“The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today.”Les Brown
We use labels to define and simplify the world around us.
Labels are a very human creation. In a complex world ambiguity behind ideas during interactions between individuals is sure to create confusion, loss of interest, and, in extreme situations, conflict. So, let us not attack the idea of labels, but rather the idea of importance of preventing self limitations due to labels we put upon ourselves.
Self labeling in the mind creates a limited viewpoint of the self and what we can do, accomplish, and create.
When we self label, we close our minds. Period. An open mind creates a stronger and more compassionate person. Let me share a bit of my story. For those who don’t know me, I’ve been a “dancer” for the last 7 years. That being said, most people don’t know that I have been dancing for far longer. Let’s travel back to the early 90’s to visit little Austin. I was just a wee little lad when I saw Feet of Flames and Riverdance for the first time. Something in the epic-ness, the movement of the Irish dancing, the expression and vulnerability struck a deep chord in my being, and I was in love.
What was I in love with? Dancing. Every single freaking aspect of it. And so, as a young child you could find me shimmying across the room with my little fists on my waist, or jumping on our living room tables to the high amusement of my mother, and of course striking a near Greek-God pose as I channeled my inner Irish Dancing badass. Times were more simple; I could do anything. There was no limit to my dancing, and I was happy.
Now, let’s flash forward to four months ago to Swingcouver 2018 (Swingcouver is a three-day west coast swing dance event.) . I was in a depressive state, trying to figure out where I had gone wrong in my dancing, and, of course, coming down with the flu. Everything over the last year felt repetitive, monotonous, and the once vibrant color of each movement was grey. You see, I was a dancer, and I had certain criteria to fulfill in that mindset. And somewhere, deep within me, there was pressure, a type of pressure that comes from no one else other than myself.
It was Saturday, and I was in the hotel bathroom, drenching my numb body in the hot water of the shower when I realized what was causing me so much grief: being a dancer was all that I found passion in. All my friends were dancers, all my social life was done at dances, and everything that I did was geared towards the next night where I could test out my movement and prove to myself that I was a dancer. If I lost dance, what did I have?
Adopt an open viewpoint of yourself and what you are capable of. Become a more 3-dimensional person.
So here I am at Swingcouver. I was sick, going through some personal hardship, feeling unfulfilled with my dancing, and doing fuck-all in a shower for the past hour. Somewhere in my sickly state I realize something: I wasn’t a dancer. I was human.
I’ll be honest and a little bit vulnerable, I cried like I had never done before. I had found the answer that I was seeking so desperately. You see, I could still dance. Just as much as I was the years before, but I didn’t have to let my dance define me as a person. I could further pursue my career in Internet Marketing. I could travel to distant parts of the world. I could connect with complete “non-dancer” (I personally now hate that term) strangers and have compelling conversations. I could reclaim my humanity and be more than I had ever been before.
“Let go of the thing that you’re trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb).”Austin Kleon
Remove self-labeling, and you’ll find that you connect with far more people in day to day life.
Over the next few months I started to experience a level of self-growth and social growth that I cannot fully express in words. I saw connection points to those around me that were once invisible to my nearsighted mind, and, even more marvelously, I set out to spark them.
The beauty of removing self-labeling is that I could connect with people on our main common ground: we are all human. We share emotions. We all have interesting life stories: things that make us cry, things that make us smile, and moments that are far more beautiful than what money can buy. Since that day, I connect with people, new people, daily. I live a more enriched life than I could ever believe.
You can use labels as an effective method of connection in finding common ground, but that doesn’t mean that have to restrict yourself by your labels.
Now, to clarify, I am not saying you should remove labels entirely. You can use labels to create a stronger ground of connection between you and another person. If you run across someone that does something that you love, using a label in that moment might bring you and that person closer together. Just don’t stop there. Instead, ask them what makes them insert-label-here and why they identify with insert-label-here. (This will make for a more compelling conversation and a deeper connection.)
The thing to be cautious of is restricting yourself by your labels. I want you to feel like Charlie in the book Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky when he says, “I feel infinite.” So don’t put restrictions upon yourself. You can do anything that you put your mind to as long as you follow through with action.
You can and should still do the stuff that you love! Treat those activities and passions as an extension of your being, not who you are.
The beauty of this mindset is you can still do the things you love. If you love to garden, by all means garden. Feeling like playing some video games. Go right ahead. Want to cut some rug? Dance your heart out. Everything that you do in life is still accessible to you; it is only your viewpoint that is changed. Just don’t label yourself while you do it. You are not a gardener; you are gardening. You are not a gamer, but rather video gaming. You are not a dancer; you are dancing. You are more than the things that you do.
So, here’s my challenge. I challenge you to try this out for a week. Heck, do it for a month and commit. I think you will find a lot more color in the world around you, within yourself, and a lot more love in all the passions of your life.