The Danger of Labeling Yourself and Others

The Danger of Labeling Yourself and Others

Labels are powerful, and often times, powerfully limiting. They aim to capture the entirety of a person or group of people into one or few words, they cause a sense of separation and division and they often keep us trapped in a belief system that doesn’t serve us.

We’re quite familiar with some of the following labels: homosexual, idealist, Christian, Muslim, Jew.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the above, these labels do limit the full gamut of who one is. You cannot distill the essence of any one person or group of people into one word (or a few).

Even when we make general statements about something, someone or ourselves, we blatantly limit the full potential as if this one statement captures the whole story and as if there’s no possibility for change or growth.

Labels or blanket statements as seemingly harmless as the below are still incredibly limiting: I always date bad boys, men are unreliable, I get sick all the time, I’m an emotional person that’s just how I am, women are unpredictable.

The questions you gotta ask yourself are: How do you expect things to change if you continue to talk or think about things/people/yourself in the same way? What room does this leave for things to be different?

I know how hard it is when you’ve seen evidence of something your whole life not to “say it like it is”, but doing so makes you see everything through that filter. For example, if you see men as being one way (that you don’t particularly enjoy), then you will interpret the things the men you meet say and do through the lens of the prejudice you have against them – and you will once again “prove yourself right”.

While you might feel momentarily satisfied by the accuracy of your judgment, you’ve really done yourself and men a disservice. You’ve boxed them into a certain (negative) category, and, given yourself very little chance of seeing them differently. 

I used to label myself as a bad student; and while some may argue that this was definitely true for a period of my life, it was only once I stopped saying those words and allowed myself to tell a new story about the person I was becoming, that I actually became her. I’m now quite dedicated to anything new I’m learning.

One label I continue to use about myself, which still has me limited is that I’m not a good cook. Not only does this discourage me from trying new recipes, this label I use on myself or limiting belief I hold (same thing), ensures that I either “screw” up the recipe or believe that it doesn’t taste so great. Of course, once in a while I do surprise myself – and so it’s up to me to hold onto those moments as evidence that there exists the potential of a great cook inside of me.

Being a good cook may or may not matter to you, but I know that I would like to feel more confident about the meals I prepare for my growing family – so I need to leave some wiggle room in the way I label myself. I can start more generally with something like “I make a mean guacamole” (which is true). This immediately boosts my confidence and my willingness to try something new.

So I challenge you. To examine the labels you use to describe yourself, men, women, groups of people, your health, your love life, your financial standing, your way of working, your intelligence etc etc etc. Be mindful of repeating the same story and perpetuating a cycle you would rather see end. Just because something once was, doesn’t mean it has to continue being that way. You can choose to say it differently.

Talk about how you’re excited to meet a man who’s reliable and amazing, how you’re feeling healthier today, how you’re now more mindful of the emotional reactions you have. I’m not telling you to lie, I’m asking you to ease your way out of labeling yourself or others in a way that doesn’t empower.

Peace, love and letting go of labels,

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