Stop Putting Labels On Yourself
And start being unapologetically you.
<a href="https://unsplash.com/@szvmanski?utm_source=medium&utm_medium=referral">Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash</a>
The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.
So we live in a world of labels, we are pigeonholed into races, nationalities, religious and political beliefs, by general or incredibly specific tastes.
And although we are all born with labels that we do not necessarily choose, today I would like to talk about those that we approach voluntarily; whether one day we discover scrolling through YouTube that there was a bunch of people that also love makeup, or that another bunch of people does not agree with the hunting of animals as a sport. This kind of discoveries can seem magical at first, as we begin to enter specific communities that seem to defend and love the same things as we do.
Because yes; we must accept that it is great to be able to belong to something, to be able to connect with a group of people who perceive the world in a way similar to ours, whether this group is big or small. As humans are social beings, for centuries it has been our nature to form communities, seek and strengthen ties.
But how much can a community of thousands or even millions of people speak for us? And how viable is it that we choose to raise the flag of these communities, to live and die for them.
One thing that I have noticed over time is that any movement or community has statutes, some of them are quite clear that sometimes they are part of the reasons why we want to belong to that group. For instance, if you are vegan, you should not consume animal products; if you are a feminist, you will respect and value women, if you are a cinephile, you should see Citizen Kane 1,463 times.
In all seriousness, although these statutes are necessary to create solid foundations in our ideals, the spectrum that each one of these contains can be lengthened tremendously, so the margin of incorrectness and error tends to become enormous.
In this way, we find ourselves trying to follow step by step the unwritten rules that are found in the background of any group, altering and fixing parts of ourselves all to remain accepted in it, and the exploration of the ideals that we try to take can suddenly found themselves flush down the toilet, among with our self-improvement.
There is an excellent article on this topic written by Bryan Kramer for Forbes Magazine, where he links to a study by the American Psychological Association on how damaging it can be for teens trying to fit in with certain types of personalities in high school, and how it takes off a lot of stress when they begin to believe that these personalities can change. But I believe that this can be applied to grownups too.
I think the tightness that we very often find in these groups exists because it is too difficult to accept the imperfection in our belief systems. We have to be right, but what is often ignored is the immense variety of individuals who can believe the same thing; how different their context can be, resulting in the large number of versions that can exist of the same thing.
Personally, that is why I decided to tear off the labels that were convenient for me and move away from these established groups of people. This does not mean that I was going to start doing things that were contradictory to my principles, it just meant that the things that I believed were going to begin to belong to me once again, I was going to have time to explore these ideas and, most importantly, I was going to be able to make mistakes and continue to grow as a person, to possibly later make a positive contribution to my social circles.
From here comes the importance to never stop listening to our inner voice, which can be a challenge living in a world as globalised as today, since although it can sometimes be beneficial to have access to millions of different opinions, it can also be problematic since we can become just another number, and our own opinion can quickly get lost in this vast ocean. When in reality, each opinion has a value from the moment it means something to ourselves.
Only we have the power to be sincere and accept what will make us grow and be happier, and also what is getting in the way of it.
The first step to begin to discover it is to accept when we do not feel comfortable with something and analyze why that could be, we need to truly question what things we can learn into approaching these labels and work on shaping those things to fit us, and the way we want to perceive ourselves and be perceived; not just conforming and being pigeonholed into a single term or word. We have to state what our personal goals are, what we want to improve in ourselves, and why.
After all, getting to know each other is an imperfect and different journey for each of us, but I believe that if we have enough understanding and patience for both ourselves and others, we can begin to express ourselves in a freer and healthier way.
We have to let go of the idea of only being able to belong to a certain spectrum, of wanting our goals and ideals to be adapted to a generality, that way we will only limit the incredible and beautiful complexity that each of us possesses.
Thus, by learning to value our own opinion, it will be easier for us to be open to appreciating that of others, which will give way to personal evolution and as a community, having a much more open and comprehensive communication channel.
Though this sounds incredibly utopian, I believe that it is a way in which we can avoid losing our sanity by adhering so voraciously to something that, like us, is always in constant flux.