Don’t we all dread the statement “Introduce yourself” that we hear in every class at the start of the school year? There are other versions of it too, like “Describe yourself” during job interviews, or even the simple “Who is this?” when making a telephone call.

So, how do we answer these questions? It’s usually something that goes like this:

“Hi! I’m Angela, a 22-year old city girl from a conservative family. I’m a broke college student who loves baking pastries. I’m an extrovert and my friends say I am extremely vain.”

We may not realize it, but we answer these questions based on labels that have been assigned to us over the years. From the moment we are born, and each and every day of our existence, we acquire more and more labels, such as:

  • Our identity (name, gender, age, nationality) which are assigned to us at birth. In fact, we aren’t even born yet, and people already start asking what our gender is and what  our name will be. Nowadays, gender reveal parties have even become a thing.
  • Our personality (physical appearance, intelligence and skills, social interactions, interests) like pretty or ugly, genius, introverted and so on. These are most often used on making derogatory statements like “dumb blonde,” or nerd/geek when refering to someone with a hobby that isn’t popular culture.
  • Our position in society (financial status, educational level, job) which we use to degrade ourselves, or brag about, like meekly saying “I’m poor. I’m just a janitor,” or repeatedly mentioning “I graduated with an MBA and am a top level executive in my company” at the highschool reunion.
  • Our relationships (family, circle of friends, matrimony), which makes us say things like, “I’m Mrs. Parker” or “I’m Jason’s fiancée,” as if belonging to someone makes us who we are.
  • Our experiences (milestones, mistakes) such as being a mother, an ex-convict, a car crash survivor, a drug addict, or a cheater.

What we have to understand is that all these labels are hindrances: they limit us from being our best selves and living our best lives. Women are intimidated from taking jobs that are traditionally performed by men, and men are embarrassed on engaging in “feminine” activities. We prefer to be friends with the “popular kids” instead of the nerds and the “weirdos”. We shy away from the arts because we are not the “creative type”. We tend not to hire people with criminal records so getting a second chance at life is extremely difficult for them. We stereotype everyone, including ourselves. But what we all have to remember is this:

Labels are for boxes.

Everyday, more and more labels will be assigned to you by yourself and by the people around you, and the box you are living in will get smaller. 

But, what if we choose not to conform? What if we chose to live beyond all these labels? What if we chose not to be limited and set ourselves free?

Try it. Think of yourself as a smartphone filled to the brim with all these apps eating out your storage space and your battery, making you lag and hang, and even crash every so often. Think of all these apps as the labels assigned to you, and really think if these are helping you, or just taking up space and energy. Before you go to bed, imagine yourself deleting all these “apps” and see yourself go from that blinding red warning you of full storage or 1% battery, to a bright and happy green.

You can only live your best life if you live outside the box, so set yourself free.