October 21, 2021


Written By
Samuel Mathew

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.