Why do I worry so much about putting myself in a box and labeling myself?
Last Updated: 03/23/2021 at 12:04am
Katherine Aucoin, Transpersonal Counselling Psychology
I offer you compassion and support on your unique journey. I look forward to working with you to heal your emotional wounds to find more freedom and joy.
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Many people want to be able to fit into a box in order to feel more accepted. They feel if they identify with a label they will find others who can also identify
Because you might regret labeling yourself. You might be scared that you won't be able to change it. You might be scared that you will change as a result from the tag you gave yourself
The human kind and a lot of other living creatures has always been afraid of the unknown. Everything new or undefined is defined immediately. He do not fear of the known, or at least fear it less. People are worried from what does not have a name, and so, they give it one to define it and fear it less. This is why we sometimes seek for labels to exp-lain to ourselves what we are feeling and not be afraid of our own feelings and parts of personality. Labeling can help you explain to others what you feel, but you don't have to label yourself to give yourself the freedom to everything you want as long as you're not hurting anyone.
Everyone wants to know who they are, and labeling them self is one way. You aren't the only one. Many do it.
Because if we label ourselves we feel like we belong somewhere, in a group. We feel able to identify ourselves somehow.
My diagnosis is my life now. I can't live a full, fruitful life like a normal person. That title on the top of that box is my explanation - I'm not like you. I can't be like you.
Being able to put a word to something can feel very justifying. With a label, you're able to have the satisfaction of saying, "I am (x)!" as well as having the comfort of knowing you're not alone in your identity or how you feel. There's nothing wrong with choosing labels for yourself if they make you feel more comfortable. However, it can become distressing when none of the labels fit quite right. If you're experiencing stress from being unable to label yourself, try to examine why that might be and try to put some space between you and that issue. Labels are pretty, but understanding yourself and connecting with people who might feel the same as you do is more important :)
I know that I worried about putting myself in a box and labelling myself in case I'd somehow labelled myself wrong or in case I change my mind in the future. It was also sometime's the fear of how others may see me if I labelled myself in such a way. For example, what if they couldn't accept me as defining myself in this way. That also made me stop and think, do I really want to label myself as this if it's going to change how maybe even my friends or family sees me? But at the end of the day I realised that it doesn't matter how other's see me or what I label myself as, as long as I'm happy with being me because there's only one me.
It's hard not to try to do this when the world is constantly pressuring you to label yourself. For example, coming out now a days can be very difficult when you don't have a label. It's hard to come out but even more difficult when you are saying "Mom, dad. I'm not straight." and then have to explain what you feel every time someone asks what you are because you don't have a one word answer. And it can be hard not to have a convenient label or box that you fit just right in, but i think it is better to know who you are than to pick a label that is close but not exactly right. It's not a bad thing to label yourself, but it is bad when it becomes an obsession. Hopefully you can be comfortable with who you are one day and not worry but it so much. You are you, and that's the only label you need.
It's natural to feel that way when society so often asks us to put ourselves in boxes. Some people may also concern themselves with labels when they are developing/discovering their identity. This can sometimes be helpful, but can also cause stress as people are very complex and impossible to sum up perfectly in just boxes or labels.
That's only understandable - labels seem to make everything understandable and easy, even if they don't tell half the truth and often actually make it impossible to see all of it. Still, they are comfortable, and they make it easy to describe yourself to others, even if there will always be parts that don't fit.
Probably because we've been taught that everything and everyone needs to fit in a category. It's all about social convention. But conventions are not really concerned with people's happiness. If what makes you happy and comfortable, what truly feels like you, consists in not labelling yourself, you're free to just live your life and be yourself without labelling your feelings and identity.
Sometimes we can find ourselves with fragmented feelings of identity. As someone living with BPD who tends to have a very strong sense of "fractured identity" it’s common to drift from box-to-box trying to find things that we can relate to fill out any loneliness or confusion we have. For many people, labels don't work for them because they have a certain sense of personal identity that doesn't require a predetermined title or label (they may be very independent or secure in not having a designation). You may worry about placing yourself in a box because you do not want one factor to completely define you or that you will be restricted labelling yourself into one category. You have many other attributes and you want those attributes to be recognized or it may be the case that you worry about being stigmatized by attaching yourself to a label (e.g. it maybe identifying as someone who lives with depression, or identifying as LGBTQ+ orientation). However, some folks have feelings and emotions intertwined with their identity where they may seek validation or communities that they can belong to (e.g. shared experiences, personalities, hobbies). In this way putting themselves into a box gives them a support system and a chance to reach out to those going through the same experience as them. The feeling of wanting to belong is more-or-less universal in some ways. We are social creatures who want to belong to a community with shared values. Having a label can be very freeing and validating for those who feel they need more reassurance and want to know the “why’s” of who they are.
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