“Once you label me you negate me.”
– Søren Kierkegaard
Recently, in a conversation about a variety of topics, a person in the group referred to me as, “…an idealist or a realist.” I smiled while thinking to myself, “I’ve never thought about that…especially whether either or both of those labels describe my views of the current milieu.”
And then I got it. Labels. Of course we have to name someone as something – especially when we don’t know them well and are trying to figure out who they are and what they believe. My career was dotted with many labels and names for individuals, groups and most especially anything unfamiliar! I am also quite good at describing myself as a role. For example, the last time you met someone for the first time, was one of their first questions to you (or yours to them), “What do you do?” And, how did either of you answer that question?
“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”
– Brené Brown
We typically think of an answer that reflects one of the many hats that we wear each and every day. I recall setting up my blog in 2012 and writing an “About” paragraph that described myself as all of my roles – daughter, sister, mom, grandmother, friend, coach, blogger, former executive, consultant – rather than saying anything about Who I Am.
I facilitated a coaching group of diverse women in my home a few years ago. As we went around the circle to introduce ourselves, I suggested that after each one gave their name, each one also share who they are. Think about it. If you are asked to say who you are, what is your default answer? I’ll guess you say, “I am (a role).” I suppose I am not so different in my response to this question…especially in our fast-paced day-to-day experience.
For me the answer to “What do you do,” isn’t a quick or easy one. I do a lot of things. I still have some of the same roles. I am still an introvert (label). If I could find all of the instruments from the years of working in a large organization, which attempted to categorize the type of person or personality that I am, I could give you even more labels. And none of them provided a full, clear perspective of Who I Am.
“I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
In our very complex world, we have names for just about anyone, any group, or any organization. And yet, we are all of the same origin. It matters not what we look like, what we do, or whom we believe we are, we are of the same origin. And in our human need to categorize, characterize and label, we have so severely divided ourselves that many of us have retreated to a place where we are only surrounded by those who see, think and speak as we do. We have forgotten Who We Are.
My intention in this writing is not to change your mind about names, labels, or roles that you have chosen for yourself or which you have assigned to others. My hope is that by observing the names, labels and roles in your own life, you may begin to see how you regard yourself and how the perspective you have on and about yourself impacts your views of others.
I am reminded of something that Wayne Dyer said when I heard him speak quite a few years go. On the subject of judging others, he offered this (paraphrased): When you say or think something about another that is a judgment of them, something they’ve said, or done, or even their appearance; add to the end of your comment of thought, “…and I am that, too.” Think about that for a moment. This, more than any other observation practice, helps us see our projections of the places within that we have chosen to deny, disregard, or that we may even hate about ourselves.
Perhaps a good place to begin to observe the instinctive habit to name, label, or assigned roles and judgments, is with and within ourselves.
Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.
– Wayne Dyer
Realizing our own worthiness; doing our work to heal those hurting places within us, will change our view of ourselves…and everyone else.
And…what is my answer to Who Am I?
I am Carrie. I do a lot of different things. At the core of my being, I am (love and peace).
“The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am.”