People love labels, boxes, categories and tags for themselves. Sometimes it feels like people like their chosen boxes so much they don’t actually care about what it involves. Why do we use so many labels then?
In case you’re wondering, yes, meat-licking vegetarians appear to exist. It seems that licking meat or eating meat only very, very rarely might qualify you as a vegetarian. These people don’t care much about what it means to be a vegetarian but what it takes to be called one.
At first I thought it was ridiculous and stupid (okay, I still think that), but then I realized it happens all around us.
People stress about earning their labels. It’s like chasing a real-life achievement. Instead of simply playing through the game, you pull out a guide right in the beginning and do everything it says to get the achievement you want.
Labels have grown into huge parts of our lives and I think one reason is social media. There’s no room for biographies on Twitter or Facebook, and people don’t even have the time for it. We need something short to describe us.
My Twitter dubs me as “Writer, gamer, blogger” but what does that really tell about me? Not much. It’s a good starting point but when you start putting more effort into defending your label than just living your life, it becomes pointless.
Let’s look at writers. I’m sure every writer has run into quotes proclaiming that you’re a writer when you write every day. You’re a writer when you go insane if you don’t write for a day. You’re a writer when you bleed on the pages.
I stressed about calling myself a writer, let alone an author. Is it okay to call myself an author when I’m only self-published? When I don’t earn a living by writing? Will real authors look at me like I’ve just told them I’m a meat-licking vegetarian if I introduce myself as a writer and then say I actually haven’t written anything new for a while?
Then I noticed I’m much happier and less stressed-out if I simply focus on doing my thing. I can jump outside my boxes every once in a while and I’m still me.
Figuring out who you are is hard and labels can help. We just can’t let them become us.
What do you think about labels and boxes? Are they good and necessary, or have people taken them too far? Have you ever stressed about earning the right to give yourself a label?