Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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The Beauty and Danger of Labels

Where are you free of labels? In a crowd or by yourself in nature?

“To be yourself in world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have to agree with Ralph. This is the work of a lifetime. To find out who you truly are rather than what you have been told. 

I went for a run this morning. I didn’t plan it, I woke up and felt this body wants to run!

Ok, so it was only 2 km. Why do I say that like I am apologizing? 

Upon my return I ran into someone I knew who said “Oh, I didn’t know you were a runner.” 

Am I? What qualifies as a runner? Does 2k get me into the group? Or perhaps if I went every day? 

It reminded me of when I was a teenager years ago and I smoked cigarettes. There was rarely a time when I lit up that someone didn’t say “You don’t look like a smoker.” It puzzled me, as if I was supposed to look a certain way to qualify, when it was simply something I occasionally did. 

The only problem I can see with labels is when we identify with them as who we are or who they are. When it’s a type of evaluation as opposed to a way to locate and describe.

You are one, or you’re not. You can see how this ripples out into the world in small and big ways.

You’re a Democrat or a Republican.

You’re a writer or you’re not.

You’re a vegetarian or a carnivore. 

Good/bad, right/wrong, left/right, black/white.

You can be all of them at some point, not at all, or mostly!

I see people wrestle with who they are all the time. When what you truly are is this moment. And you do things. Some things you do a lot, other things not at all or sometimes. 

It becomes painful when we are asked to give up certain labels, by will or by force, and we cling to them tightly as our identity.

Like the athlete who becomes injured. 

Or the worker who loses his job. 

Or the older person who can’t do what they used to do. 

Or the person who is a certain religion and “commits a sin”.  

The truth is, we can be all things and this is what I am clinging to. 

It’s not for everyone, but if there is an identity you are trying to stick to, cut yourself some slack.

It’s never all or nothing. You are made to change, to evolve, to experience and decide. 

So, I was running this morning. I probably won’t for a while again since my hip hurt, am I a runner?

If you have these dialogues, let them go. It doesn’t matter. 

Sometimes you are this, sometimes you are that. 

I do like labels on my food jars, for bird identification or maps. 

Where do you like/don’t like labels?

Remember, you are fluid like water, not ice. 

Keep flowing!


ps. As we reach midlife, this can be a beautiful time to start shedding the labels of who you have been, and open up to who you truly feel like being now!

There is a freedom to knowing you’re in the second half, which might be the best half! Join me in The Second Bloom workshop this Thursday.

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