Why We Should Ignore Labels And Just Be Wonderfully Complicated


Labels are incredibly weird, if you really think about what they are and what it means to label a person as being one thing. When did we decide that simplifying someone’s existence to a single (or even a few) easily identifiable words was a beneficial thing to do? Imposing labels on other people or applying them to yourself is usually just a way to reduce people to something digestible and understandable; Labels are most commonly a tool utilized by people who are either too lazy or too fearful to attempt to understand the actual nature of a person, which is complex, contradictory, and evolving. Or at least, that’s what a person should be. It’s what they inescapably are – exquisitely complicated – if they allow themselves to embrace and embody that.

But more often, we bury ourselves in the simple safety of labels. It’s not altogether difficult to understand why: The alternative takes a lot more effort.

It takes constant work to think about people as they truly are, or to think of yourself as you really are, so labels exist to aid people who take comfort in things being simple and who uphold that comfort over authenticity. For some, it’s preferable to have people “figured out” than to actually figure them out.

And then there are people who aren’t like that. There are people for whom labels will always feel strange and incorrect, or at least not entirely correct, because they’re the kind of person who is perpetually striving to understand themselves and others in the most nuanced, honest ways possible. Labels are antithetical to that (but then, so are a lot of people.)

Not only do labels rarely encompass the full scope of a person, but their one-dimensionality often means that if you do commit the horrible crime of being an actual human who has more than one side, you’re criticized for it. People who have been labeled one thing are called fake when they show a part of themselves that doesn’t line up perfectly with the very narrow image that someone else has decided to have of them. When in reality, the fake thing is to pretend that we aren’t all complex and full of subtleties, and very often – and authentically – we can become completely different people from who we were at one time.

Allowing people other than yourself – and maybe a few very carefully selected loved ones – have any influence on how you see yourself is dangerous. When people who don’t know you take it upon themselves to decide who you are, their idea of you will almost always be reductive and based more on their own perceptions and filters than anything actually about you. And once they lock you into a label, it’s very hard to change their view.

If you ultimately can’t control how other people choose to see you, no matter how inaccurate their labeling might be nor how much you fight against it, then how do you break out of it? By never buying into it. You have to allow any limiting, bullshit reflections of yourself to live only in the lazy minds that create them – they cannot be allowed to live in yours, or else your self-image will be endlessly fucked. How we view ourselves – as long as we’re diligent about trying to understand ourselves as truthfully as possible without delusion – directly impacts what we believe we can achieve, what we feel we are worth, and how we conduct ourselves in general. It’s everything. And – if you aren’t afraid to be honest and accept who you genuinely are and make constant, evolving efforts to grow – no one will ever understand you as wholly as you can.

Don’t ever be afraid to embrace your complexity, and to accept the unavoidable personal changes that come with time; don’t make yourself smaller and simpler just for the comfort (especially if it’s someone else’s comfort) of having a convenient label to tell you who you are. You should have to work hard to know who you are. You should have to constantly be updating that understanding of yourself. You should absolutely only care about the people who care enough about you to work just as hard to know you, and who are secure enough to give you the freedom to stop being who you were and grow into who you are become. People who rely on easy labels are cowards, and they will always lash out at the people brave enough to live without them. TC Mark

Producer at Thought Catalog. Follow me on Twitter.

Keep up with Jessica on Twitter and grownunknown.com

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