Driving home last night, I saw an SUV with the following on its back window in very large lettering: “White – American – Christian – Heterosexual – Pro-Gun – Conservative – Any questions?” I chuckled at how this person was clearly willing to identify him/herself with such specific labels. And I thought, “No, that doesn’t leave many questions.”
And while this driver was obviously excited about telling the world all the labels that fit them, I find that doing just the opposite is very helpful. In other words, try to live free of labels and categories that neatly sum up who you are — for you are more than any label can convey.
Labels are limiting and confining and leave ‘no questions’ about who you are. But you are never just that. You are always more. And once you label yourself (no matter what the label is, i.e. conservationist, vegan, meditator), you create a predetermined impression of who you are. You place yourself into that nice neat labeled box.
In many cases, labels limit the natural curiosity that another might have to get to know you. Others might feel they understand all that the label implies, or they might be turned off by that particular label, or they might not understand what it means at all and don’t want to appear ignorant by asking more about it. No matter how you look at it, labels leave little to the imagination. Their goal is to sum things up quickly and neatly.
Let’s take this a step further now — why would we want to label ourselves anyway? If we are constantly growing and changing, becoming our next best self, how would it even be possible to pin us down long enough to label us? By the time we’ve truly embraced that particular label’s way of living, we’ve morphed and changed so much that we are moving on to the next permutation of our life’s path.
By not allowing yourself to be defined or labeled, you leave open all potential, all possibility, all opportunity — to be whatever you feel called to be in that moment. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re known as a strict boss. This label leaves you little room to maneuver when a situation requires a different approach.
Instead, why not be the boss that is so versatile and flexible that s/he can’t be labeled as one way or another — instead you respond to each person and each situation with the exact approach that’s needed.
Eckhart Tolle says, “Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
In other words, you are not your label. You are much deeper, vaster, and more magnificent than any label could ever convey. And if others try to label you, refuse to be concerned. They may have the need to compartmentalize things in life, but it need not affect you. It only affects how that person chooses to view you. And that isn’t your concern — for their definition of you has nothing to do with who you are.
And because you are not definable, you haven’t lost anything by giving up the labels. You are still you. Nothing about you has changed — except you’ve refused to confine the definition of yourself to anything small and limited.
Rather than losing something, you have gained the freedom to be you, without constraint, without limits, without definition. You have chosen to embrace the infinite nature of life, and to open up to allow yourself to be whomever and whatever you are inspired to be — in other words, to live the life you imagine.