Labels. We all have them. We all use them. They are helpful. Until they are not. I’m not talking about the labels on things. I’m talking about the labels we put on people, and the labels people put on us.
Don’t think you have any? You do. We all do. Start with your family. Are you the middle child? The oldest? The youngest? The only? That’s probably label number one. Then are you the smart one? The funny one? The pretty one? The flaky one? The dependable one? Etc. Then come the school labels. Hard worker or slacker? Gifted or slow? Athletic or non? Good test taker or not? Etc. Friend labels next. Good listener or know-it-all? Giver or taker? Fun or not? Quiet or loud? Etc. Then there are occupational labels, medical labels, special interest labels. Etc.
Want to know a secret? There are very few forever labels. Unlike the ingredients on products, the labels on people can change. Because people can grow. We are not stagnant. We change. And we have the power to make our own determinations about what a label means for us. We can live up to it, live down to it, or get rid of it altogether. The key is not to let a label limit you. Embrace the labels that help you find your place in the world and grow. Discard the misnomers others may throw at you.
Labels may be universal or specific. Labels can narrow your view to self limiting or can widen your gaze and broaden your compassion. They can also connect you with others who are like you. The web is full of pages and people to learn from, and it all starts with the label or topic you type in. Do you see where I am going with this? Use your labels to grow, not to sort. Use labels to connect, not to disconnect.
We can adopt and discard labels as we grow and change. Our families, our jobs, our health, our homes, our world views, our inner lives, our special interests will grow and change. We will self-define differently, and labels can give us an outward starting place for connection, investigation, and exploration. They also can give us a starting point for understanding and compassion toward others. And sensitivity and compassion are signs of being an empath. Empath. Now, that’s a label I like.