem to me than it is to most because I have another problem. I hate to shop! The thought of trying on clothes and spending money on new duds just fills me with annoyance and dread. However, I recently went into a store and made a purchase that made me so happy that it inspired a second trip to the store and another purchase of the same jeans in a slightly different denim hue.
The design was brilliant! They were jeans but with a discreet little elastic band hidden in the waist! Brilliant! Never in all my life had I been so comfortable in a pair of jeans! I was thrilled. I told every female friend I knew that they “had” to go buy some of these jeans. I sent pictures to them so they would get the right brand and style. I wrote a review for crying out loud! I became an unsolicited brand ambassador for these jeans.
Then something happened that humbled me to my core. Someone informed me that my favorite jeans were actually maternity pants! I was so embarrassed that I could have just died! But I didn’t. Instead, I let the feeling of embarrassment wash over me quickly as I slid into my ‘maternity’ jeans and set out for date night at La Hacienda! Tonight, they were not maternity pants at all. They became chips, salsa, and queso jeans!
Just because someone somewhere at some point in time gave you a label does not mean that label has to define you. Sometimes we give ourselves labels and they stick. Our opinions of ourselves can be self-limiting and destructive. Maternity pants? That is someone’s opinion. The greatest thing since sliced bread? That’s mine. Too talkative? Someone else’s. Fabulous company? Mine. Hyperactive? Theirs. Energic and creative? Mine. We make a choice in what we believe about ourselves but sometimes the world is so careless with labels that we get caught up in them and they overwhelm us.
My professor reminded me this morning of a quote from Viktor Frankl, a Nazi Concentration Camp survivor – “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (Frankl, 1963, p.104). Frankl believed that life has meaning in any circumstance. I share this belief. I feel that meaning should not be defined by what situation we find ourselves in or the labels carelessly assigned to us, but in what we choose to learn from any given situation – the good we choose to see from day to day in others and in ourselves.
It is sometimes tricky to separate truth from fiction. The world hammers us with what we are and what we are not. Commercials tell us that we are too thick, our teeth are not white enough, and our clothes are out of style. We are desperate and lonely. Our situations are drear but not to fear! Their products and services will solve all our problems! Thankfully, as children of God, we can choose to look beyond these lies and know with certainty what we really are- Forgiven (1 John 1:9). Loved (John 3:16). Chosen (Deuteronomy 14:2).
Your past, genetics, financial situation, relationships, and other external factors may tell you that you were designed to be in maternity pants. But I am here to tell you my beautiful friend that you were made for more. You, honey, were made for salsa!
Frankl, Viktor E. (1966). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.