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I didn’t grow up learning about “finding my purpose” or “following my heart.”
I learned instead about the importance of building a good reputation. Of not quitting something I started. Of not surprising people with some out-of-the-blue comment, desire, or action. Of being a steady and reliable contributor to society.
Even as a little girl, I resisted this idea of building up a reputation and all the rest that went with it. For what is a reputation but a grouping of labels? And I’ve never liked being labeled.
As a child, I wouldn’t have been able to put words around this feeling, but I knew there was something limiting about labels, identity, and reputation. They felt too confining, as if once you were something in the world, you couldn’t become anything else. A label is a straight-jacket we willingly wear to prevent others from seeing, or perhaps even to protect ourselves from seeing, all the various facets of who we are.
I never wanted to be just one thing. I never could be one thing. It’s just not my nature.
In my younger days, I expressed this need by moving around a lot, each time giving myself a permission slip to start over and try out new interests and ways of being. I’d let go of friendships, jobs, or romantic interests without much trouble or heartache.
Now, I don’t need that permission slip anymore. I can stay where I am physically, even stay in my relationships, and still move through life like a snake, slipping out of my “skins” before anyone can stick a permanent label on me—including myself.
Releasing this idea of identity in order to hold the greater concept of “being” is part of my life’s work.
For me, the human journey now is about temporarily taking on roles and playing the game, much like an actor in a play. I try to always remember that above all, it is a game. The game of life.
Where do we belong? What is our purpose? Maybe these things don’t really matter. Maybe what really matters is that we stay free and unconfined and remember that we are pure possibility and potential. Getting stuck in or attached to any single label limits our ability to grow and evolve.
The quotes below can help us remember our freedom and point us back to who we are, underneath all the skins and labels of our society and our culture. May they inspire you to shed your skin.
“Most people are other people, their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives, a mimicry their passions.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, “Invisible Monsters”
“Perhaps it’s possible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” ~ Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game”
“You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive, you’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f*cking khakis, you are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club”
“Who are you?”
“No one of consequence.”
“I must know.”
“Get used to disappointment.” ~ “The Princess Bride”
“What labels me negates me.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
“Foisting an identity on people rather than allowing them the freedom and space to create their own is shady.” ~ Raquel Cepeda
“Personal identity seems like it’s just such an American archetype, from Holly Golightly re-inventing herself in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ to Jay Gatsby in ‘The Great Gatsby.’ It seems like the sort of archetypal American issue. If you’re given the freedom to be anything, or be anyone, would you do it?” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
“You’re a psychopath.”
“I prefer creative.” ~ Becca Fitzpatrick
“If you don’t know who you are, anyone can name you.” ~ Michael Meade
“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.” ~ Martina Navratilova
“I think putting labels on people is just an easy way of marketing something you don’t understand.” ~ Adam Jones
“Examine the labels you apply to yourself. Every label is a boundary or limit you will not let yourself cross.” ~ Wayne Dyer
“Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You’re also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself and unlearning and excavation or remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” ~ Emily McDowell
“The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.” ~ Carl Jung