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Ripping Off My Badges

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What is our obsession with badges?  Girl Scouts.  Letterman’s jackets.  Credentials.  Resumes.

I can admit, I’ve been one of those people.  My life has been lived as a collection of what I’ve done and achieved…The proverbial trophy room.

I grew up in a small town, raised goats and showed them at fairs.  My parent’s home displays a shrine of sorts boasting all the ribbons and trophies I won over the years.  Back then, it was my pride.  Whenever I return to visit, I often reminisce at the colorful, shiny representation of my childhood.

For me, it meant something.  It meant that I was worth something, that somehow the “win” meant I was good and that gave me value.  A blue ribbon or bronzed plaque was validation.  But now…What do I remember?  I remember friends I made and bonding time I spent with my dad. It was how I learned responsibility, competitive spirit, follow-through, and putting my best face forward.  I only realize this now in reflection.

But back then these objects meant significance.

Having grown up my entire life with this line of thinking, the goal was always the next…Promotion, award, compliment…A crafted patch that I would wear to define me. Another bullet point on my resume, another letter of recommendation…Check.  It was a race to collect and stack.

So I bought a nice car, lived in a big house, bought the designer purses.  I realize saying that now feels empty and embarrassing.

These pieces didn’t make me a better person or supply me the fulfillment I so desperately sought.  The status didn’t validate the purpose I came to this earth to fulfill.  The perceptions didn’t satisfy my desire to create, influence and give.

In re-evaluating my life and advancing myself along the journey to grow and become better, I’ve taken stock of what I value and how that has ultimately shaped me.

I tried to identify with the labels I’d acquired, some self-inflicted and others born of perceptions from the outside.  I shimmied to fit into a package that I thought showcased me, that eventually defined who I was.

The badges have become a row of symbols across my chest that I’ve worn in validation and of my need for proof.  They have been distractions to hide behind, masking my insecurities.

Each label made a sandbox in which to dig in, rather than an open field in which to run in.  They’ve said “you are this” and “you are not that”, enforcing limitations that couldn’t be overcome and predetermined boundaries. These badges have been shackling.

And today?  Today I break away.  I rip each one off, salute its previous significance, and set them all free.  They once served a purpose as the trellis that upheld me, even guiding me for a while.  But I now dismiss the confines the labels have created and dance on their tombstone.

I am no longer tied by my past, it’s simply there to give texture to the next chapters.

A new volume is set in motion, with no existing definitions. This will be born of love and passion, relinquishing previous rules and normal convention.  Complacency, laurels and external validation no longer tie me.

My faith and love in myself now guide me.

Each day is a new sheet of paper where my pen can write new poems and illustrations.  I can be superwoman or climb a mountain.  I can change my mind.  It’s possible I’ll invent teleportation (shhh, our secret).  Or maybe I’ll decide to burn it all down to build something remarkable and new. Today, I am building a company.

Most importantly, rather “living up to”, and instead of trying to prove… I can simply be. No longer am I a label, a title or dust-collecting hardware.

So I invite you to join me… What badges have held you, what can you set free?

How will you start today? Create, build, sing, dance…Fly.

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5 Comments

  1. Jean – I couldn’t relate more to this post and it’s something I discovered, acknowledged, and began working on ferociously at the beginning of 2012. It has been almost a year and half of “ripping off badges” and realizing none of them matter. I was climbing the wrong corporate ladder, spending my money on the wrong things, and working hard for the wrong affirmations of my success.

    It feels good to clear these out of my life and focus more on “simply being” as you put above. I still have goals and plans and ways to measure my “success” but they are much, much different than they were even just two years ago.

    Love this post! 🙂

    1. Dani, thanks for this comment. Love that this resonates as it’s something I have thought so much about and hope more people can consider the power to redefine yourself. 🙂

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