Like it or not, we all tend to label ourselves. It happens every single day. And while labels often get the wrap for being a terrible thing, they don’t usually start out that way.

In fact, think of the first time you found a label that helped you make better sense of yourself! Bonus points if it’s something that helped other people to understand you. For me I’m thinking of something like: introvert.

As someone who struggles with big parties and social settings, having a word to describe myself as like introverted has been extremely helpful, and definitely allowed other to understand me better.

So labels can be a good thing. They can help us with our public identity, to connect with others who share similar beliefs and values, and to protect our health, wellness, and spiritualities in a way that makes sense to us and to others.

So when and how do labels become a bad or dangerous thing? To me, that answer is: when they hurt you, limit you, or take away your ability to connect with others. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 red flags you can use to determine if its time to lose the labels.

Your Health or Wellbeing Is Suffering

If your physical, emotional, spiritual or mental wellbeing is suffering because of a label you’ve identified with, then this is a sign to question if this label is still a good thing.

Many people are willing to sacrifice their own needs in order to fit the label that is important to them. (Growing up “skinny” and end up gaining the freshman 15 in college, that could send you into a complete crisis, or being a “dancer” and sacrificing all nutritional needs to maintain a certain body image.) From the outside it’s easy to say, “who cares about the label?!”- but for those wrestling with this, especially when it comes to the labels that offer them belonging it becomes so much harder to choose yourself when the self sacrifice is praised.

If a specific identity doesn’t accommodate our changing bodies, lifestyle, or highest self, then those labels become absolutely detrimental towards physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing.

No Room For Personal Growth or Evolution

Similarly, when you’ve chosen a label that leaves no room for personal growth or evolution, after some time you’re going to become very stuck. This one is usually more prevalent after many years wearing a label.

Over time things and people change, and this includes us. When we pick a label that can not evolve with our changing needs, it’s something we should be willing to consider letting go of.

Labels create limits and after a period of time, you’ll realize there’s no more room to explore or grow in the boundaries of that label, and you will notice that your personal growth may suffer because of this.

Work to accommodate this by being willing to ask questions, and to understand the reasons that someone may live differently than you. You can ALWAYS come back to what works best for you, but if you’re too scared to even explore then that’s a good sign it’s time to reconsider.

You Lose The Ability To Listen To Others Who Are Different

Finally, if you lose your ability to listen to those who are different from you because you feel their differing thoughts or beliefs somehow threaten your identity.

This one is very common with strict labels, specifically political and religious labels (although not exclusive to that). Many political and religious sectors want you so committed to the cause that you’re willing to go to bat with anyone who doesn’t think like you do. The classic “I’m right” so you must be “wrong” battle.

What’s so damaging about this is our ability to think for ourselves, and to understand what’s happening. This has been very obvious in American culture since the pandemic began in 2020 in an extremely heightened political climate. The government with the help of the media began to label good people vs bad people and then associated the outcomes they wanted along with those traits.

Labels were created by both sides, and everyone chose their own path. This became so toxic, and even still people are still choosing labels and outer identity instead of being able to talk and share about anything that doesn’t fit into a clean box.

The most important thing, is the recognition that when defensiveness comes up inside of yourself, it’s the first sign that your ego is at work and not your heart. It’s okay to disagree with others, but feeling so threatened by someone else’s perspective that you have to start labeling them poorly or start defending your own identity is a sign that your label isn’t actually serving you.

We cannot be so afraid of losing our identity from a label, that we give no room to explore, be curious, or discover a perspective we hadn’t considered before. For a deeper dive into this conversation on labels, check out the sister episode of the A Bit From Within Podcast on Letting Go Of Labels. Listen now here below, on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you love to listen) and feel free to share this with your friends who need this message too.

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