Our Labels and Stories
00:00 Welcome to, For the Sake of What…?, a podcast to help you become unstuck in everyday life by offering you a different perspective. Each episode will provide some tips and tools for looking at life differently and for leading yourself to be your own version of success. My name is Deanne, and I am your host.
00:28 Hi! It’s Deanne here, and welcome to Episode 1 of the For Sake of What…? podcast. During this episode, I’m going to talk about the labels that we give ourselves and how they may or may not be helpful for us.
00:39 Before I start, however, I would like to invite you on an imaginary journey. For this journey, you might like to close your eyes – if it’s safe to do so. Don’t do so if you’re driving or anything like that! Keep them open in that case!
00:51 I invite you to imagine that you’re walking around a lake. As we walk around the lake, we will see a number of things, and I’m going to tell you about them as we go.
- So, firstly, down on the water’s edge, about five metres from where you are, you see some birds. You see two swans and some ducks out on the water. You see a pelican as you’re walking along.
- You see a lady walking her dog about 600 metres away.
- There’s a person riding towards you on their bike and about 250 metres away is a family walking along the bike track on both sides. Someone will need to move if the bike is to get past.
- Back quite a few metres from the lake, you see a row of houses, all with lake views.
- As you continue around the lake, you see Children playing in a playground and a family having a picnic in the shade of the trees.
1:57 For me, I took these examples from an actual walk around a lake, and I can share with you what I was thinking at the time:
- “Swans are such angry birds. I’m not going near them!”
- “The Pelican looks graceful and is my favourite bird.”
- “The ducks aren’t very colourful.”
- “The lady’ dog is cute.”
- “The cyclist is fast, and that family being all over the bike track is dangerous. Someone’s going to get hurt.”
- “Those houses and mansions are so amazing. I’d love to live there.”
- “What a fun playground, Gosh, those trees are tall!”
And here’s the thing: On your walk, you quite possibly attached different labels and different stories to each of the things that you saw along the way. It doesn’t mean that either of us is right or wrong. We just saw the world differently in that moment, which resulted in us creating different labels.
2:57 So the thing is, why do we even create labels? Well, I’m glad you asked.
3:02 Humans like to create meaning our world. We’re meaning making machines, and we create meaning from every given moment by creating descriptions and labels based on our previous learning of life. So, we don’t just call a person a person or a tree a tree or a dog a dog. We describe them perhaps, as difficult or tall or cute, because that’s what helps us to understand how we’re seeing them at that point in time.
3:26 And that brings me to another point, actually. Our labels and stories often occur to us as the way life is. They occur our truth. However, they are not the truth because generally our labels and stories are based on opinions, and our opinions can’t actually be true or false.
3:42 So that dog we saw while walking around the lake existed life only as a dog. By labelling. It is cute or big or aggressive, we’re speaking its existence as cute or big or aggressive into the world. It existed in the world as a dog, but we created its existence as cute or big or aggressive by speaking that into the world as that label.
Just as we might think the dog is cute, someone else might think it’s ugly and they wouldn’t be wrong. They also wouldn’t be right.
So the only thing that is true about the dog is that it is a dog. It physically exists in the world as a dog, and nothing else. It exists as ugly because that person spoke it into the world is ugly, just as it exists as cute in my world, because I spoke it into the world as cute.
4:26 So we create labels in the present to make meaning of our experience of the world in that moment, from our experience of life to date.
I mean, wow, that’s huge, right? Let me say that again. We create labels in the present to make meaning of our experience of the world in that moment, based on our experience of life to date. That’s kind of wow!
4:48 And this is what we don’t realise. When we stop holding our labels and stories as THE truth, we open up the possibility of creating whatever stories and labels we want to create. We don’t have to label the dog as cute. We can label it is whatever it serves us to label it as in that moment.
5:05 So I guess the question on your mind is probably well, what does it even matter what label we choose to give a dog? And you know, in some cases it might matter, in some cases that might not. Sometimes our label serve us, and sometimes they don’t. And if we can work out when these labels do and don’t serve us, we can work out what we would like to do with them. And this may be of particular importance when our labels relate to ourselves and others.
