Owning It: The Power of Labels

Fat. Ugly. Stupid. Loser. I get it -- some labels can be destructive. All it takes is one time to be labeled negatively to begin a spiral of self-doubt and insecurity that can lead to unhappiness and wasted potential. Maybe you've been called one of these before; if so, you know firsthand the power labels can wield. But what if maybe, just maybe, we took the power of labels and turned it into something that builds us up and propels us forward?

This realization came to me as I was talking to a potential new friend (this is what I call strangers) on the train recently. He asked me about my hobbies, and not wanting to overstate my abilities, I told him "I like to ride my bike." After going through the typical clarification -- no, not a motorcycle, an actual bicycle with two pedals and a kickstand* -- he asks, "oh, so you're a cyclist?"

Something happened to me in that moment. I'd always demurred from calling myself a cyclist before, thinking that the image conjures up visions of Lance Armstrong types, which I most certainly am not. I didn't want to misrepresent myself, even to a perfect stranger. God forbid I claim to be something I'm not! But then I thought about it...I ride my bike, on average, 40-70 miles per week. I own several pairs of padded shorts and colorful jerseys. I recently started slicking my hair back into a bun during the week rather than rocking my beloved BIG curly hair because I noticed it enables me to ride about 1 mph faster. In short, I'm all about that bike life. "Yes," I replied, smiling. "I am a cyclist." It was the first time I'd identified myself this way, and I must admit, it was empowering.

What if we start using this power of labeling to our advantage? A recent study by Dove set up two doorways for women to walk through, one labeled "Beautiful," the other labeled "Average." Most women (sadly) chose the average door, with mostly negative results to their self esteem. But something happened to the women who chose (or were forced to by their mothers to choose) the beautiful door — they actually felt more beautiful afterwards. By labeling themselves in that way, they actually became more beautiful in their own eyes.

Like most people, I've struggled with defining myself when speaking to others, fearing even the thought of being judged. But maybe it's time to stop fearing judgment and start owning our labels. The most successful people tend to be the ones who fearlessly and publicly claim their roles, sometimes even before they achieve them. The power of owning it translates into manifestation. So go ahead, label yourself: Beautiful. Brilliant. Mogul. Cyclist. Whatever label you've been scared to give yourself, own it. You deserve it!

What labels have you been avoiding claiming? Do it now! Start today by owning it in the comments below.

*all my bike friends laugh at me because they say adult bikes don't have kickstands. But guess who's laughing when we stop to stretch? ;)