I like labels. They stop me from accidentally drinking window cleaner even though it’s such a pretty pretty shade of blue. But when it comes to labels of self it all gets a little messed up. I’m not even talking about the labels we give other people (we all know that’s a shit show) I’m talking the ones you give yourself. I have thought about it a lot recently and I figured out who to blame, it’s those little blue fuckers: The Smurfs.
It all made so much sense when I was little. Of course you have the lazy one, the brainy one and the grouchy one; it’s a world view that works for a kid. Actually it works for adults too, at the moment there is a general election going on in the UK and the papers don’t seem to see beyond the incompetent one and the lizard one. Global politics aside, one of the reasons we give ourselves labels is because they feel so good.
Labels help us to feel like we know what our place in the world is, like there is something forming a solid foundation. If you know who you are, then it is easier to figure out everyone else. Positive or negative the thoughts we have about ourselves justify any interaction that we have. Even the introvert/extrovert bubbles that was so in fashion a couple of years ago had its dark side for me. I know that I am an introvert (yay for the lemon test) but the more I call myself an introvert the more I justify staying at home on a Friday night. The more I stay at home on a Friday night the more likely I am to end up with one of my 87 cats eating my face. Sorry, that went in a weird direction.
In all the episodes of Super Nanny I watched one thing stuck out, you never tell the kid that they’re bad instead you say that the behaviour is bad. This is to stop the little angels internalising that they are a bad person because the language that we use impacts how we think. The more we focus on those innocent little hashtags the more we believe in them, the more we believe in them the more we become them. Grouchy Smurf just had a bad day in kindergarten, the day after the teacher said “here comes Mr Grouchy, are we going to have a better day today”? In the face of such awful teaching he was yet again grouchy. And then, without him recognising what was happening, very slowly this thing he was called became the thing that he was.
The more I tell myself I am an introvert the more I justify introvert behaviour. The more time I spend isolating myself (fully justified because #introvert) the less likely I am to even try. Basically I am shooting myself in the foot by using language that allows me to tap out whenever I want.
Think of some of the words you use for yourself. Not just the ones you put in your CV or Tinder profile (am I the only one for whom those are the same?) but those negative ones that never leave your head as well. Are they who you really are right now?
When I look at how I’ve changed as a person in the last ten years, hell the last five or two, I would hate to think I am limiting myself to who I used to be. Part of being human is constant change (except for when I wanted to buy milk the other day, then there was no change) and as comfortable as it feels to label yourself to pause the change, it is only going to Smurf you further down the line.
P.s. sorry I didn’t have any Smurf related images, we are going to have to make do with a blue dinosaur eating a doughnut…