Are Labels Useful?
What labels do you identify with? I'm thinking about labels to do with our stage of life, sexuality or location, our roles, a diagnosis, interest or personality type.
Personally I’ve been identifying with perimenopause and menopause and professionally I’ve been exploring the differences between thinking of ourselves as Self Employed rather than as a business owner, entrepreneur or solopreneur.
We’ve all had the experience of discovering that there’s a label that applies to us, or a loved one, and that somehow explaining the experience we are having.
It can be a relief....
- There’s an explanation for what I’m going through
- It’s a real thing
It can help you connect...
- Others are in the same boat, I’m not the only one
- I'm part of a community/tribe
- Now I can explain this to other people
And it can help you find information and know what to do next...
- There's a treatment for this
- Others have resolved this
- There's nothing wrong with me
In addition, there is affirmation and a weight off your mind as you no longer feel you have to figure it all out.
But we make a mistake if we hold on to that label too tightly, even labels we see as positive.
With the label comes a whole set of assumptions and rules. Some might be supported by scientific facts but a lot are anecdotal and general. Many labels are transitory or only apply sometimes and what might be helpful to one person on one day, might not be to another person or at another time.
We can get seduced into thinking we need to do life in a particular way, have rules for how we treat ourselves or some one else, we can be sold ‘off the shelf’ solutions, rather than listening to our innate wisdom and doing what’s right for us.
In relationships, our labels might be useful to explain our differences but there is a tendency to polarisation. In arguments, those differences become exaggerated and we fall into treating someone according to our stereotypical thinking about their label rather than actually seeing and listening to them in the present moment.
If we grow out of a label or our life changes so that no longer applies, our investment in that definition of ourselves can hold us back.
Us human beings might be fairly predictable. If you know about our backgrounds and our psychology you can usually say how we might behave, react or heal in different situations. But there's a margin of error.
From time to time, we get a new insight and something that looked one way yesterday, today looks totally different. We give up our addiction, try something new and ‘change our mind’. People with illnesses heal, miracles happen. We really don’t know when, where or how.
All of us that have tried chasing miracles know that they are not controlled by our will power so I’m not talking about defiantly casting off a label we don't want or adopting positive or wishful thinking. I am suggesting we hold our labels more lightly, recognising that we are so much more than any label could capture and giving space for us to see something new.
I'd love to hear your comments on this, please write a few words in the space below....