I have been thinking a lot about labels that are placed on us. Those that we place ourselves and those that are thrust upon us by others. Good. Bad. Large. Small. Smart. Pretty. Beautiful. Artist. Creative. Talented. Lucky. Employed. Amateur. Professional. Mom. Not any or all of the above. These are just a few of the thousands of examples. Some labels indicate that we belong somewhere, a place, a race, or a community. Others tell us where we don’t belong. Some serve as mere identification for demographics, others become part of our inner identity. Some of the labels we are happy to embrace because they may reinforce positive traits that we are proud of while others have been placed on us courtesy of current societal conditioning and standards. We wish we could disown some of those. We start collecting and carrying these labels from the time we are born and by the time we are adults, it’s a wonder that we aren’t drowning under the sheer weight of all of them.
I have lately been examining all ‘my’ labels and I first discarded all those that felt dated, irrelevant, or untrue. I also let go of any, and all hurtful, labels. If you want to know how I did it, I used a simple laywoman method! Every time someone called me something in the course of a conversation (some examples kind, emotional, smart, so educated!, insecure, great photographer etc.) I was mindful that the description belonged to them, and not me. By calling me ‘kind’, they were defining who they thought a kind person should be like. By calling me ’emotional’ they were showing me how much emotion was acceptable to them. Nobel laureate Toni Morrison wrote “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined”. So in that moment that a label, good or bad, comes my way, I let it flow around me. I read the label, and then I let it go. It tells me more about the speaker than about myself. It probably will change because, after all, we are always changing and growing. Everything is constantly changing – those that label, those that are labelled, and the label itself. Why would we want to be slotted, made static, and stemming all growth when the alternative is that we continue to grow into our authentic selves, embracing our imperfect individuality? Nothing can beat that! After all, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare)