Labels and Our Identity

Labels are fascinating. It is funny how a word said in passing completely changes an individual’s perception of themselves and life in general. Most of the time, these labels associated with an individual are a result of repeated actions that influence how other people see that person. If one consistently gets high scores in exams, one is immediately labelled the smart kid. Or if one plays football all the time, the person is referred to as an athlete. I stumbled upon a quote recently, and it made me think about the role labels play in our lives, however subtle they may seem.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” — Oscar Wilde

If you were asked to talk about the things you enjoy doing, would your answer be something you genuinely love or something other people say you are good at so you immediately assume you must love it? Here, the validation you get from other people serves as the proof of who you are meant to be, what you are meant to be doing. I see labels as powerful words. Say it long enough, and it sticks, merging with your self-identity. You might have a natural gift on what you are being associated with, but what happens when you dedicate your entire life towards one thing, without exploring your other potentially undiscovered talents?

All of this eventually cumulates into an unnecessary amount of pressure. You see the need to do the same things, act the same way to be seen as you. But change is inevitable! We are all butterflies or caterpillars. It does not matter. What matters is, we go through changes, and your body and soul needs to stick together, rather than being stuck at two extremes.

What happens when you go through this change when you are not receptive to it? The future is uncertain. The star athlete who had a career-ending injury, does he still see himself the same way? Or is he broken down by the fact that what consumed his entire existence is gone in a matter of seconds? Or the top student who suddenly fails, does he question his intelligence and lose all motivation to study?

Labels are an inevitable part of our experience. A huge part of our communication is built on descriptions. What is that? What does it do? The problem arises when you allow one label to define you — when you experience difficulty separating your persona from one facet of your life. Without school, or work, or sports, who are you? Would you prefer to be seen a certain way, or would you rather embrace your personality without it being filtered by other people’s opinions? Tell me what you think in the comment section below.

2 replies on “Labels and Our Identity”

  • It’s hard to decide really. Can you actually be seen in a certain way by people? I don’t think so, people will always have different opinions about you, the view can’t always be the same with everyone. Embracing your personality without it being filtered by anyone is an excuse for people to be unpleasant most times, ‘that’s how I am’ is the perfect reason…So I’ll stay somewhere in the middle. I care, but I don’t care.

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