We sometimes allow others to tell us who we are--to name/define us--usually based on something negative. Growing up, we had the saying, "[s]ticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." We, or our loved ones, repeated it when people were called out of their given names. Today, we hear countless stories of bullying; people using pejorative terms to describe others; folks telling others they're nothing or good for nothing; people being teased because they're different, etc. Everyone has moments of weakness, vulnerability, self-doubt, etc., and if those negative words are spoken repeatedly and/or at times of vulnerability, it may have a damaging effect.

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite quotes has been, "[i]t does not matter so much what the thing is called as what the thing is".* So, for example, why not tear off the label of "victim" and be a victor; tear off the label of "good for nothing" and use your gift(s); tear off the label of "no one" and show you are a child of God who's loved,  blessed, precious, talented, and fearfully and wonderfully made; tear off the label of "ugly, disabled, or limited" and show your beauty while using your perceived limitation(s) to be a blessing to others; tear off the label of "outcast and different" and show your exceptionalism; tear off the label of "incapable" and step out of the shadows to exhibit your skills; tear off the label of "having little or nothing" and walk in your blessings. When people mislabel us it's often based on a snapshot in time and/or their own insecurities (we all have them). Absent unusual circumstances, why should any one thing, situation, or circumstance define the entirety of our lives? You know who you are and of what you're capable. If not, find others who can encourage you in this regard.

We must surround ourselves with people who know and call us by our proper name(s), who affirm, support, encourage, and uplift us. (For those of us fortunate to have such people in our lives, why not mentor others who don't?) We can't allow naysayers to tell us who we are or should be. Those folks struggle just like we do. We can't allow anyone to tell us what we're not capable of doing. Been there (see this). We can't allow anyone to tell us we're limited. Instead of absorbing things meant to harm us, we must allow them to motivate us to be everything we're purposed to be. Let's live up to who God says we are and can be rather than down to the naysayers.

What's in a name? Nothing or everything. It depends on whether the name represents who we know we are and what we're capable of based on what God says about us.

*Carter G. Woodson
 
 
Now that you've made it through the planting season, it's time for the seeds of your dream to grow. Realization of your dream requires faith, gratitude, confidence, and perseverance. Because even after you've done all that's possible for you to do, your first steps toward realizing your dream will be taken without knowing how things will work out. You must have faith that they will. Will there be weeds along the way--obstacles, naysayers, critics, etc? There will always be weeds. See them for what they are, deal with them, and move forward. Envision yourself "giv(ing) 'em the Gabby."

Gratitude that you've made it this far and that your dream is coming to fruition is important. I believe in being grateful before I actually receive my blessings. That's how I activate my faith. And I find that the more grateful I am, the less I focus on obstacles. I don't ignore them, but I keep them in the proper perspective. And while I'm not happy about them, I try to be grateful for the obstacles knowing they serve a purpose.

Confidence in your plan, hard work, and abilities will help. Remember that you're already a winner. Many think about doing something . . . you actually did it. That itself is to be celebrated.

Finally, perseverance is important at this point. You didn't come this far to give up now. As for how long you should persevere, only you can determine what works best for you. I like these quotes: 1) from Josh Billings: "Consider the postage stamp; its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there"; and 2) from Jim Rohn: "Some people plant in the spring and leave in the summer. If you're signed up for a season, see it through. You don't have to stay forever, but at least stay until you see it through." 
 
 
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Have you ever been underestimated and/or discouraged by others when pursuing your goals or dreams? Gabby Douglas was certainly underestimated. Listening to the commentators last week, you would have thought she wasn't qualified to be on the Olympic team. There was constant second-guessing, dismissive comments about her difficulty focusing, and expressions of incredulity that she earned a spot in the individual all-around competition over a favored teammate. Clearly, they didn't know what Gabby is made of. They treated her like a "scrub", but she showed them she is, indeed, a champion. According to Gabby's mother, Gabby Skyped her before the individual competition to ask if she thought Gabby could win. After her mother said she knew Gabby could win, Gabby went out and did just that. Despite the naysayers and the incredible pressure, she turned on her magnificent smile, remained poised, and excelled at her craft. Then she took the winners' podium wearing her gold and a smile. In the law we use the term "res ipsa loquitur", meaning the thing speaks for itself. Gabby didn't need to address the naysayers--the gold medals around her neck spoke volumes.

When I was in high school, my guidance counselor underestimated me and tried to discourage me from pursuing my dream to become a lawyer. In his opinion, since no one in my family had attended college, it was best for me to pursue a career as a legal secretary. Although I thought a career as a legal secretary would be interesting, it wasn't my aspiration. Thanks to the encouragement of my family and a different guidance counselor, I went on to college and law school, and have enjoyed great success in my legal career. I never felt the need to return to tell that guidance counselor he was wrong. I just used his underestimation of my capabilities to motivate myself and to encourage others to pursue their dreams.

So for those who need encouragement, I say to you today, don't let others deter your pursuit of your dream(s). Don't give up unless you choose to do so. Others won't always support your dream; learn to encourage yourself. Work hard, be determined, diligent, focused, and poised. Work toward your dream like there's no tomorrow. And once you've achieved it, smile and let your gold (your accomplishment) speak for itself. Give 'em the Gabby.