It seems like it is human nature that we label things. It starts at a young age where we label all of our school supplies to show ownership. Food items so it is clear to us what is on the inside. Designers (and pretty knock offs of course) use labels to show a level of eliteness: Chanel, Kate Spade, Matt & Nat all proudly show on their products so onlookers get the impression that we can afford these expensive items. We often unintentionally label other people in positive and negative way: that person is reliable, that person is irritating or that person is creative.
I think one of the worst things we do is label ourselves. It is usually not a snap or conscious decision but a label that slowly begins to stick. Things such as “I am not good enough for this”, “I am such a failure as a mother and wife”, “Who could ever love me?”, “I am not smart enough to accomplish that”. “I will never have the will power to lose weight and get healthy.”
These labels are extremely dangerous. As humans we tend to rise to the expectations that we put on ourselves. These labels quickly become part of our personality and they become a limitation like a glass ceiling that is impossible to penetrate. Psychiatrists have identified this for years that they must be careful with labels and diagnosis because it is very easy for patients to slip into the definition of the diagnose.
Also we often sense the labels that others put on us. Some of these labels come from family, some from friends, and some from the good ol’ peanut gallery. The ones that label us as “lazy, worthless, bland, crazy, no good, rebel, ect.” and the worst part is we believe it. I am not saying that it isn’t important to receive constructive, loving advice from those who are closest and know our heart and our deepest intention but we must choose those people wisely.
Here are a few thoughts on breaking free from labels…
1. Check your Inventory: When you feel labelled by others, take time to reflect on your behaviour. Maybe I was selfish in that moment, maybe I was unreliable, maybe that comment came out wrong. Once we take stock of our wrongdoings we can go about correcting them by apologizing to others and truly repenting and trying to fix the negative attitude that generated that behaviour.
2. Choose not to Label Others: I am a big fan of “do unto others as you would like done unto you.” When we start labelling others we easily become critical people. We start seeing strictly their behaviour and not the human BEHIND the behaviour. I am learning that we never know what battle someone is privately fighting. Maybe problems in their marriage is causing their withdrawn mood. Maybe they have experienced a sick family member that they are privately dealing with. Reacting in compassion instead of snap judgement is one of the most beautiful things we can do as people.
3. You are not a Label: You are not a label but a PERSON. As a human we all have flaws (even if we don’t want to think so). No matter how negative the labels you collect, you are a human and are perfectly made. Don’t allow what others think of you devalue your self worth.
My challenge for you and myself in 2016 is that we try to rid the labels in our lives. That we give ourselves grace in each moment and recognize our behaviours as simply behaviours and not personality traits. That we would look at ourselves and see how we can improve humanity. That we strive to understand people instead of judging them. And most importantly, we extend the grace to others that we extend to ourselves.