Are Labels Holding You Back?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~William Shakespeare

“My dear boy,” Miss Frost said sharply. “My dear boy, please don’t put a label on me – don’t make a category before you get to know me!” ~John Irving

“When you don’t cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, became possessed by thought. A depth returns to your life. Things regain their newness, their freshness. And the greatest miracle is the experiencing of your essential self as prior to any words, thoughts, mental labels and images.” ~Eckhart Tolle

“I used to worry about the labels others placed on me… until I realized my limitations weren’t coming from their labels, but from my own.” ~Steve Maraboli

“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.” ~Martina Navratilova

Are we really the labels that people attach to us, or the labels we attach to ourselves? We can easily fall into the trap of treating people based on labels that either we (or society) attach to them.


How easy is it to treat ourselves poorly based on a label attached to us by others or even by ourselves? Is the label we attach who we really are?

We use labels to fit people into categories, to differentiate them from ourselves or to liken them to ourselves. We use them to identify where people belong, or come from, or to classify the beliefs they have.

We use labels to hold us back from going after our dreams, from going after that perfect relationship, from asking for that promotion, from losing that weight we have always wanted to lose, from having fun, from relaxing, from trying new things. The list is endless.

The dangerous thing about labels is the limitations they can impose when we believe them to be true. Labels can limit our personal growth, our potential, our personal fulfillment, and our happiness.

Without even knowing someone or ever having spoken a word with them we are quick to label them. And others can do the same to us. The danger is not in the label itself, but in the belief connoted by the label. If we believe a label is who someone really is, we can place judgment and limitations based on that belief.

Take a bottle of ketchup for example, remove the label and change it to mustard. Have the contents of the bottle changed? Of course not. Just because you may label yourself or someone else, as lazy, stupid, ugly, mean, and so forth, does not mean that is who you or they really are on the inside.

We are all human beings with fears, wounds, feelings and a soul trying to find its way in an ever challenging world. We would do well to treat people—not as the label you or others have attached to them but as to the soul they have inside. Treat yourself not as the label others have attached to you, but as the soul you know you are.

Many years ago I was given two different opportunities to practice this philosophy. In both instances I had someone under my umbrella of supervision that was being labeled in a negative way and my superiors were speaking of letting them go. I, for whatever reason at the time, didn’t believe the labels and could see past them and asked for more time.

Trusting in my judgment, I was granted the time. I spoke with both people, not focusing on the negative labels that had been attached to them but on the potential I could see within them, the potential they themselves didn’t believe or see because of their own belief in those labels. I am happy to say both individuals rose to the occasion and became stars in the organization. All they needed was someone to believe in them, to help remove the veil of the negative label so they could allow who they really were to appear.

When we believe in potential and not labels, miracles can happen.

Have a miraculous week.

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