Living Life Unlabeled: Shedding Stereotypes & Creating Your Character

Living the unlabeled life, requires you to change your thinking.

Imagine going to the store and all the items were mislabeled….it would be a very frustrating experience. Ketchup called Jelly. Cookies called Chips. Many of us, go through life mislabeled, but the sad part is that we don’t even like those labels; yet we become them anyway. Labels (or stereotypes) are created for convenience.  The problem with labels arise when we try to apply this same grocery store convenience to people.

Love people and label things, because the opposite never works.

How do we use labels or stereotypes?

You are so lazy, rude, arrogant, timid, passive, etc. Labeling looks like one action or a series of actions becoming a persons whole identity. It’s easy for us to write people off with a dismissive stereotype. Someone is rude to us, so we dismiss them as rude, when they were simply having a bad day. Or perhaps the co-worker who smiles at us is kind, but their spouse rarely sees such displays of affection. Both of there individuals are more complex than our brief interactions have seemed to indicate, but our minds feel the need to put them in a “box” for our own mental convenience.

The problem of labeling is that we put ourselves in the same boxes we put others into.

Lets take procrastinating for example. Some people are quick to accept the label of procrastinator when in reality that is a habit that they possess, not their entire identity. The rapper Eminem once had a hit song in which he stated “I am, whatever you say I am.” Unfortunately, many people grow up with the misguided notion that if we can’t convince others of who we really are then we must simply accept whatever they say about us. There are two encouraging truths that refute this way of thinking. First, it really doesn’t matter what other people say. Second, our ability to change is far greater than we’re aware of.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

This Winston Churchill quote is rooted in more science and empirical evidence than I’m sure even he was aware of at the time. There is some fascinating research being done on the human mind’s ability to change.

Neruoplasticity is a broad term referring to brain changability. A relativity new discovery, gaining prominence in the late 20th century, this concept holds that the brain can change (or remains plastic) well into an adults life. This stood in direct contrast to previous research which held that the mind was “stuck” after a critical period in early childhood.

In her best selling book: Mindset and popular TED talk, Standford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck expounds on the idea of growth and fixed mindsets: “In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

 

What does the unlabeled life look like?

We must first understand that when we use stereotypes or labels, we limit. We limit our thinking, our growth, our human experience and potential. Next, we would be wise to look inward and consider where we are limiting our own character. The time has come for you to create a new character in the story of your life. Lastly, we can approach more moments with “beginners mind.” Encountering familiar situations and individuals with this perspective stimulates enthusiasm for life and possibilities become endless.

Reject stereotypes others place upon you. Walk in confidence and have pride in the identity you have created.

In closing, each of us comes into life, unlabeled. Sure we all come in different shapes and sizes, heights and weights. But we are all containers. What we choose to fill our lives with is up to us.

How we are defined is left to others. But it is important to remember: others definitions don’t have to be our destinations!

Carol Dweck: The Power Of Believing You Can Improve

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