When it comes to labels, they can help people feel like they fit in and belong. Giving something a name can help a person feel more accepted and feel like they understand themselves better.
On the other hand labels can also be limiting. As soon as you declare yourself to be X it comes with preconceived notions and expectations. You then end up grouped in with other people that also label themselves X even though you may be nothing like them.
I recently came across a quote by someone I’d never heard of called Adyashanti:
‘All of these are labels. All of them are fine. There is nothing wrong with any one of them, until you actually believe they’re true. As soon as you believe that a label you’ve put on yourself is true, you’ve limited something that is literally limitless, you’ve limited who you are into nothing more than a thought.‘
It reminded me that labels are totally fine, as long as we don’t give them too much significance.
Sometimes the hardest part is facing it.
Once you accept it, you can make a plan for what do next. That for many is exciting.
However, facing the difficult truth is the necessary first step. You do it by acknowledging and understanding the situation. In some cases it will involve admitting the role that you played contributed to a negative outcome.
That’s a helpful lesson because it allows you to understand the implications of your actions.
It might be a bitter pill to swallow but we all make mistakes. Luckily, we also have the capacity to fix them and make things better.
Privilege is a complex thing.
I think the reason that so many people have a hard time accepting their privilege is because they feel like it negates their hard work. They’re not comfortable with the realisation that if it wasn’t for certain things about them, they would have experienced life very differently. More often than not having more hurdles to overcome.
Privilege comes in many forms: financial, gender, race, sexuality and religion for a start but there is so much more.
And so if you come under the categories of Middle class, Male, White, Straight and Christian there is evidence to show that you face less barriers. Furthermore, the categories you fit into don’t disadvantage you, for the most part.
It can be challenging for people that feel like they have worked hard to be told that they’re privileged. They’re often the ones that believe in meritocracy and feel like anyone who can’t achieve the same as them must not be working hard enough.
Ironically, it’s often that everyone else has had to work harder.
I think the easiest way to understand this whole thing of privilege is to meet more people that are not like you. That way you actually get to see the what it’s like for other people.
Whether that is not continuing education because they can’t afford it, worrying that their natural hair will be a barrier to employment or even constantly having negative assumptions thrown at them because of their religions beliefs.
The point of all this is not for you to feel bad, the point is to gain understanding and awareness.
Your privilege doesn’t negate your hard work but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Sometimes we trick ourselves into accepting things that we don’t want. We make excuses and convince ourselves that we’re so totally content with our current circumstances.
This happens for a variety of reasons but a major factor is our core beliefs. If you don’t think there is something better out there for you then will always settle even if that means being perpetually unhappy.
The wake up call that you’re not as happy as you think will come when you least expect it. Perhaps you will encounter someone or something that represents what you really want. Then suddenly you find yourself wondering how you could have ever thought that you were happy with what you had accepted.
It’s like clearing the colour from your rose tinted classes and finally seeing things as they are.
A great way to stop yourself accepting less is to check in with yourself regularly. When you’re not where you should be you can end up getting so used to the anxiety that you don’t even realise that it’ there until you leave
Make a note of what you want in different areas of your life and think about how it would feel.
Lets say you moved into a tiny apartment in a neighbourhood you don’t like but you tell yourself you’re happy because you’re saving money and you don’t even spend much time at home anyway. That’s you convincing yourself that you’re okay with not feeling comfortable in your local area and that you don’t want to spend time at home.
But if the notes you make on what you want from your home and how you want to feel don’t align with your reality then you might want to make some changes. That might mean paying a little more to be in an area, in a bigger apartment or both.
That’s the power of checking in, it allows you to identify whether the life you’re creating is the life you actually want.
The idea of things not lasting, of things being temporary is often seen as a bad thing.
It’s seen as a failure.
We get caught up in this idea that if something is good it should last and if it doesn’t last then something was wrong.
I think the problem is that we find it hard to let go of a good thing, perhaps because we don’t believe their is more good things out there for us.
This idea of temporary things can be applied to many situations but lets take the example of friendship.
If you grow apart from someone who was once a close friend you can accept the situation or you can try to get back to the way things were. We idolise the past and try to force things to become what they once were.
I guess it’s difficult to accept that not everything was meant to last.
But in learning to accept temporary things you also open yourself up to some of life’s most beautiful moments.
This is the way of the optimist.
It’s also worth remembering that even if things don’t turn out in the way that you consider to be ‘the best’, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
That way no matter what life throws at you, you’ll be able to roll with it with a little less resistance or resentment.
However, all of this means nothing unless you put it into practice.
The next time thing don’t turn out as you planned pay attention to your thoughts. Is your inner monologue deflated, is it going 101mph complaining about how life is unfair and nothing goes your way or is their acceptance of your current situation and thoughts on how to move forward?
I have this idea that sometimes there is comfort in moments of pessimism, in thinking about and accepting the possibility of the worst case scenario coming to life.
It’s not so that you can dwell but instead so that you can understand life sometimes turns out differently to how you expected.
You just have to learn to be okay with it which might be a hard pill to swallow.
Of course there is always a place for optimism but sometimes it isn’t helpful. Sometimes what you need is to accept that a situation isn’t going to turn out well.
And once you do that, things get a little bit easier.
Through discovering the kind of person that I want to become I’ve learnt a lot about who I am.
It’s interesting to observe yourself and how you interact with others. Are you kind to yourself, what are your relationships like, how do you show up in different situations.
When you uncover the things you need to work on it can be hard to accept them in a loving way and not get frustrated at how much work you have to do.
But that awareness is important. Being able to see yourself as you are is important and even though you might feel like the work is too much or overwhelming you don’t have to do it all right now.
You just have to start.
Then work your way through it bit by bit, until eventually you’ll be transformed.