What are labels and how are they limiting me and others?
All of us have reacted to a label someone else has placed upon us. An inner voice says, “Nah, that’s not me!” We have all also done that very same thing to others. We have introduced people, boxed by a label that is our dominant narrative linked to that person and they, in their turn, are inwardly reacting to our introduction.
In this episode, we will explore the various types of labels, where they come from and how to grow into the ‘who’ of our lives and not be boxed by the ‘what’.
Labels are those stereotypes that others impose on us or we even impose on ourselves. Invariably the label will be linked to one small facet of our personal story. Labels can limit us both when we ‘self-label’ and from the others when imposed upon us. You know you have been labelled unfairly when you ‘react’ to what is said. When that small inner voice is screaming “No – that is not me!” or “I am much more than that!” Then you know you have been labelled in a way that is not true to your story.
In many cases, our labels come from our childhood – from our upbringing. As children, others around us affirmed or rejected certain behaviours and attributes and then those things became part of ‘who’ we saw ourselves to be. This element of labelling can be both good and bad. In a positive sense, these interactions could have produced inner scripts that click in when under stress – scripts such as “I can defeat this!”.
Some of our labelling comes from our culture – from elements in the dominant national culture and all the subsets of this. And so we find ourselves the product of our family’s story and then wrapped in the national culture.
When we focus on what others are thinking or saying about us we will be trapped into this type of label. The label quickly becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ and we box ourselves into mediocrity. Our self-talk is very important here and will, along with the presence of true mates, be one of the key ways to move beyond our self-labelling. The more we can focus on our ‘who’, on our essence, rather than on our whats we will in time become free of this form of labelling.
The labels we give to others will box their ‘who’ and their potential gift to us. Every one of us is infinitely more than any label we place upon people. Some labelling of others comes from a place of fear, some from prejudice, some from jealousy. This labelling does neither us nor them any favours.
When we march to everybody’s else’s drum we quickly lose any sense of self. Sure there is room for wise counsel when a true friend identifies a personal strength – “you have the courage of your convictions” – which plays an important role in growth. But more often than not if we are focussed on other’s expectations of us, other’s plans for us or other’s boxed view of us. It can be like Chinese water torture and ultimately the true self will rebel. It is one’s own truth that will set you free.
So many of us torture ourselves and live lives trapped by what we ‘think’ others think or say about us. It is so important to check the assumptions we make out. So often you will discover that this is not the insurmountable cliff that you thought it was. The battle is often being fought inside our heads – when in reality there is no battle ‘out there’ at all.
In all of this, the challenge and the journey is to find your truest self beyond any label. Our aim is to achieve a congruence between my ‘who’ and my ‘what’. Core to this is to focus on the ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’ of our narrative / our story – then the ‘what’ (our achievements etc) will naturally work themselves out. Much labelling will focus on our what; our accomplishments, our family’s reputation, our natural abilities etc. When our ‘what’ become an end in themselves we are in danger of losing our sense of self for “always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself!” [Desiderata] Our ‘who’ is our essence.
Pricey & Grego