Personal labels: How to use them without having them work against you

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I’m on social media a lot, it’s a big part of my marketing job, and because of that I spend a lot of time looking at peoples bios. Social media bios have always been interesting to me because there is limited space and people normally try to condense a whole lot of themselves into them. They normally rely heavily on labels.

I have a love/hate relationship with labels. I love certain ones that express my hobbies. Throwing the “novelist” label up in my Twitter bio made me feel official, even if I haven’t had one of them published yet. I felt somewhat vindicated my hard work- I’ve written seven books, I have the right to call myself that. These kinds of labels are easy to grab at, they’re wonderful and they accurately portray how we’re using our time. They’re personal, that’s what we identify as. They define us and our passions.

But labels have a flip side, they aren’t always just defining us, sometimes they’re defining groups that we’re roping ourselves into by association. Sometimes they’re describing a small part of us that people then turn into our whole identity. Sometimes using them isn’t a breathe of fresh air, sometimes they’re more of a brand, thrown on us by ourselves so that we can be put out with the rest of the cattle “similar” to us.

I think labels are important, because I think our personalities and how we define ourselves are important, and I’m not just talking about social media, I’m talking about how you define yourself out in the real world everyday. What words are you using regularly?

You want to define your labels, you don’t want to let your labels define you.

So how do you do that?

  • Mix it up: I think we’ve fallen into a trap with labels, certain ones carry certain ideas, even more so when you use a lot of associated ones. If you lead with them, people have already started telling your story to themselves without even meeting you. Maybe that’s why I like it when people list off labels that don’t fit together perfectly. You’re destroying any narrative people were trying to pin on you, you’re adding your unique flare, because lets be honest, we all have plenty of flare that is unique just to us.
  • Don’t just rely on group labels: Some of your labels should be reserved only for you, that means if you were asked to dive into them you wouldn’t end up describing a group, you’d only end up describing you. We all share labels, even the personal ones are held by more than one person, but they’re held for different reasons with different ideas of what they mean. I think of political parties, religious denominations, and your sororities or college as group labels. There is nothing wrong with them and there’s nothing wrong with including them, but every label you have shouldn’t rely on a group to keep it’s definition. You’re an individual, act and define yourself as one!
  • Maybe you shouldn’t lead with your disorders or illnesses: I have Lyme Disease and Bipolar Disorder but neither of them come close to portraying who I am, if I feel inclined to include them (which I often do), I add them on towards the end. It’s not because I’m ashamed of them, I talk openly about my problems, I even make jokes about them. It’s just that those leading spots are reserved for things that make me feel like the label novelist, things that I feel like define parts of my soul. I’m proud of a lot of my labels, I’m not proud of my disorders; I have them, I’m not ashamed of them, but the only pride I feel is being able to overcome them. That’s wonderful, amazing, and brilliant, but that isn’t something that can define me at first glance. I am more than them and y’all are too.
  • Be proud of the ones you carry: Don’t hold on to negative labels forced on you over the years. We’ve all had people push us around and label us as things we aren’t. You don’t have to hold on to those. They might never have been in danger of showing up in an Instagram bio, but they are still probably floating around in your brain. Drop them. You get to define yourself, you know you best. Be honest and knock out the bad ones that have been floating around undeserved.
  • They’re yours and yours alone: In the end, how you define yourself is up to you and you alone. You don’t have to be worried about what other people think at all, but having an idea of what our labels connect to helps us better define ourselves and do it with the pride we deserve.

Labels are becoming more and more common than ever, groups are fractioning off into smaller groups, people are adding more and more titles to their names. It’s important to be cautious of labels and it’s important to choose ones that portray you and who you want be perceived as. No matter what you define yourself as you’re worthy of love and kindness. Now, go out and give that to others.

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