Goals Managing Self

The Downside of Labels

Written by Denise Mortati

We hear every day how important labeling is. On our food (fat and sugar content, GMOs, calories!), on our clothing (100% organic cotton!), on our hairdryer (do not submerge in water!), on our mattresses (do NOT remove this tag!—why??).

But when it comes to people, labeling may not work in our favor. You’ve been labeled “lawyer”—what does that mean? It’s a title that indicates you have been educated and completed an advanced degree, and that you’re licensed to help others with certain legal issues. But how did you get to that point? Because you were labeled “smart,” ambitious,” maybe even the standard one for a lawyer: “a good debater,” or “great at arguing”!

Sometimes we focus on just one or two of our labels, and the rest of who we are just gets pushed aside or submerged below our consciousness. Even some of the more innocuous labels, like “oldest,” “youngest,” etc., have subliminal messages built in about how one should act. For me, I was always labeled as “smart,” “organized,” “logical.” All of those labels have served me well, but I have ignored other parts of me that were true, too, like “adventurous,” “risk-taking,” and even “fun.” And because I wasn’t labeled in that way, I have tended to make more conservative or traditional choices.

So this year, I’m looking at all of my labels, some of which have been with me since childhood, and I’m going to figure out if those labels still are appropriate for me, if they still fit. How about you? Are you “the troublemaker”? The “loud one”? The “baby of the family”? Do these labels keep you stuck in behaviors that aren’t working for you anymore?

For me, growing up, those around me always labeled me as an “extrovert.” But in truth, I have many more introverted tendencies, but often denied them. There’s nothing wrong with either of these labels, or any of the labels I’ve listed above, but we should all make the choice about what really fits us and feels most comfortable.

This year, as 2016 begins, I’ve never been categorized as “carefree” or “brave.” But I am, and I want to cultivate those qualities within me. And so, it’s time to take a few risks this year, and let myself be open to new opportunities and adventures!

Call to action: How about you? What labels do you need to let go of in the new year? Which ones no longer serve you? What new labels do you want to take on? What new choices do you want to make? Categorize yourself in a way that feels right to you, and let your intuition and inner guidance show you the way to your most authentic self.

About the author

Denise Mortati

My legal coaching practice helps attorneys rediscover their passion and look forward every day to a fulfilling career. I do this through one-on-one, group and corporate coaching, using specialized techniques and practices that help to clarify goals and priorities, and balance work and personal time. I support clients in finding peace in their careers and within themselves. I’m also a practicing attorney in a solo practice, so I, too, am “walking the walk” with my clients! I feel that my life’s mission is to change the paradigm of what a law career is “supposed” to be. Contact me at denise@thejoyfullawyer.com or visit my website, thejoyfullawyer.com.

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