How to be yourself without labels getting in the way.
Labels help us to define ourselves, make sense of our emotions, and connect with others – but on the flipside, they can hold us back from accomplishing some pretty amazing things. Some of us end up revolving our entire life around a specific label, when in fact we’re a cluster of smaller ones all rolled into one fabulous person.
Here are 4 reasons why letting go of labels will (ironically) help you to be yourself:
1. You’ll start living mindfully
Whether we realize it or not, we constantly try to define ourselves as a checklist of attributes. Meanwhile, our personalities evolve every second of every day – who we are one minute won’t be who we are the next. Letting go of who you think you are is the best way to be yourself: All of yourself, not just the parts you’ve labelled.
For example, I have social anxiety, but it’s only one aspect of who I am. If I were to constantly revolve my day around the label of being socially anxious I’d start holding myself back:
Friend: “Want to go for a drink?”
Me: “Can’t. I have to hyperventilate into a paper bag tonight.”
Okay, so the hyperventilating part’s true, but it doesn’t mean I can’t hyperventilate and grab a drink. Being socially anxious doesn’t mean never socializing, but doing so in my own way. Labels hold you back from spontaneity and the freedom to be whoever you feel like being in the moment.
2. You’ll start thinking for yourself
When you label yourself as part of a certain group, it’s gives you a warm-and-fuzzy sense of belonging. It’s hard not to thrive when you have amazing people in your life who really “get” you. But be careful you’re not using your clique as a shortcut for how to think and behave.
Do you dress the way you dress because it truly reflects who you are, or did you buy those boots because your friends love them? Do you listen to the music you do because you actually enjoy it, or are you really a closeted Engelbert Humperdinck aficionado? If there are aspects of yourself you find you’re hiding from your friends, then you’re not only letting labels run your life, but the wrong labels.
3. You’ll start accepting labels for what they are
I’m not saying in order to be yourself you have to ignore the fact that labels exist – they do, and they always will. It’s our brain’s way of categorizing the people we know, the experiences we have, and the emotions we feel. They’re also our way of connecting with each other on a deeper level: If you’ve deemed yourself a “shoe addict,” you can bet you’re the first one your friends are going to call on Black Friday.
And that’s okay. You don’t want to be limited by labels, but you also don’t want to be so anti-label that people can’t figure you out. It’s your job to guide them as to how you want them to “file” you in their lives. I’d rather have a label I created to help others better understand me than be mislabeled. They’ll always be there, so use them wisely – but don’t let them run your life.
4. You’ll stop limiting yourself
You or someone else may have given you a label you don’t want anything to do with – maybe because it reminds you of past mistakes you’ve made, or “flaws” you’re trying to coexist with. By not labeling yourself, you can flow freely from experience to experience, emotion to emotion, without being chained down to any one way of thinking. It’s so much easier to move on from a mistake when you don’t embed it into your DNA.
Stephen Fry said it best:
“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”
Don’t be. Do.
How do you deal with labels and their impact on your sense of self?
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Image: Scarleth Marie