Saturday, August 22, 2009

Labels


I was reading a passage in the book "The Four Insights" today, when I ran across a passage that I found very interesting. The writer, Alberto Villoldo, PH.D., was discussing "the practice of Non-Attachment." He said that at one time in his life he adopted the persona of Indiana Jones/Anthropologist. A book reviewer had referred to him by this characterization after reading one of his books. He began to identify with the character, when at age 40, he found it too difficult to maintain.

Here is an instance where we get labeled, or we label ourselves, because of a moment in time. A whole storyline gets attached to our label. No matter that we may have outgrown the label, or that it never fit in the first place, we believe it to be who we are.

I had just got off the phone with Trish MacGregor, wife of the author, Rob MacGregor of Indiana Jones' prequels and novelization, (Lucas/Spielberg creation), when I read this passage. It hit me that this wonderful, insightful, enlightened man had patterned himself off a character that had come from the minds of Hollywood and some talented writers. It was fiction. He was trying to live up to the character of a work of fiction!

How often do we do this to ourselves and to others? We label everything and everyone. Yet these labels often have no connection to who and what we are. We are evolving, changing, dynamic. We are more than mother, father, daughter, son, friend, worker, sibling, lazy, carefree, ugly, beautiful, fat, skinny, smart, loveable...

We simply cannot be labeled.


20 comments:

robert said...

Trying to become human every day anew, this entry of yours was of great help.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Yes, our labels, roles, jobs are never who we really are - they are simply descriptors of some task or persona we have taken on for the moment - e.g. teacher . . .

You can, however, use the technique of "role playing" to help yourself feel more confident, or more courageous, or more dignified . . . whatever . . . simply pretend you are like someone you know of who demonstrates the quality. However, this should be a temporary tool or technique - not an identity or label you try to permanently assume.

As a technique it is perfectly understandable - but to try and become a fictional character on a permanent basis is quite a sad statement - as you say.

Erika C. said...

Yes, you are so right about this. We are so much more than our labels and the people in our lives, those we spend every day with or those we meet for just a few minutes, are so much more than the labels we put on them.

I am just back today from vacation too and will start posting again. Being on vacation is a good time to revisit all the assumptions about my life and the people in it. I am back with a new energy and vision and look forward to putting it into action.

DJan said...

Hmmm. Double hmmm. I have been labeled ever since I can remember: girl (no college for you), mother (doesn't have a brain), low-wage worker (let's exploit her), and then when I actually did get a job that paid well and had status, it was snob (she thinks she's better than us). And worse yet, when I started skydiving as an old woman of 47, it was "she's gone off the deep end." And you know what, none of those were me. Here I am, Nancy, a 66-year-old broad with a past, but also with a future that nobody can predict!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

We're our own archetypes!

Pam said...

I'll play devil's advocate here, but I like labels. I like they sum up so much, usually with one word.

Some of mine: mom, teacher, foodie.

However, I am more than the sum of my labels.

Leah J. Utas said...

Labels make a good stepping off point. We can see how much we've changed by the labels we are given.
That said, I agree with you. We are more than what we get slotted to be and we are always changing.

Brian Miller said...

tight post nancy...what or who do we try to live up to...and in doing so how much of ourselves are we willing to give up? oh, you got my mind spinning tonight...

Nancy said...

Wow that is really interesting! I never would have thought to do this, but I guess alot of people do things like that without really knowing they're doing it. A friend of mine here on blogger has an ex hubby who is always modeling himself after criminals and basically bad people and currently his model of choice is Jon Gosselin, LOL I just laughed when I read that because who in their right mind?????

CrazyCris said...

Not only is it hard to avoid labels, but the labels that get attached to us change over the course of our lives.
I've always been confused by them because they've never accurately described me. But the crazyest was when I was living in Belgium and I know people there had one label for me (very open, fun-loving person, a little bit crazy and one to start a real good party) whereas at the same time my friends in Spain had the opposite image of me in their heads (I was the "quiet, shy" one of the group, who followed along instead of leading). The thing is, we do end up behaving differently depending on how people look at us, react towards us... so imagine trying to live up to two completely opposite views of myself! :p

Lydia said...

Labels given in childhood are the worse to grapple with in adulthood because we didn't adopt them ourselves. I imagine that many hours in therapy deal with that. Come to think of it, I could have benefited from therapy to rid myself of some labels instead of shucking them off slowly by myself. :)

Sylvia said...

It is awful. It is! And unfortunately there seems to be no way to go around it. In Portugal, every foreigner is Ucranian, here we are all Polish. People make fun of others who have disabilities. No-one makes an effort to see beyond the labels. No-one sees the human being!

Celeste Maia said...

We all have so many layers to our personalities, it is impossible to categorize anyone with one label. It is wrong to judge anyone according to a title, an archtype, or the color of one's skin. This is a very interesting entry!

Deboshree said...

You said it!!
But it takes a long time to realise that. We are a product of circumstances and circumstances are never the same. Hence, nor are we.
Well said.

Love
Deboshree

Whitney Lee said...

Yes, we are more than other people's perceptions of us.
However, some labels are not so bad. For example, mother is a label I love. It's not the only thing I am but it is a choice I made, a way of being I choose again each day.
Or a label can remind you of just what you can be. Take "Alcoholic." No, it's not the sum of me but it is a reminder of just how incredibly strong I am.
I'm aware this works in the reverse as well. I suppose my point is that labels are not necessarily all bad. Perhaps it's a matter of perspective.

California Girl said...

In my younger days, I had an image of how I was supposed to act, react, be in my role as single woman, aspiring career person, party girl. The things I thought I was supposed to do were not necessarily right for me or good for me. It took alot of years to stop living up to the expectations of my self, let alone those of others. Never knew how unhappy I was til I stopped...like banging your head against that wall.

PeacefulWmn9 said...

What great food for thought. Labels can be very constricting to our growth. I never realized just how much. At best, if one uses them to define "self" it should be understood that they are only temporary ways to explain ourselves TO ourselves.

Karen

Lily said...

I think many of us spend the first 40 or 50 years of our lives figuring that out. Then one day the light comes on... We can just be who we are.

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

I am very young and I do label myself often. Sometimes, my energy is shifted and I begin to pause and look at life as if I am invisible. It really helps when I am being critical of myself.

It's another human condition I am trying to understand. I think we have to work at just being who we are. We are dynamic, shifting and stretching.

Kay said...

the person I am and the person I am viewed as can sometimes through me aback, as I hear the views of others... perception is everything, or is it?