How do you see yourself? What is your identity? What sort of person are you? Big questions,
I know. Often we don’t like to think about it, or have no good answer which means all we
have to go off is what others say about us: ‘You’re such a kind person!’ ‘You’re so strong.’ Nice,
right? ‘You’re lazy.’ ‘You’re boring.’ Hmm, not so good. Here’s the thing- all of these are just
labels, and even the ‘good’ labels are actually not good at all.
What are labels and why are they bad? They are words or ideals placed on us either by
ourselves, others or the society around us. Labels create expectations for ourselves that can
shackle us for no reason. They rob us of our innate right to make choices for ourselves, as we
feel compelled to fit into a mold that others hold us in. When we try to conform or live up to
how others perceive us, we start to lose our own sense of who we are. We don’t want our
externally decided image or reputation to be torn down. This makes us less confident; we
might feel like a fraud if we do/say something ‘out of character.’ We hide our true passions
and defer opportunities.
Accepting the labels given by others invites them to dictate what we do and how we do
them. Thoughts inform action. If we accept it when people say ‘you’re so quiet’ or ‘I never hear
you talk’, you’ll tend to lack confidence to speak up in a group conversation. If we hold on to
that time someone called us a klutz, you’re already too nervous to make the best of the
responsibilities you’re given. And on the flip side, while we should definitely take the time to
appreciate it when someone says something nice about us, we have to be careful to not make
that our identity either- validation based upon what others say can cause burnout as we try
desperately to cling on to a flowery image.
We just require one simple reminder- we are not our labels. We are able to change, be fluid
and try things outside the realm of what people expect. That’s not to say try and be someone
we aren’t, or let go of values important to us. It’s just we don’t have to feel confined to doing
what we’re known by. So let’s go back to the beginning- how do you see yourself? What’s
your identity? That comes down to you, and not from what anyone else says. Let’s shed the
labels. And let’s embrace our freedom to make our own choices and form our own identity.