Recently, around the US Independence Day, I got into a discussion with a friend about the problematic divisiveness that permeates the world right now. And, we agreed that so much of what drives the discord comes down to this:
Labels are what define a thing, or a person, or a group of people. It literally means to “identify” or to attach a meaning. A label is a “descriptive phrase or word” placed onto something.
But, when a label becomes de-meaning is when assumptions are made and rash categorical biases are formed against an entire group of people. Based on the label.
We walk around all day long putting labels on people, based on religion, political party, sexual orientation, male/female sex, socioeconomic status, body size, education, illness, profession, credit rating, etc. Most often, it’s by way of fleeting thoughts, but more and more in this socially brash society, it’s become vocal and viral, and way too common.
It got me thinking about how we also label ourselves, and how what that does to either help or hinder our own self-growth. And, how easy it can be to start to believe the labels put on us by others as well. Politicians get elected by hammering away about labels. Marketers sell products by categorizing and labeling groups of people by demographics. They call them things like “early adopters” and “baby boomers” and “millennials”.
The second you’re born, labels are pronounced about you. What sex you are, what physical markers you have or don’t have, what kind of family you’re born into, what color you are, the area of the world you’re in.
Even, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” starts the labeling process right out of the gate, so to speak.
Eventually, we start to believe the labels and it becomes part of our story. The labels become who we are. If we let them.
What if all of those labels were stripped away?
What if we strip down to our barest humanity, down to the soul level, and treat what happens to us as mere life experience. Or it's a physical characteristic but doesn't define who we are as a person. Or it’s something we’re going through, not who we are.
My dear friend was just diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. It’s not curable. But, is manageable. So, we talked a lot about not allowing the disease to define her. She’s a healthy spiritual human being going through an unhealthy experience.
Yes, it’s going to be a challenge and yes some things will have to be different in her daily life, but she knows she could either allow the disease to drive her, to define her, or she can do whatever she can to drive and diminish the disease. To recreate her life. In other words, she can decide not to be burdened by the label.
It goes that way with any label.
Who are you without all of the labels? I mean all of them. The labels put upon you by society, but more importantly by the labels you place on yourself.
Is that a frightening notion? Or a freeing one?
To my way of thinking, it’s probably both. Life without labels is full of possibility. As in flying without constraints while also free-falling without a net. Freeing and a bit scary too.
But, once you start removing the labels, the easier it is to trust your own volition, your own self-worth, your own humanity.
Start with removing your own labels. Then, remove everyone else's.
Can you imagine what a different world it would be?