Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do your labels limit you?

We all have labels. Those labels can give us a strong sense of self. For me, some of those are: wife, woman, Penn Stater, and small town girl. They are labels that reflect who I am inside.

Limiting Labels
Unfortunately sometimes our labels can become self imposed limiters. They are labels for a specific point in time, but we hide behind them as if they were “forever” labels.

Take for example the labels I have allowed to become limiting: project manager, team leader, and process guru. In other words organized, responsible, and BORING!

It’s not that any of those things are bad. In fact, I still proudly carry each of those labels. The problem was that I let those labels alone define me, at the expense of my family and my creativity.

As I moved up the management ladder, I traded my writing sweet spot for broader responsibilities. I also began to define myself solely in terms of my job. I let the new labels cover up everything else.

In my stressed overworked mind, I couldn’t carry the “Creative” label and the “Responsible” label at the same time. “Wife” and “Manager” also began to conflict.

I’d love to say that I came to this realization in a wonderful period of peaceful self-reflection. No, that wasn’t how it happened. I snapped. This wasn’t me. I had lost me.

Wearing Multiple Labels

Little rebellions began as a way to loosen the labels; some “orange crush” nail polish and frilly outfits. And I started writing again. Slowly the “Creative” label and the “Responsible” labels merged.

Labels are kind of like your wardrobe. Too much of one color is boring, yet combining different colors harmoniously can be tricky. Some things fit naturally, other parings are harder to imagine. So pull out your mirror and your labels, and see what you can create for yourself.

Future Post: Trying on New Labels


  1. Marie! This is so deep and sooooo good! I loved reading it, and realizing how right you are. I was thinking of how I sometimes hide behind my "older woman" label, hehe, it's easy sometimes. There, now I've admitted it, will have to watch my step from now on. Good article!

  2. Thanks Jackie! Labels that give us definition and purpose are good as long as they don't cause us to miss new opportunities.

  3. Great post Marie! I agree with it as well. I think age is another label we let define us when it shouldn't. As someone who knows you more through your work roles, I really enjoy reading your posts, admiring your writing, and getting to know another side of you. Pondering your current post and looking forward to the next. Keep the faucet flowing!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. It is so tough to branch out from the labels stuck on us. I often try and in the end am not very successful. Keep writing.

  5. Great post, thanks for sharing your thoughs.

  6. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. It took me a long time to call myself an artist, and it was an affirmation, but it does come with a lot of cultural associations of what artists are like(starving??). But the most limiting labels come from early on, and it's an ongoing process to realize that a lot of them don't fit.


Ooh,a comment! How delightful.


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