If I asked you to tell me about yourself, you’d probably tell me your name, your gender, your ethnicity, your job, your religious beliefs (if any), your musical taste, your marital status, your education status, your pet ownership status, your Zodiac sign, your political allegiance and if you’re an introvert or extrovert. Which is great–those things would help me get to know you some. However, none of those things are really who or what you are, they are merely labels.
And labels, well, they kind of suck.
Labels are reductive, they divide us and limit us. They give us a reason to fight rather than unite. They prevent individuality by making us conform to definitions and group allegiance rather than conforming to our own authenticity. They cause us to generalize people instead of looking at each person as a special case because it’s easier that way. They take away from what it is to be human and replace it with a facade. They make it difficult to discuss ideas because people ascribe those ideas to the label rather than the person, which causes arguments rather than understanding–especially if the people fall under different labels.
You are more than a label or an identity. You are more than your beliefs and experiences. You are more than a gender, a race, a religion, a political party or an age. You are a human. A soul. Like the rest of us.
Instead of discussing political reform as a concept, we blame conservatives for only aiding the rich and blame liberals for making the government too big and expensive. Instead of talking about gender equality or freedom of belief, we blame feminists for male-bashing, “meninists” for feminist bashing, Muslims for terrorist attacks and we blame Christians for Bible-thumping.
We don’t agree with conspiracy theorists because they’re all obviously crazy and we never listen to scientists because they’re always changing their minds and talking down to us if we can’t keep up. We know athletes are overpaid douchebags and we know mathletes will never lose their virginities. We know stoners are all losers and we know straight-edge people are all winners. We know people from rough areas are bad asses and we know people from gated communities are yuppies. We know everyone who wears flannel and tight jeans are hipsters while everyone wearing hoodies, baggy jeans and sneakers are thugs. We know cops are corrupt, politicians are shady, women are emotional and men are aggressive.
We know so much about others based on their labels, don’t we? So much that we don’t even need to get to know them before believing we know them. Which only makes it easier for us to judge and gives us more opportunities to misunderstand. Because labels are merely facets of who we are and none of them are really definitive or say anything about our personalities. We cling to them to feel a sense of identity and belonging, but that’s all it is, a sense. Not the real thing.
So when people ask about you, try telling them about your passions and hobbies. Tell them about your quirky sense of humor, your love for cinnamon pancakes or the dream you are working on manifesting in the future. Tell them how you can’t sleep at night without having the television on or how you consume fifty cups of coffee a day. Tell them you built your own computer or that you travel somewhere new each year.
Tell them what things in life still give you goosebumps.
Tell them all of that instead because it reveals more of who and what you are as a person than labels do. The labels give us status and constructed identities, but telling someone you get goosebumps when checking out new books at the library tells them more about you than the fact you are a data analyst. Because we are always so much more than our constructed identities. We are human, we are souls and we are complex webs of thoughts, memories, passions, dreams, attitudes, outcomes and personalities.
Each one of us is a universe. So ask yourself, who are you?