BY THEA MONYEÉ. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC MICHAEL WARD.
Removing the labels of good versus bad from our thoughts and actions allows us to self reflect from a place of love, not judgement.
Over the past ten years, I’ve worked with clients from various backgrounds. Young, old, black, white, rich, and poor. One thing they have in common is the challenge to “own their stuff.” Accountability is an essential part of the learning-healing-growing process, but it tends to drudge up unresolved feelings of shame and guilt. Emotions such as these create barriers to our growth, making it difficult for us to engage in the honest conversations required to be accountable for our thoughts, actions, and outcomes.
One of the first words we learn as children is "no." This little word quickly becomes synonymous with “bad” and is accompanied by the disapproving glares and tones of the adults around us. This form of shaming trains us to avoid what is bad for fear of losing the favor of others. On the other hand we also learn that to earn favor with those around us we have to be “good." Good behavior is quickly rewarded with smiles and praises, sometimes even candy. Unbeknownst to both parent and child, the conditioning process has begun, and a powerful belief has been established: To be loved and accepted we have to be good.
The primary issue with labels like good or bad is that they are subjective. They are assigned to us based on a sliding scale that we didn’t calibrate. This means what’s good or bad shifts from person to person and from situation to situation, dragging our sense of self along with it. No wonder so many people sit in front of me afraid to reveal the truth about who they are, afraid to lose the approval and favor of the people they love. The conditioning that began as a practice to teach us socially acceptable behavior can grow into a fear of intimacy and a fear of being fully visible to others, flaws and all.
As adults, with many experiences behind us, we can embrace a truth that our five-year-old selves didn’t know: we all have some “bad” in us. We all have moments when we are difficult to love, but that doesn’t mean that we are undeserving of love. Those moments don’t define us as bad people unless we accept that label. The work begins when we are willing to unlearn that early childhood conditioning, and examine ourselves label-free. We can’t go back and prevent our parents and teachers from labeling our actions, but we can start to remove the labels we assign today and ask ourselves critical questions that promote positive change.
What did I do? What motivated me to do it? What was the outcome? Was this the outcome that I intended? If not, what part of this process can I change to create a more favorable result? Was anyone hurt? Can it be repaired? How can I prevent this from happening again?
This type of loving and nonjudgmental self-examination goes beyond labels and into the core of our socio-emotional creative process. It teaches us to be gentle, flexible, and forgiving. Instead of barricading ourselves in shame we can lay out the facts, evaluate them, and make a decision about how we want to proceed. In other words, the shaming and blaming caused by labeling our actions block us from gathering valuable information that can be used to self-assess and evolve. Removing the labels of “good” or “bad” encourages us to bring light to shadow, and to embrace everything in between.
The next time you find yourself preparing to slap a label on your thoughts, words, or actions, take a breath instead and ask yourself a few questions. Stop judging and start loving yourself. Every single part.
Thea Monyeé contributes to BGIO to join forces with black women who re-member their powerful abilities, and consider it a part of their divine journey to assist other black women to re-member theirs. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Thea stays connected to her highest self through yoga, chakra meditation, reiki, crystal healing, and spending time with nature and loved ones. You can find her on Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/Facebook using the handle @theamonyee.