Limiting Ourselves With Labels
It’s a not so warm Saturday afternoon,but it is warmer than it has been for weeks, and you are one of only 15 people determined to make the most of this afternoon’s weather,, because despite the fact that the sun is falling behind the clouds for up to 45 long chilly minutes at a time, it very well might be your last chance to sit outside for many months.
You are having a nice afternoon with your spouse, a first date, a second date, or just a good time with a few friends.
The drinks are good and the food is enjoyable. You are determined to tough it out, and relieved to see that the waitress has turned in her tank top and short skirt for a long-sleeved t-shirt and a blanket sarong pinned in place with a large safety-pin.
Still, you can’t help wondering about the 15th person on the deck.
This is the woman who has been sitting here since before you and your partner/date/friends showed up. This woman sits all alone with a notebook and a pen, fervently writing, occasionally picking up her cell phone and sending a text message.
She must have been stood up.
Maybe, she’s having a text message fight with her significant other who is not coming to meet her as planned and she’s trying valiantly not to look like a loser.
“That poor woman. She must feel awful right now.”
“I wonder what she’s writing?”
“Maybe, she is choosing to be here, and having just as good a time as everyone else? Maybe, she is feeling truly inspired right now and wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else?”
This weekend I ended up having to go in to work for a few hours to finish a small side project. I decided that I would finish the job and then move on to a near-bye pub that had wi-fi where I could sit on a cozy couch and type away on my mini-notebook until I felt like doing something else. But the pub was closed.
All of the coffee shops that I checked out were too crowded and noisy so I ended up on a 6th storey rooftop patio that was open probably for the first time in weeks.
Sadly, I can’t use my mini-notebook outside since I can’t see the screen so I began to write the old-fashioned way.
The previous couple of days had been oddly full of inspiration. I had written more than a few ideas in my tiny little idea book. I love what is pouring out of me almost as much as I love the fact that it is pouring out of me.
I decided to make an effort to tackle an idea that I contemplate often.
I’m talking about the concept of labels and the fact that how we define ourselves and others plays a massive role in how we live our lives.
It is difficult to avoid labelling and yet, I can’t help but see it as something that we need to become aware of so that we can learn to stop doing it altogether. Even though I don’t see how necessarily, I do know that if I am unable to see a solution to a problem, it doesn’t mean that the solution doesn’t exist. It might just take time on my part, or an entirely different mind to see it.
There are so many moments in life when we find ourselves in a position where we have to explain “who we are,” to someone or other. We do this when we are meeting new people for the first time, dating, job hunting, or simply trying to be understood by partners or friends. Labels simply make sense. I am not sure how to have these conversations without them.
And yet, I am becoming more and more aware of the power that these labels have to limit who we become.
I wrote recently of how I sometimes have thoughts that seem to originate from outside of me that always form tiny life-defining moments.
These are not moments that I can create, they happen on their own, although, I know that the work that I am doing will help to develop that intuition. The point is that when they occur, they create space for new possibilities that force me to question my current assumptions about everything in life.
One such thought happened about 2 ½ years ago on a January afternoon as I was walking back to work after lunch.
I was contemplating, as I often did, my crazy ADHD brain as well as my anxiety disorder and how both were sabotaging my efforts to learn to sing.
The thought that came to me as I looked for a solution to this long-term, life-limiting problem was “If I am this person with ADHD and an anxiety disorder that limits my potential, then how can I ever be anything else?”
I seriously didn’t understand in that moment what that thought meant. But, a couple of months later, it began to make more sense. (Sometimes we have to be willing to spend time with a question before we are ready to comprehend the answers.)
I at one time, was diagnosed with ADHD an anxiety disorder, and depression, but if I make those labels a part of my identity, then I will never learn how to be anything other than scattered, fearful, depressed and stressed. That is not how I want to live.
However, if I identify as a work in progress with unlimited potential to learn how to solve problems, then clearly, my diagnoses do not have to be the defining factor in who I become or how I live my life. Instead, I can use them as signposts to help me to understand myself better so that I might be more effective. It would be so easy to spend my time focused solely on my deficits and miss out entirely on my gifts. I don’t want these labels to limit either my future, or this moment if I can do anything about it.
We are what we think. If we choose to live in the realm of the tangible and the proven, rejecting any notion of a higher power, or metaphysical reality, still, we are what we think.
No Human being alive will set a goal to accomplish anything that he or she truly believes is impossible, and yet over and over there are always those who achieve what most don’t believe in. Could that be because the majority of us are too attached to our limited thinking and definitions of ourselves?
This is why I think we would all do well, if we figured out the answer to the question, “How do we become aware of, and begin to let go of our labels so that we may expand our personal limits?” And while we’re at it, we can also begin to learn to stop labeling and limiting others.
I suppose the key is to become comfortable with the questions, not just the answers. Losing labels leaves us with the great question “Who Am I?” and I imagine that it would take some work to learn to be comfortable with that. But at the same time, I also imagine that it would be a great comfort indeed.