Labels – the good and bad
Like it or not, you've accumulated many labels that describe who you are and how you're expected to behave. Like post-it notes, they stick. They cling to your psyche and in other people's minds.
All the while they exist, you bow to the demands they make about what you can and can't achieve. In case you've not thought about the dangers of labeling yourself or accepting the labels assigned to you, here's why it's best to make amends.
Labels make you inflexible
“What's wrong with having a few labels?” you might wonder. Everyone has them, and sometimes they are useful. They help people identify potential friends with similar tastes and hobbies. They can also restrict you though.
Once you consider yourself prone to allergies, for instance, you worry about every morsel of food that passes your lips and each chemical to which you're exposed. Suddenly, life's not so much fun anymore.
If you're labeled as a pacifist, and a thug threatens to harm you, you will think twice before bopping him on the nose to save yourself.
Labels limit your behavior. They come with rules you think you should follow, and even those that seem helpful can be harmful under certain circumstances. If you want to manage situations in ways suited to the moment, it's best to be without labels.
Labels give people control over you
You need not accept the labels people give you. If you do, you lose the freedom to choose how to act. When someone tells you you're shy, can't successfully wear red, or are a loser–and you accept their idea as the truth–you limit your options in life.
A different individual with a fresh perspective might have labeled you as a confident introvert rather than shy. They might have complimented your red outfit or admired your individuality.
Still, even if someone gives you a label you like, they see you with limitations and encourage you to adopt their view. You have a right to ignore the assumptions they make and be whoever you are in the moment.
Labels make people see you a certain way
Labels don't just make you see yourself in certain ways; they also lead other people to view you through tinted spectacles. If you tell them you can't draw, sing, or do math, you offer them a copy of the label you've assigned yourself to file away for future reference.
When they see you, they'll think, “Here comes that person who draws like a five-year-old, sings like a cat screeching, or can't count.”
Maybe you aren't good at certain things at present, but labeling yourself leaves no room for improvement. Plus, why tell people your perceived faults? You may simply imagine you have a certain quality because of your current mood rather than base your ideas on facts.
Sometimes you need to describe your qualities so people understand you, but remember not to let such descriptions become lifelong restrictive labels. You'll benefit from looking at the labels you already own.
If they don't suit you, imagine screwing them up and throwing them away, and make room for a fresh, freer version of you.