Growing up, I thought it was weird how people labeled themselves. People felt entitled to give themselves titles. Some would call themselves professionals. Others mature, goth or emo (bear with me, these were my teenager years).
I never felt that boldness and confidence to belong to a category. I would write, but I was never a writer. I could practice martial arts, but I wasn’t really an athlete or a martial artist.
Over time, I tried to join the ranks of the labeled, branded people. I started adopting labels like independent, mature, engineer, consultant.
While some of this felt harmless, this labeling has come at a cost. You see, that labeling is only valid, I think, if others agree. Since inherently I’m just a human being living life, not a full time mature person, or an engineer 100% of the time, the more labels I try to live up to the more constrained I feel.
I recently felt threatened when someone close to me suggested that I’m not mature. My instinctual response was to prove my maturity. In the process, I realized that I have much maturing to do. Most importantly, I need the maturity to be comfortable enough with myself that other people’s opinions become irrelevant to my happiness.
Instead of living a life trying to show that I’m mature or professional, I prefer to stick to the mindset of a child with no pre-defined notions of who I must be. What about returning to those blissful days in which playing with mud was all the rage because in my spur of the moment as a 5-year-old I decided that was fun?
The more I define who I am based on labels, the less freedom I have to simply be.
Why do I write about this now? I feel discomfort deep inside me that tells me to reassess the notions I have about myself, the expectations that I’m trying to live up to based on labels adopted over time. Specifically, I need to abandon the dependency on other people believing certain things about me in order to be happy.