Last night, I realized that my life is ruled by labels. It was simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. For example, “my” water is only Fiji; my coffee is only Starbucks; and so on and so on, from my clothing brands to the kinds of food I eat.
And, unfortunately, this often extends to the people I spend time with. We all love to label the people around us. We observe. We group. We label. And then we judge.
I recently watched this amazing talk by pastor Mike Foster from People of the Second Chance called “Labels Lie.” In summary, Mike says that the labels we give to others and to ourselves are an effort to overcome shame (in ourselves) or to feel a sense of superiority (over others).
Labels lie. They destroy. And they keep us from experiencing our true potential within both ourselves and our communities. For example:
- When I see you dressed a certain way or acting a certain way, and I label you as someone I wouldn’t want to be associated with, I am cheated out of the chance to see/hear/experience a new perspective or way of life.
- When I label myself as unworthy or not strong enough, I cheat myself out of a new future.
- And when my labels meet your labels and the labels of thousands — nay, millions — of other people, it creates a cascading effect that cheats our entire community from the chance to be a truly connected, empowering universe.
Going forward, I will try my best not to limit myself, or you, with labels. It will be hard, because it’s such an ingrained habit. But I’ll try. I’ll try to be more open to the possibilities and the stories and the beating souls and the human energy that a label always disfigures and hides. But, sorry, I’ll probably still think that Fiji water is the best bottled water out there.
“Any name or label you identify yourself with is false. The real you is unbounded and nameless, beyond all labels. To exist without labels is ultimate freedom.”
— Deepak Chopra