Let Jack-out-of-the-Box

By: Terri Hayes

Have you ever experienced the frustration of outgrowing an old version of yourself, only to find that others insist on keeping you confined within the boundaries of who you once were? It’s like being stuck in one of those creepy jack-in-the-boxes, where you turn the handle, anticipating “Jack” to burst out at any moment. Just when you think you’re breaking free, someone holds the lid down, keeping you confined within outdated perceptions.  

In a world that often clings to familiarity and routine, we tend to categorize people based on past experiences and behaviors. Whether it’s the oldest sibling forever labeled as “bossy,” the youngest as “spoiled,” or the mother who once seemed uptight in her parenting approach, these outdated labels can become suffocating constraints, hindering personal growth and stifling relationships. 

Consider a few more examples of the challenges of outgrowing past versions of ourselves. Take, for instance, the young employee who may have made mistakes in the past but is now striving to evolve into a leadership role. He’s been diligently taking leadership courses and seeking mentorship to enhance his skills and demonstrate his readiness for management. Despite his efforts, he may find himself pigeonholed by colleagues who remember him as the rookie who stumbled, rather than the aspiring leader he is becoming. Similarly, there’s the story of a former rebel, now a responsible adult, who still finds himself boxed in by old perceptions from others. Despite his growth and maturation, he struggles to shake off the labels of his youth, perpetually trapped in the shadow of his past. 

What if we approached each day with fresh eyes and an open mind, embracing the potential for change and growth in ourselves and others? Imagine releasing our preconceived notions and granting people the freedom to evolve beyond their past selves. Reflect on how effortlessly we accept children’s ever-changing preferences for favorite colors or foods. It’s not just accepted; it’s expected and even amusing. What if we extended this same grace to everyone, freeing ourselves from the constraints of time and allowing each day to unfold with delightful surprises no matter one’s age? 

As a life coach, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of releasing ourselves from the limitations of our past identities. It’s not always easy; breaking free from the expectations of others can be daunting, and it requires courage and vulnerability. But the freedom that comes from embracing our true selves, unbound by the constraints of outdated perceptions, is worth the journey. 

So how do we begin to break free from the box? It starts with self-awareness and a willingness to challenge our own assumptions and beliefs. Instead of seeing others through the lens of past experiences, consider approaching each interaction with curiosity and an open heart, allowing room for growth and change. 

Whether or not others choose to release us from past perceptions, we have the power to break free from the labels and expectations placed upon us. We don’t need permission to evolve; we have the ability to define ourselves on our own terms. Together, we can unlock the potential within ourselves and others, one courageous step at a time. 

High Five! 


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