How do you describe yourself to others? How do you describe others to yourself? What do you tell yourself about the situation we’re currently in? Chances are, if you’re feeling limited in your life, a large part of that may be the labels and tags you attach yourself to. We put ourselves and others in boxes, trying to define who we and they are. According to psychologists, labeling theory says that the labels we perceive are self-created by us. Although we’d like to blame social media, other groups, and maybe even our parents, what we say and tell ourselves throughout the day affects our self-concept and dictates many of our thoughts and actions.
The limitations of negative labels can be seen everywhere and shape your reality. Here are a few ways labels can limit your life.
1. You stop taking risks and learning new things. If you define yourself as cautious or wary, you avoid all risks and new experiences. You default to the way you’ve always done things.
2. You stop reaching out or engaging with people who aren’t like you. Labels we give ourselves may have been passed down from our parents. If you were told a race was violent or a group of people were immoral, you avoid them at all costs.
3. You avoid dating or interacting in social events. If you’ve labeled yourself as unworthy of love because you’re overweight, underweight, inadequate, or unlovable, you stop seeking love and live life alone.
4. You stop thinking for yourself. When you live by a label, you no longer evaluate or think about what is going on. You go by what the group you belong to dictates.
5. You lose spontaneity. When you live life by negative labels, you give up freedom to trust and speak honestly. You censor everything because you fear stepping out of the box used to describe yourself.
If the labels you use are holding you back, these suggestions can help you get out of the box you put yourself in.
• No one word can define you as a person. You are a person, not a box.
• Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Stop rethinking everything you say.
• Labels become reality. If you tell yourself you aren’t worthy of love, you will create that life.
• Don’t put yourself in a category. Things change and people change, too.
The world is full of people who believe in negative labels they or their ancestors created long ago. The only way we can recognize and grow closer to each other is to acknowledge how our labels are whispering at us constantly. Having the self-awareness to re-evaluate our labels can help us free ourselves and others.