Sticky Labels

The way we communicate in society calls for us to label everything. When working with a child to learn language we help them label everything they touch, see and feel to learn how to communicate.  We spend a good part of our early years being taught to label everything in our world to identify it and even to put those things in categories according to those labels. Apple, this is a fruit and goes in the fruit group, category and so on. We also do this with people during our formative foundation learning process. This is mommy, daddy, grandma, teacher, and so on.  When our education system in mostly based on labeling and categorizing it makes it difficult to open our minds beyond this form of thinking and cataloging that we are so well trained in. When I teach about diversity I let people know that I have so much compassion for people struggling with all of this because we have all been brainwashed, conditioned by our education systems, families, churches and on and on. This is apart of that conditioning. We teach labeling and categorizing and then tell people ‘don’t put me in a box,” and not to label people. That can makes people brain do flips. Labeling for the purpose of communicating is sometimes needed so what makes it turn negative.

Labeling gone bad happens when we attach things to those labels and then make judgements about who a person is or what they can and cannot do according to those attachments. This is the start of when and how we limit people according to labels.  Like “girls are not supposed to play football.”

I had not idea you played football with your penis, but I have heard statements like this limiting someone due to things like genitalia my entire life. Another common one is something like, “wow, its amazing how well you dance and move for such a big guy.”  Those are total judgement based statements about what a person has attached to a category and label they have given you. This is something we have to commonly examine within ourselves. WE ALL DO IT.  We were trained to do it. Forgive yourself, be aware of it and start paying attention when you do it and then examine how you are labeling and categorizing. Are you doing it in a way that puts limits on the person, thing, event or can you give those labels and still be consciously open to many possibilities.

As a transman which is a label, that I many times detest but use as an activist and educator to help talk about gender. I usually don’t like to meet someone when someone else has told them that I am trans. The reason is they already have these preconceived notions in their minds of what that means and I have found it is usually not positive. I would rather them meet me as a person then find out if need be and then I always love the shocking, “WOW, I had no idea.”  “You are a nice guy.”  I love when they act shocked that a trans person can be a nice person, or a regular seeming guy.  I find that label very limiting in others perceptions, in what people have attached to it.

Conscious living is what I hope for in the world. I hope that through educating that people open their minds to examine what they attach to all labels.This work of living consciously is a lifetime journey and I believe the only way to live. Remember the way we were trained it takes work to retrain and remap our brains. Be patient with yourself as you do this work and even listen to the labels you use on yourself in your head when you are beating yourself up.  Examine those as well. When I facilitate diversity training’s I do several exercises around labeling to cultivate deep examination of how we attach things to these labels we use. Here is one for you.  Write down every label you use to describe yourself and you have heard others use to describe you. Then write what each of those labels means to you. What thoughts come up around those labels and what feelings rise up within around those thoughts. How do they limit you and the full expression of who you are?  Try this exercise and let me know what it reveals to you.

PS:  When you are ready to shed a label – this stuff called “Goo be Gone” is great to get the sticky off.