Saturday, 14 May 2011

To thine own self be true.

 I thought I was someone who eschewed all labels but this week I’ve realised there are a number of labels I am actually proud to be associated with.  

I’m not really talking about clothing labels or other brands, although these can be important.  I’m talking about the descriptions about ourselves that we are given or that we promote.  

For example, a while ago I became very reticent about being called or known as ‘a Christian’, because I didn’t want to be associated with many of the things people think of when they hear the word.  The same applies to my job title: I don’t like giving it out because it could give people an impression of who I am which actually says very little about the real me.  It’s just my job, not what I’m passionate about. 

The labels and boxes we put ourselves and other people in are probably to enable us to decide whether someone fits in our world.  Do we want to be friends with that person?  Are they likely to make us look better, or worse?  Will we have fun together, or will they bore us?

Some of the labels I am comfortable with would be things like, ‘creative’, or ‘thinker’, or ‘funny’, or ‘Liberal Democrat’.  In fact it was this blog that made me see that I am not averse to all labels: my introduction described me as at least three things before I even started.  ‘Depression-sufferer’ can also be a label for me and, although people who meet me now would probably find it hard to believe that it’s true, it is still something I hold because I believe it gives me a unique insight into life, and enables me to empathise with others.

I think it is important to know what messages we are giving the world about ourselves, otherwise we may be saying things that we really don’t want to.  Whether it is right or wrong for people to make snap judgements about us is pretty irrelevant: we all do it, so it’s better to acknowledge it and work around it.  And we’re all affected by our immediate social circles and what they are thinking, wearing, saying and doing.  

One piece of advice: if you want to expand your social circle, then be aware of how certain labels you ‘wear’ may well be putting others off.  Regardless of whether their opinion of the label is accurate, it could be getting in the way of forming a friendship.  Would we rather be precious about our labels, or about relationships?  

I want to make sure that my labels tell people who I really am, or help to show others who I want to be.  If I’m aware of how others view me – and I can only do this by learning what people think about certain things – then I can make adjustments to my image if necessary.

Or, I may worry too much about what others’ opinions... I just don’t want any false barriers to forming relationships.  I think there are enough genuine barriers to deal with already.

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