Have Labels Limited You?

Before there was labeling.

Take a moment and think back to your childhood. Regardless of the conditions, you can probably remember a time when you were just you. Your goal was to play, to have fun, to learn about what was interesting to you, to participate in activities that were fun to you, you were kind just because, you didn’t categorize other people, and you didn’t label yourself. Really take a moment, close your eyes and remember. How does it feel? FREE? Limitless? Exciting? Fresh?

The beginning of labeling.

Fast-forward to where things started to get a little confusing. People around you started using terms such as black, white, girl, boy, young, old, democrat, republican, pretty, ugly, smart, happy, moody, mean, nice, athletic, nerdy, compulsive, depressed, survivor, victim, hero, villain, bad, good, and the list goes on and on and on. You started labeling things in your life that you saw so that you could understand them. You started taking on the labels that people were assigning you.

People have become so focused on labeling that it has gotten in the way of us finding our true identities.

The definition of identity is defined as: the distinguishing character or personality of an individual. When we label people, it becomes difficult to distinguish them as individuals. This is the issue when we are discussing topics like sexual orientation, gender, racial identity, socioeconomic status, age, and many others. Honestly, why does it matter? What does it have to do with who you really are? Why can’t you just be you, someone who likes a whole bunch of things and has a whole lot of different personality components? Someone who is NOT in any box.

Boxes don’t exist.

People do not fit in boxes. By continuing this excess use of the labeling we are discouraging people from discovering their identities and interests. People who look a certain way are assumed to act a certain way, people think they’re superior because of some label, people feel inferior because of a label, we start believing we can’t just be ourselves.

Let go of labels.

If we put down the label-maker we might actually get to know ourselves and understand people for who they are. Yes, it’s nice to feel like you fit in somewhere, but don’t fit in because you have similar labels. Find your niche based on who you really are and what you really need and want. Just be yourself.

Labels and self-esteem.

If you allow someone else’s label to dictate who you are, your self-esteem could be taking a massive hit. People sticking labels on you cuts off all the other elements of what and who you are because it can only deal with the black and white.  You may believe that is all there is to you, or that you must be that way if people see it that way, or that you can’t be the person you really want to be because that doesn’t exist.

People inevitably construct identities based on what other people say. When you are labeled it becomes likely you think this is inherently who you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy (because you expect something to happen or be true, you unknowingly make it come true). This reinforces the idea that “I am this type of person that is unchanging”, when in fact who you are can and absolutely does change. 

Living without labels.

Not only do labels limit who you believe you are, but they limit how you see the world. As Eckhart Tolle writes in his book A New Earth: “the quicker you are in attaching verbal or mental labels to things, people, or situations, the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes, and the more deadened you become to reality, the miracle of life that continuously unfolds within and around you.”

Life is a miracle, you are a miracle. And yet so many of us have become deadened to this simple idea. We mistakenly believe that because we know the word for items – a bird, a tree, a stone, a human being, etc – that we actually know these items. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the most common everyday items hold unfathomable depth.

In many ways, living without labels is about seeing the world as a young child would. When you were a young child, you wouldn’t have covered up with world with words and labels. This is something you learned to do. Kids don’t simply attach a label to items or people and quickly move on to something else. Instead they will pick items up, look at them intently and turn them over continuously in their hands. Tolle writes: “when you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word or mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arrives within you.”

Letting go of labels produces appreciation.

When you stop labeling yourself, others, and everything around you appreciation naturally flows. You see yourself, others, and the world differently. You don’t assume you already know who they are, you begin to see the beauty in everything, and appreciation of yourself, others, and the world is the result. No two people are the same. Everything and everyone holds beauty, importance, value, worth, stories, and dreams.

Change how you see yourself and the world and everything changes.

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