Breaking Free from the Labels

“Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love you.” ~Unknown

I hope everyone had a joyful weekend and did something really nice for themselves! With the holiday parties in full swing, I have been thinking about labels and how we fit ourselves into boxes when we first meet others. Have you ever realized that when you go to an event where you’re meeting people for the first time, the go-to question is some rendition of “What do you do for a living? What’s your job? Where do you work?” What if you’re between jobs, or what if you don’t love what you do, or what if you consider yourself a jack of many trades and enjoy lots of activities outside of your job? And the rest of the party you go around being called “the lawyer” or “the nurse”. Which could be fine, you might really love your career and being defined by it. However, this also makes me think about the many other labels that we may be defined as, and the stereotypes or associations with that.

And since this is The Wellness World, a big topic within this realm is DIET LABELS. Every magazine you open and many commercials now promote various diets, such as “be vegan”, “Paleo is the right way to go!”, “you must eat clean!”. It can be somewhat nice to fit into a category and have a community of people to talk about your food choices and lifestyle with. However, what happens if you ascribe to a diet that doesn’t allow you to eat the pizza your friends are having? What if you decide to eat some of your grandma’s secret recipe apple pie because it’s tradition? This may come with an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame, and you might become more strict on yourself, which is not healthy and creates a lot of internal stress and negative inner dialogues. It becomes really difficult when you’re known as “the healthy friend” who always has a smoothie or a salad in hand, and the more people comment and watch what you’re eating, the less likely that you’ll feel comfortable listening to your body and having what you may be craving. This is something that I have struggled with during graduate school, for we had many long days where we would bring several meals and snacks to classes. I was known to bring healthier options, and it was really fun when people would ask for recipes and health advice. However, it got frustrating when we would have pizza for a school event and everyone would watch me like a hawk – I could always expect a few classmates to say something like “I didn’t know you would eat pizza!” Everything in moderation, my friends. I absolutely love pizza, and if I feel like having it (especially if it’s free at a school event!), I will!

Many of you may know the wellness blogger The Balanced Blonde, formerly known as The Blonde Vegan. She recently came out with a really personal book describing her journey through orthorexia, a mental disorder where you are fixated on eating only “clean” and “healthy”foods. She discussed her struggles with food and shared about her vegan diet which led her to be really mentally and physically unhealthy. She wasn’t getting enough nutrients or protein, her skin was turning orange, she had little to no energy anymore. When she told her blog community that she was trying to encorporate fish and eggs back into her life because the vegan diet was no longer serving her, she got a huge backlash, because of how attached people were to her vegan label. Meanwhile, she was being really brave by opening up to so many people about these struggles. AH! This definitely teaches us that labels are so important to so many people, but we have the power to break free from the labels and the boxes society wants to put us in!

Moral of the story, be kind to yourself and to others. When you’re at a party or event, remember that you have the power to ask others questions about who they are and what they love, rather than what they do or what labels define them. It is hard, and it may sound or feel weird to ask a new friend “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” “What are your dreams and goals?” “Where do you hope to travel to?”, but do what feels right for you. Remember that diets don’t define you. Eat what your body tells you to eat. Think about why you ascribe to a certain diet, and make necessary changes if it is no longer serving you. Write down all the labels that confine you, and then write down all the other characteristics that you share with the world and remember that you are a person with many positive qualities, who you are cannot be defined by being a Paleo secretary.

How can you start breaking free from these labels?

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