5:29 Like I said, we create meaning of everything according to how we’re viewing the world in a given moment. Just as we might label a tree as tall or a dog as cute, we observe ourselves in the world, and we create self-labels based on those observations:
- I’m not a calm person.
- I’m not a confident person.
- I’m a rule follower.
- I’m not like that.
- I’m too nice.
- That’s just who I am.
- I’m not a people person.
5:53 When we create these labels, we are doing so based on an understanding of who we are and how we exist in life at that point in time. We have made meaning of our existence in life. And just as we might start to live life as though the tree is really tall or the dog is really cute, we also start to live life as though our self-labels really are true. And if we label ourselves as a person who’s not confident or a person who’s not a people person or a person who is shy, then that is the reality that we are potentially creating for ourselves as we move forward through life. And if we’re not aware that this is our interpretation and not THE truth, we’re potentially speaking our existence into life as a shy person or as a not confident person or as “not a people person”. And these labels become who we are because we’ve declared them as who we are. So it’s not because it IS who we are. It’s because we’ve declared them as who we are.
6:48 Our interpretations of the world occur because we have learned to interpret the world in that way. However, here’s the thing: If we’ve learned to interpret the world in one way, why can’t we learn to interpret it in another way? Why do we have to stick to our existing learning and our existing interpretations? Why can’t we change it?
7:08 Our learning doesn’t have to stop once we’ve learnt one way of seeing the world, we can learn and relearn how we see life as many times as we like. And this doesn’t make any previous behaviours or learning wrong. It simply means that we’re learning new ways of doing (sometimes old) things, using the learning that serves us in any given moment.
7:28 This may sound a little impossible. I mean, many of us have heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. But that saying was never really based on limitations that existed in the world. It was based on how the dog sees the world. If the dog isn’t open to learning new tricks, it isn’t going to learn them.
7:48 And when WE are open to learning and being a learner, we can remove our attachment to labels such as I’m not confident or I’m not a people person, and change how we behave in life. The question then becomes, “how do we do that?”
8:03 In any given moment, we each operate from a way of being, which is the coming together of what we’re thinking and saying, how we’re feeling and how all of that manifests itself in our body. Ourway of being informs our actions and behaviours, including both how we observe the world and how we react to or respond from those observations and from each way of being. Some actions will be available to us and some won’t. That’s just how it works.
8:29 If we’d like to change the actions that are available to us, it could be very helpful to look at the underlying way of being and see what we can shift in our way of being in order to shift the actions that are available to us. So when we create our self- labels we are observing ourselves from our way of being in that moment. And if we live that self-label as truth, then it might well be that the label we have created becomes embedded in our way of being. All of a sudden, that little label of “I’m not a people person” or “I’m not confident” becomes part of how we talk about ourselves, at least in the conversations we have with ourselves. And we attach an emotion to it that we then we embody “I am not a people person” or “I’m not confident”. We declared it as a part of us by creating a label and by the very action of doing so, we’ve created ourselves as that label.
9:17 The same thing happens when we label others we might label someone is difficult, for example. However, this doesn’t mean that they exist in the world as a difficult person. They exist as a person, and difficult is a label that we have given them. Others may give them different labels. Or, others might give them similar labels.
9:35 The big key here is in understanding the labels that we assign to ourselves and others, and understanding whether those labels are serving us. If they are, then great. If they’re not, we might want to see what possibilities we can make available by shifting some labels.
9:51 To shift those labels and make available new possibilities. Such a seeing ourselves with something other than “not a people person” or giving ourselves permission to be confident, we would generally look at shifting our underlying way of being. If our way of being shifts, what we are telling ourselves, that is, the stories that created those labels in the first place, also shifts, along with our emotions and how we’re embodying all of that.
