Labels

Who are you, Master?”

Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Father. Mother. Doctor. Teacher. Student. Immigrant. Artist. Fireman. Secretary. Construction Worker. Manager. CEO. President. Christian. Muslim. Buddhist. Pagan. Expert. Professor. Boxer. Football Player. Foreigner.

Language is full of labels. The labels can differ from culture to culture and language to language, but the function is the same: to identify ourselves. Labels are deeply connected with identity. Some people use labels to create their identity and find strength in them.

 

The labels we use

What happens when a dancer breaks her ankle? She may never dance again, but she can still live a very happy, productive life. That is, if she can ever get past the identity crisis. How about the CEO who wakes up to find that suddenly, he doesn’t like his job anymore? It is very hard to make a change when what you do is who you are. That is what labels do for us. I work at an English Village. But for the past three months, I haven’t had any students. Am I still a teacher? Who am I?

 

When we say that someone is an xyz kind of person, what are we really saying about them? A short time ago, I heard a man say, “I am not a natural teacher.” I didn’t understand the statement at all. I don’t know what a “natural teacher” means. The label that he used for himself did not tell me anything about him.

 

What do you do for a living?

That’s the thing about labels. They tell just one facet of a person. They are changeable. They can change by the moment. Labels do not reflect the needs or feelings behind them. In essence, they tell us nothing about the person.

 

To assent to a label is to carry a burden. The labels we carry on ourselves are heavy. We don’t need them. We can choose to define ourselves by our experiences and actions instead.

 

What I do for a living

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