Living Beyond Labels.

One of the greatest reasons for and motivations of personal growth is creating a greater sense of meaning and mindfulness.

In our search for meaning and mindfulness, we naturally make the shift beyond labels. When we begin to see our attachment to and the limitations of labels, we likewise begin to excavate our wounds and ideologies.  These are all related. One big, fat, dysfunctional family residing within us! Being aware of and in turn getting rid of labels is one more way to rid ourselves of these unwanted residents.

Today, let’s take a look at labels. Labels are words we use to define. We use them to define who we (and others) are on the social circles. For example, I’m a mother. I’m a writer. I’m a horsewoman, a naturalist, a feminist, and a radical birth worker.

See how this works?  Labels help me fit in, and help you put me in my place. They may bring us together, or keep us apart.

But really, are these words truly me?  Or are they just labels I cling to define myself, to find my place, to feel secure, to impress you, to find “my kind,” to fit in (or stay out)?

What would I be without them?

And so then, let us consider what it would be like to be without.

No labels.

Just open. Curious. Expansive. Free.

It’s a scary place to be. By nature, it means we are alone. Labels keep us together, though in like groups, and thus, keep “unlike” others out.

And yet it is only within that state of aloneness, that place of pure openness, that we find our complete connection. Labels give us a place in a small picture. Only it is without labels that we can find our place in the biggest picture of all.

By the nature of accepting labels, we find ourselves connecting – at least to a part of a group. At the same time, we find ourselves disconnecting, because being a part of one thing means we are not of another. It is from here that judgment, criticism, prejudice and the closed mind are born.

It is here that our Ideologies are formed.

It is here that our Wounds are fed.

Labels are used to tell others our belief system, and thus, we allow labels to limit our personal beliefs. It’s easier to accept the general beliefs of a group rather than think for ourselves, isn’t it?

On a professional level, as midwife, I see the limitations of labels both in birthing preferences, and in the sorts of provisions and services we each may offer. Rather than bringing the midwifery community together as a cohesive and supportive whole, we tend to branch off, separate, and in turn, weaken our initial motive which is quite simply, to be with women through birth, before and beyond. The use of labels in the birthing world, as may be true in other professions and callings, are becoming more divisive as our society trends towards specialization.

As a midwife, I ask myself: isn’t that imposing my ideologies? And looking for “my kind” and in kind judging all others? And isn’t that then shutting the door to simply being with women? And so too often we attempt to impose limitations within the label, restrict and regulate in order to create a false sense of cohesion. And then… isn’t that in turn creating further limitations on the choices we offer to women?

As a mother, we may turn to labels for comfort and confirmation, but these imposed limitations of labels also may serve to shut us down from thinking beyond the box, for finding our own truth, for being the mother we wish to be and creating the family we wish to be a part of. We’ll look at this more tomorrow.

As soon as we label, we create an ego based sense of fulfilling a superficial need for belonging, and in kind, we shut doors (intentionally or in blindness) to those who are not within our group. At the same time, labels limit our personal growth because we find ourselves so comfortable within the parameters of the label and it’s respective group, that reaching above and beyond these definitions sends us into a no-man’s land where we are no longer feeling quite as connected to our little group to which we have found ourselves feeling so a part.

And so, we learn to let go.

Yes, it’s a hard place to be. But an exciting one. It’s full of openness, expansiveness. It is, quite simply, full. It includes everything and everyone.

Silly as this may sound, I have always wanted to belong to groups, titles, clicks and labels, and never have. How nice it would, I always thought, be to “a part.” To so simply define myself as “one of them.” Even if “them” is a group of rebels, outcasts, radicals… See? Still labels. Still something of which we can find ourselves belonging. And at the same time, still something that defines me, and therefore, may not include you. See how silly? And yet, the draw to belong is so strong in our human nature, that labels almost (almost!) seems natural.

As a mother (yes, this too is a label, and being as my child is grown, one I am uncertain to which I still belong) I see labels used regularly for defining our parenting styles, too. If we are able to label our means and ways, we are able to justify our actions. Drop the label, and what are we left with?  In some cases, thinking for ourselves – and possibly reaching the same conclusions, but because we thought of them, they are ours. Or not thinking. Accepting. Doing what we’re told. What we read. What we see done. What our parents did (yikes).

Well, friends, this has been lengthy enough for one day. I’ll save the discussion on Attachment Parenting for tomorrow.

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