Labels are something that everyone must deal with at some point in their life. We all fall under some kind of category that could make it easy for others to write us off just based on their opinion of our appearance. But what about the labels that are given to us due to circumstance, or a past situation? How do we get rid of the labels given to us by society? And more importantly, who gave anyone else the right to label us with something we may have never claimed to be ours in the first place?

Labels Are Lazy

One thing I have learned throughout my recovery is that people are always looking to throw a label on you because it is easy to do. Labels are lazy. They allow someone the power to decide who they think you are, and prevents them from getting to know you any deeper than that perception. Here’s the thing about labels, though — they cannot hold any power over you unless you let them.

If you took one look at me, the first thing you would notice is that I am covered in tattoos. Now, this may not bother you, but to a handful of people, I am quickly labeled as reckless, dangerous, and possibly even a criminal. Now add in the fact that I have an arrest record, toss in a couple more labels like “recovering addict” and “alcoholic,” and what do you get? Well, you get me, but to a lot of people, those labels are powerful enough to count me out of the running as someone they may want to get to know.

My point is, you can’t make everyone happy, and it is NOT your job to make sure people are labeling you correctly. It is only your job to rise above that, and keep proving people wrong.  Putting a label on anyone based on a part of their life, or a chapter they have lived through, is not fair. When we do this, we are putting people in a category that makes it hard for them to get out of, all because we think we know who they are with just a glimpse into one part of their life.

Defining Your Identity

What you have to say about yourself is always going to be far more important than putting a label on who you are as a person. How you carry yourself, how you treat those around you, the purpose you wake up with every morning, and the thoughts you tell yourself before you go to bed — that  is what makes you who you are. When we choose to put one foot in front of the other, and get a little better than we were yesterday, we are constantly distancing ourselves from the negative labels society may want to put on us.  

No matter who you are, or what you have been through, you are a human being first and foremost. We shouldn’t treat others differently just because we think we understand them based on the labels society gives them. When we do this, we are limiting their abilities, and we are telling others that they can only amount to so much based on their circumstances. A person recovering from heroin addiction has just as much potential as the next person. Sure, they may have a deeper hole to climb out of, but there is no ceiling to what we can achieve once we defeat the worst parts of who we have been.

A Masterpiece in Progress

There are many labels that someone could create for me, but it is up to me to create the future I deserve, and there is no label out there that can keep me in a box. Don’t be so quick to think you know someone based on only knowing a piece of their life. We are all a work in progress, and we are all capable of being whatever, and whoever we want.

The labels you give yourself will always be much more important than the ones you have no control over.

a woman smiling and holding a string in her hair.
By – Megan Lawrence
Megan is a writer in Recovery with a passion for healing others through the power of word. She believes in speaking her truth, being loud and proud about her story, and she hopes to inspire others to share theirs through her website, Healing Hopefuls. Read more
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