10:15 So when we shift our way of being, those labels no longer have to be our truth. And if the labels no longer have to be our truth, then we’re creating the possibility of removing self-imposed limitations. And so how do we shift their way of being? Well, we can start by understanding what we are telling ourselves that has led us to creating these labels. So, for the sake of what have I labelled myself is not a people person? It might be, for example, that we realised that we feel uncertain in situations where we have to mingle with others and that uncertainty leads to anxiety about how to interact. So instead of placing ourselves in situations where we are required to mingle and network with others, we create a label of “not a people person”, because then we’re justified in avoiding people.
11:00 And this label with its underlying story may have served us for many years, for example, until we started in a new job and part of it was networking with new people and forming relationships and the label and its stories were no longer serving us. And that’s fine. We know how we got to that label or story. How do we turn our language around so that it helps us to shift that label or story?
11:22 For example, perhaps we can create a label of “I’m a person who loves learning from others” and take that into our future of mingling with others rather than taking the label of “I’m not a people person”. Or perhaps we could create a label of “I’m a good listener” and take that into our mingling with others instead of “I’m not a people person”.
11:40 There will be a story or label that will serve us in what is really the next stage of our journey in life. And we can create whatever story or label we think that might be. And just like the stories and labels that came before it, we can shift it and change it when it doesn’t work for us.
11:57 So after we’ve looked at how to shift the language behind our labels, it might also be useful to understand the emotions that we attach the situations and labels. For example, perhaps I’m attaching anxiety to the label of being a people person. And, what other emotions might be useful instead of anxiety? Are there emotions such as wonder or curiosity or acceptance that might be useful for me? So we can explore those and we can look at how we can potentially shift the emotions that we attached to that situation and that label so that we can help ourselves to shift the label to something that’s more useful.
12:33 The final piece of this puzzle is to look at the labels that we hold of ourselves and how those labels feel in their body. Then we look at the labels that we would like to hold of ourselves in future and notice how they would feel in our body. How does the body of “not a people person” feel, for example? In contrast, how does the body of “I’m a good listener” feel? What’s the difference between the two and what would be helpful to shift from one to the other?
13:02 The thing is, our self-labels can be useful. They can help us to have a perspective of the world that really helps us during our experience of life. For example, at the moment one of my self-labels is that I’m a lifelong learner, and at the moment I really do think this helps me because it tells me that I’m seeing the world from a place of curiosity, giving myself permission to interpret things differently and see new possibilities.
13:24 Sometimes, however, the labels don’t serve us. In the past, I lived a label of “not good enough”, and it didn’t work for me for too long. I think the most helpful thing that I learned about labels was that they are not the truth. They are an interpretation. So as an example of that, I may have been living a label of not good enough, but it wasn’t the truth. It was how I was seeing the world in that moment, and it was my interpretation of the world at that point.
13:51 If we use their our labels and stories from a point of knowing that they are an interpretation and not the truth or the only way, I think this opens up massive possibility. When we live them as our truth, it can be quite difficult to see the situation as anything other than our truth. But when we live them as an interpretation, we can understand that it’s up to us how we choose to use them, and then we can decide what we do with them based on whether they are serving us. So if they are serving us, and we want to use them, so be it. If they’re not serving us, then we may want to shift to something else. It’s up to us and basically, what’s serving us and what’s going to be useful. And remember, even the labels that are not serving us now may have once served us. It’s just that our world changes over time, and sometimes we need new learning and new labels in order to continue with life as it is.
14:42 Well, that’s almost the end of this episode. But before I go, I’ve got a couple of questions that I would like to ask:
- Firstly, how are your labels of yourself and of others serving you?
- For the sake of what do you hold those labels?
- How much would it help you to create new labels?
15:00 All right, I’ll leave you with that. I think that’s it for me now. Thank you for your time on the “For the sake of what…?” podcast today. Next episode I’m going to talk about moods and emotions and how we can use them resourcefully in everyday life. Thanks, everyone. Cheers for now and take care.
15:17 Thank you for joining me this episode on the “For the Sake of What…?” podcast. If you’d like to know more about what I do, feel free to visit my website https://leadingandbeing.com or to visit the “For the Sake of What…?” website, https://forsakeofwhat.world website. Otherwise, you can connect with me on Instagram @leadingandbeingcoaching or feel free to drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, bye!