When I think of labeling, the first thing that comes into my mind: That’s a really bad habit and I should be more than that label throwing EQ zero kind of human being, but can I? More like, should I be better or should I just use different labels?
First, let’s see how our brain works. If you’ve learned some cognitive linguistics, then these rows won’t contain any new information.
Our brain has a storage limit. It’s greater than some of the computers but it has. To store those data, we pack them into schemes. For example, you perceive something that has wings and at that moment you are sure that it’s a bird. Why? Because you’ve learned that something with wings implies that they’re birds. You labeled and categorized. We suppose that you’ve never seen a penguin or an angel. Penguins have wings but can’t fly, so are they birds? Angels have wings. Are they birds? They are the exceptions in our category, so we make a new one.
We label them so we can free up some space in our brains. We can connect them with something that we know, make a place for it in our world and when we explore their specificities then make a new category for them. And it’s pretty normal. Just imagine if we had to store all of the apples in our brain as different entities and remember all of them as different objects with different names.
Depending on that information, we can say that labeling is a useful skill. It makes life much easier. Then why are we so afraid of it and refer to it as a bad guy?
The problem is with connected expectations. You give the bird label, you expect it to fly and when that small duckling won’t fly for you. You’ll be disappointed and learn that your expectations don’t always match reality. You accept and make a new category. As you get older you won’t generate hard feelings if your expectations don’t match reality until it comes to humans and feelings. I think it’s kind of amusing that when you taste a new fruit and expect sweet but get sour, then you just accept it. When it comes to people you are furious, when it comes to yourself you’re sad and depressed. You can be understanding with a sour fruit but can’t be with your family, friends or yourself. We learn to accept and label new entities as they are as a child but we don’t learn to accept people as they are. We give them labels and make tantrums when our beliefs are inclined.
Why do we make them?
We perceive the world through our eyes. You can have the biggest EQ in the world, but you look at the world with your mind, beliefs, and experiences that always will influence you. Those labels are looking after you.
Let me explain. Imagine that you are at a conference and meet Sarah the new girl. Her communication style is kind of aggressive. If you had an experience with a bully before with the same style, then your brain tells you constantly that you’ll have to run. But if your best friend has the same style then your brain says go for it. Does Sarah change? Not really, she is the same person but your expectations are different.
These expectations can be really useful in a fight or flight situation because they can protect you and being cautious is important. The problem that these instincts are useful in life or death situations but for real, how many times do you have to run from a bear nowadays? I don’t remember any. Our expectations make us narrow-minded.
But the schemes aren’t bad or useless. It makes our lives easier like we know how to eat, how to walk, how to do our daily routine. The only problem the belief that we are more than cavemen on the standard. Mostly we decide on a whim depending on our previous experiences. And that’s okay too. Sometimes we need fast decisions but feeling guilty, make somebody else guilty or lose precious contacts because of it is a waste.
We want to fit in, we want to add a good or bad label and our comfort zone is cozy. To tell you the truth you can stay there and live your life happily. The problem is when you don’t think that your comfort zone makes you happy and that can happen quite often.
How to lose our expectations?
Did you ever have the feeling that you live your life by others’ expectations? If yes, then are you sure that they expect that from you? Are you sure that this is the only way to fulfill those expectations? We can’t forget that all of our expectations are in our heads. The ones that you think others expect from you too. Sometimes you try to live by your label and sometimes it works out. Maybe your boss, your parents made the right ones for you but can you be sure?
Are you sure that the one you changed in your mind through time is the one you should live by or it’s implanted into you?
How many times did you give up your dream because you couldn’t live up to those labels? How many adventures were thrown out?
I’m sure you have some important statements and people in your life. Making them happy is very important, but is it worth the risk to lose yourself? Just imagine that you are at your favorite place, the sun is shining. The chair is just comfy, the weather is not too cold and not too hot. You are fulfilled and ultimately happy. Just for a bit, you are perfect for you. At that moment you don’t wait for anything, just be. Who are you in that moment? Are your labels the real you? Do you want to live by those labels?
In the end, you can’t lose your or others’ expectations. But you can accept them, know them, change them and make friends with them. You can decide if you want to wear them or throw them out.
How to do it?
There isn’t a recipe but you can try some tricks. First, you have to catch that uncomfortable projecting feeling.
Ask yourself some questions!
- Am I sure that it should have happened that way?
- Why do I think that that is the only way?
- Can it happen in another way?
- What kind of consequences will it have, if it goes this way?
- The current situation is good or bad for me?
The most important thing is, that you should watch out for your labeling not just according to yourself but others too. What you think of others is just in your head, so the only thing that can make you uncomfortable is what you think about it.