It’s difficult to truly know anyone (others don’t see us the way we see ourselves), so we’re constantly showing each other who we are, trying to gain some understanding of one another. It can be difficult to change others’ perceptions, though, especially because we tend to show different aspects of our selves to different people. We’re one person at work, but we’re different people with our parents, our friends, our loved ones, even our pets.
It’s human nature to want acceptance, so we play the roles needed to be accepted within each group. It’s a lifelong journey (at least for me) trying to reconcile all our “selves” and to learn to be authentic and genuine, to drop away the false ego, live our own Truth and connect with our Divine center within.
“People will try to tell you who you are your whole life. When they do, you’ve got to push back and say “No! THIS is who I am.”
~ Emma, Once Upon a Time
It’s human nature to categorize; we tend to like things to fit in nice little, easily identifiable slots. We slap a label on the box—smart, funny, odd, slow, old, young, fat, thin—because we believe it helps us to know how to interact with the person. Labels are easier than getting to know a person. But labels are so limiting. I rarely tell people my age, for example, because I’ve found that they tend to then treat me differently. I want them to know me, not the number of years I’ve been on this side of my journey.
Labels aren’t just limiting, they also tend to be sticky, not easily changed. But people are always growing, learning, changing. I think most people spend much of their lives trying to be better people and learning what that means for them. Personally, I pick various undesirable traits of mine (impatience, judgment) and try to work on them to change and improve myself, with varying success.
Everything is impermanent; people and circumstances are always changing. No one stays exactly the same all their lives. We have to keep our hearts open to see the changes and not retain our old perceptions when they no longer hold true. With open hearts—and no labels—we can see the genuine consciousness within a person, not just the outer shell projected to the world. We need to stop slapping labels on others and work harder at trying to see the essence within.