It feels good to know that other people are just like us. Especially when we have been going through tough times. When we discover a group of people, usually online, going through the same thing as us, we are reassured and comforted. Often these groups will have labels. A way of identifying themselves and what they are experiencing in life. We can go online and discover a labelled group for every emotion that we feel. Anxious and depressed, there are groups for that. Hypochondria kicking in, plenty of blogs for that. Feeling extra sensitive and introverted, there are communities for those labels too. In a yoga phase? Just need to look on Facebook. Digestive trouble-hop on Twitter and follow the hash tags. Though there are labelled groups for everything, when we connect with people that label themselves the same things we label ourselves, we feel less alone. Normal, even. Our experiences are validated and explained. These labels allow us to accept ourselves and what we are going through. But this can be a problem.
Accepting Ourselves Without Labels
Although we use labels all the time, we must be careful in doing so. We should stop and question when we call ourselves “this label,” or call him/her “that type of person.” Here are some questions we can ask ourselves when we use labels;
1. What would happen if we were to take this label away?
2. How would we feel if we no longer identified with that label/group?
3. Would we still be able to accept ourselves just as we are?
4. Would we be 100% okay with ourselves if we were the only ones with these experiences?
This is where identifying with labels ultimately reveals an inherent problem. We have to be able to accept ourselves exactly as we are, even if it means there isn’t a labelled group for our experience. Even if it means there is nobody else that can relate to us, or we are without a label. We must love and accept ourselves because we are worthy of it, not because there is an explanation for why we are the way we are. But how easy is this to do?
Society’s Use Of Labels
Our society is really hung up on labels. A glaring example of this is when people have introduced themselves at an event, and the inevitable question that comes first is “what do you do?” At this point, an appropriate title or label is answered. “I’m a ____.” This is a classic example of how labels give us our sense of identity. What we should be thinking when this happens is, “Really? Are you a ____? Or is this just something you do?” Our jobs are a part of us, but there is so much more to consider. We as a society want to compartmentalize, label, and put others in a box. What would happen if we were to say, “Nice to meet you, tell me a bit about yourself” instead? This type of exchange would allow information to be shared without the use of labels.
When Labels Limit Us
Are all labels bad though? For example; when we consider people who are experiencing physical or mental problems, we know they need a label (diagnosis) in order to receive the right treatment. This label is necessary and productive. At the same time, these labels can be very limiting. Sure there are instances where labels and corresponding limitations are very real, and it takes acceptance to be at peace with these circumstances. But what about the times when limitations from these labels are self inflicted? We often allow our labels to dictate who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act. We tend not to venture outside of our labelled box. For example; we may label ourselves too sensitive to see a concert. Or too inexperienced to apply for a job. Or too anxious to go on a trip. Though some labels are mandatory in our society, it is the ones that impose unnecessary restrictions on us that we need to remain mindful of.
Labels Do Not Provide Self Worth
Many of us have struggled with self acceptance our whole lives. We place so much emphasis on outside circumstances to give us feelings of validation. We need to have the right job, the right appearance, the right skills/interests to feel like we are good enough. This causes us to give our power away to circumstances that have nothing to do with who we really are. We can turn this around. We can become accepting of who we are, stripped of everything. We can love ourselves because there are a lot of great things to love. But our jobs, clothes, skills, and assets must not be why we accept ourselves. No label will ultimately give us this sense of self worth either. We can try our hardest to not allow any label to dictate or inform us of who we are. And if we happen to meet each other at a party, we can share a bit about who we are, not what we do.
Nicole Taffs is a writer who blogs about turning sensitivities into assets for TheSensitiveLife.ca. After struggling as a highly sensitive empath, she began her journey towards self acceptance, developing new beliefs, and turning her sensitivities into gifts that serve others and well as herself. Nicole is also certified in holistic nutrition, reflexology and reiki. She gets most excited about travelling near bodies of water, camping, spending time with her family and spooning her dog in bed. Facebook-www.facebook.com/thesensitivelifeca Twitter www.twitter.com/nicoletaffs12