How to Stop Labelling Yourself (and Start Living)

Photo by Ivan Lapyrin on Unsplash

We all like to give ourselves labels. No matter what you do in life on a daily basis, the ego loves to latch onto an identity. Something to describe and define who you are and what you stand for. With the identity comes a label; mother, artist, gamer, teacher, maximalist, minimalist….

The problem with latching onto labels and identities is that they can become a suffocating trap, forcing you to stay within the expected behaviour of that identity. And if something happens to destroy or threaten that identity, who are you then? 

Who are you behind all the labels? 

I’ve seen people fall to bits because they had attached their self-worth and everything they were to their job, I’ve seen other people fall into despair because who they were was attached to their physical health. When those things go, the identity is killed on the spot and we’re left floundering. 

But here’s the thing- we’re so much more than the labels we give ourselves. So much more than our physical bodies even. 

Before I became minimalist, I was fiercely attached to my identity and would aggressively showcase it to anyone and everyone. One look at me would tell a stranger all they needed to know. One step into my living room would reveal all my passions. 

One of the reasons I held onto so much stuff back then was because it all represented parts of me. The bullied child, the gamer, the collector, the writer-in-making. At the same time, I didn’t really know myself or understand who I was, I just clung on to my things, including old beliefs. 

These things were no longer serving me, but they were acting as a life raft. 

When I became a minimalist I got rid of over 80% of my stuff. These days I’d say it’s over 90%. I didn’t just get rid of my stuff, but started questioning my limiting beliefs and getting rid of those too. 

Suddenly, minimalist was my new identity. I clung to that just as fiercely as I had the identities before it. 

The problem with that is that minimalism is about so much more than the stuff. Physical stuff is only a small part of it, as is the emotional and mental decluttering. Minimalism is a lifestyle BUT it isn’t an identity. When you cling to any identity, including minimalist, it becomes as much of a burden as physical stuff. 

I believe this is possibly one of the reasons why there are so many minimalists out there who eventually stop sharing content. Once it stops being about the stuff and starts becoming about crafting an incredible life instead, the identity that the content was hinged on fades away. This is why I sometimes talk about other aspects of life as well as minimalism. 

Over time, I’ve learnt to recognise when it’s my ego taking the reins, and when it’s the self behind the label (Eckhart Tolle’s amazing Power of Now series goes deeper into this). 

Now when I catch myself labelling, I change the way I describe myself. Instead of saying ‘I’m a bookworm’, I say ‘I love to read books’. Instead of saying ‘ I’m a minimalist’, I say ‘I’m somebody who owns only what I need’. Instead of saying ‘I’m a gamer’, I say ‘I love to play videogames. 

This way of reframing who you are can also apply to job titles and family roles.

There is no ‘I am’. There’s nothing to latch onto and nothing to lose. I’m just who I am in this moment. 

It takes practice but the lightness you’ll suddenly feel from doing this is indescribable. Labels and identities are the invisible weights we often don’t realise we’re carrying. 

By reframing and dropping the idea of ‘I am’, you allow yourself to just be who you are right in this present moment. You’re simply being the unique soul you always have been, living in the moment and enjoying what you enjoy. 

So, I leave you with this simple question: Who are you?


  • kodeywhitewolf

    Who am I !! I am ME….at the time you’re asking 😁. I love your outlook on minimalism. I can relate. I love less stuff but not barren empty with nothing. I love crafts & painting as at present I have all my paints, brushes etc out so I can indulge when I want, as with my crafts. Yes I enjoy reading, when I do it..( no not tons of books around but do have a handful in a bookcase. Etc. Etc. Etc. I just have less of a lot of different things 😁. Life is good

    • Emma Jayne

      Hi, and thank you for your comment. That’s awesome that you’re enjoying arts and crafts so much. I also have a handful of books in a small bookcase. I keep a few hardbacks that I go back to again and again. Sounds like you have a nice balance and I’m glad you’re enjoying life!

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