Breaking Free of Boxes

Breaking Free Of Boxes | Darling Magazine

Whether we are aware of it or not we all assign and subscribe to labels of some kind. More often than not they are fairly defining; they define both our perception of ourselves and of our perception of others. Some labels carry with them positive connotations: academic, athlete, comedian, life of the party, artist, girlfriend, wife, mother, sister, best friend. We label ourselves by our interests, our passions, our talents and our roles. Other labels might not be as positive, whether they are self-imposed or give to us by others: overweight, unintelligent, shallow, promiscuous, wallflower, etc.

All too often we allow these labels, whether positive or not, to put us into boxes. We become what our labels tell us that we are. Then we impose labels onto others, putting them into boxes as well. Sometimes these labels can be helpful for our identity, they help us explain who we are to the world and what we have to offer. But what happens when you grow and when you change, when your old labels just don’t seem to fit they way that they did before? Or what happens when your label defines you in a negative way, marring your identity, bringing you shame or stunting your growth?

You are more than whatever it is your label suggest. We all are. Sure, you might be the “funny girl” or the “sweet girl” or the “smart girl,” and that’s good! But that’s not all that you are. We are multifaceted and unique, unable to be labeled as wholly one thing or another. And sometime the roles that we play and have used to define ourselves in the past just aren’t helpful anymore. They don’t work for us any longer. We’ve changed, we’ve evolved, we’ve grown up.

We must be careful with our word choices when we are labeling ourselves or labeling others. We must be aware of what our words presume, and make sure that they allow a little wiggle room and a lot of grace. Putting yourself or others into boxes can be a damaging practice. It closes your mind off from exploring all the various parts of yourself, or trying the things you’ve always wanted to try but might not because you don’t think it’s “you.”

We must also be aware of our labels and how they are working for us. Are we comfortable with our labels? Do they align with what we believe about ourselves? Do they align with who we want to be, what we want to do and where we want to go in life?

If so, then great! But even then, be open to new labels and new experiences. If not, then don’t be afraid to break free! Write a new story; define yourself in whatever way is most life giving and true to who you are in this time and life. And as you evaluate if time to let go of a label you’ve been subscribing to for a long time, think about the labels you’ve assigned to others. Allow yourself to see people with an open mind and fresh eyes, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you might find.

Image via That Kind Of Woman

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Erin Willis-McNeely is a currently a Masters student in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theologically Seminary. When she is not a slave to the schoolbooks, she is a newlywed, a nanny, a music lover and a mama to one crazy puppy.

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