The Labels We Wear

I love clothing, and am known to my family and friends as an unabashed shoe-a-holic.  Getting dressed to head to a meeting, conference, party or even sometimes just the post office can get me giddy with excitement.  What I don’t love, however, are labels.  I prefer to think of how I pull myself together as an act of that reflects my mood, outlook and stage of life – a crafted persona and not an amalgam of other people’s names and traits.  And, I bet I am not alone.

What labels will you affix to yourself?

You’re getting ready to head to a social or professional gathering, eager to see old friends and perhaps meet fascinating new ones.  You’ve thought a lot about what to wear, perhaps even imagined what might happen if you meet the illusive new love/client/friend/partner.  And, if you’re really in full event-prep mode, you may even have thought through how you intend to introduce yourself.  What labels will you affix to yourself?

Have you ever caught yourself saying “I’m just a….” or “I’m only a….?”  When you are asked what you do, what do you say?  How does that identify feel?   Do you discount your abilities, brag, evade, demur or deflect? Does the description feel accurate or adequate?   My guess, based on my work with scores of coaching clients, is that you have a default answer that conveys only the smallest slice of your identity, and that you may opt for the easy-to-recognize labels that are expected. 

Anyone who has engaged with small children knows that it is important to distinguish identify from behavior, e.g., when a kid throws a tantrum or object, we note that they are not bad, but their actions are.  We need to do the same for our adult selves. Being attentive to how we label ourselves plays a crucial role in how we perceive our talents and limitations – and how they are perceived by others.

What if you were to make a list of all of your favorite parts of yourself – your talents, interests and activities? And, what if you also made a list of all of the things that aren’t so terrific – your bad habits, fears, and negative self-talk scripts?   Could you see that that these are identify labels hanging in the closet, and that you have the choice of what to put on as you move through your life? 

Oh, don’t worry, they’ll still be there gathering moth balls if you don’t deal with them, but each time you engage in a conversation – inside your head, at an interview, leading a meeting, at a dinner party – you can decide what suit fits best.  Put that on and see the beautiful reflection of your conscious choice.