How To Stop Labeling Ourselves And Others

August 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

I am a widow.

I tell myself to not share with people I meet, at least right away, this fact about my life.  But time and time again within the first half hour of a conversation I blurt out: “You know I am a widow.”

Being a widow has become my new identity.  It is as if I’m saying to the world “I know pain, and so I understand.”

I tell myself being a widow should not be my identity.   Why not pick loved with all my heart and been loved with everything?  More attractive and reflective of my history.

For some reason for most of us, loss and negativity have more intensity than love and happiness.  How many times a smile on our faces has gone unnoticed?  But what about a tear?  We can always see those.

Labeling ourselves and others is a device we develop over time because we think it will keep us safe.  The reality is labeling only serves to maintain us closed off.   And we do it so often and with such easy that at a certain point it becomes second nature to us.

Labeling is used very successfully in business.  A Valentino pair of jeans is sold as much better and nicer than a Levi’ pair of jeans because the label on the back of the pants will tell the world we either have more money or better taste.  That’s what the label is selling.  Advil costs $7 a bottle but a container of Ibuprofen (Advil’s ingredient) costs $3 and most of us will buy Advil because we are buying the label.  The same concept applies to people:

“I am a loser”, we might say or think of ourselves and therefore even when we succeed we don’t get to enjoy because our label of ourselves keeps us from the experience.

“She is a selfish woman” we might think about a co-worker and never give her the opportunity to show other sides of herself and therefore miss on a relationship that might be rewarding in spite of the selfishness.

“He drives a beat up car and so he has no money”, we might think of someone.  The thought of a person not caring about a car doesn’t cross most of our minds.

The point is we are so afraid to be open, vulnerable and act in the moment that we quickly access a situation, label everyone and everything and then we determine how to act.

I’m not talking about intuition, which is extremely important; I am talking about pre-conceived ideas which are exactly the opposite.

Tearing down labels we have assigned to ourselves and others takes diligence.  It requires staying focused and open and it takes reminding ourselves we are not just a pair of pants.  We are complex beings that are always changing and evolving.

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