Find the labels that give you life and shed the ones that don’t

Nobody was born ripped and ready to rock another 10k. Every single person you admire for doing whatever thing you think you could never do had to start somewhere. How about starting by removing the negative labels you’ve given yourself?

I was outside a lot as a child, I loved to swim, ride my bike, and run around with all the other kids that lived in our cul-de-sac. I was even on my primary school’s swimming team. Early morning training was rewarded with hot chocolate and a rusk; somehow this made being in a recently chlorinated pool at 7am bearable. Then high school happened and the little wild beast inside was crushed. People were cruel, my body betrayed me, and suddenly outdoor activities became the enemy. I wasn’t one of those pretty, skinny fit girls and my teenage brain decided I never would be. I had even been told that exact thing by my, well-meaning, mother so why wouldn’t I believe it? That’s where the labelling started for me.

You might have a similar scenario in your backstory. My trajectory put me firmly in the geek category, hanging out with all the other weirdos that liked sci-fi, fantasy, and Magic the Gathering. Those weirdos are still some of my favourite people today so I wouldn’t change that for anything; I just would have liked to remove the label. The idea that I was just the one thing and that’s all I ever would be; an indoor cat.

Humans like labels; it’s how we make sense of the world. We name things and the names give us the power to control those things. Only we can’t, really, and often we’re pretty bad at defining what a thing even is. Life doesn’t fit neatly into a box and neither should you. Introvert, ISTJ, “Blue”, it can be very comforting to finally label yourself under a collection of traits that sort of fit you if you don’t think about them too hard. You have been labelled; now you fit somewhere.

Tabby cat barely fits in a cardboard box, but is adorable and chonky.
Sits where fits, embraces the chonk, charisma for days, fetching stripes: all labels that give him life

The problem comes in when you start saying things like “oh, I could never do X because I’m a Y”. I used to make the joke that I was an ambush predator, most effective in short bursts, because that whole running thing just wasn’t for me. Plus I’d always sucked at it. Whenever I had to run for school sports practice my anxiety about lagging behind would kick in, causing breathing difficulty that just doubled the anxiety. It was a vicious cycle. This is why I am far more comfortable running on my own.

My point in all this is that, whatever labels you’ve given yourself over the years, you are more than just those things and, more importantly, you are not a static creature. We’re meant to grow, and learn, and experience life, which is incredibly short, has no save points, and makes use of the permadeath mechanic.

Maybe you don’t think you’re a runner, or a swimmer, a climber, or a dancer, whatever it is, you deserve to give yourself a chance and at least try.

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