Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

Weekend challenge…can you be unique?

It’s practically the weekend.

For some of you, it is already the weekend.

Regardless of where you fall on the international dateline, this weekend I’d like to invite, not scratch that, challenge you to do something different this weekend.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be like bringing work home, or studying for a final exam, it’s simply a challenge to look at things UNIQUELY!

One of the things that I believe knocks the wind out of our self-confidence is when we think we’re different. The kind of different that makes us weird, unlikeable, and rejectable by society…so to speak.

However, I also believe that all we need to do to change that perspective is to change the word.

Instead of thinking “I’m weird, different, a freak, a loser, etc.,” let’s flip all those words to the trash can of our thoughts and replace it with….ready for it….drum roll…

UNIQUE!

Yes, every weird, different, freakish, quirky, loser, rejectable piece of you that you see in that light is simply you not seeing your UNIQUENESS that needs to be shared with the world.

So you ready for the weekend challenge? Of course you are!

Over the next 48 hours, whether you’re relaxing and rejuvenating or still working the work grind, I challenge you, in a very loving way, to change the words weird, different, freak, loser, quirky, unusual, etc. to UNIQUE. Not only as you think or say those words to yourself, but also as you look at the world and at others.

My guess is that you will find that UNIQUE provides a completely unique perspective you may not have ever seen or experienced before!

You Clone Me, You Clone Me Not!

It’s that time. Love you…Love you not!

Well maybe it’s Sweetheart time and not “Love You Not” time. Yet, ironically, many will feel unloved this Valentine’s Day. Maybe even yourself. If so, I want you to explore a possibility for this lack of love that you may be feeling.

Here’s what I believe may be the source of your lack of feeling loved. You’re cloning “what love’s got to do with it” from someone else’s perspective.

You’ve Hallmarked your way into the “Buy Roses, chocolates, champagne, and expensive dinner syndrome” because someone told you this is the way to do it. Yes, do this and love and Cupid’s stupid little arrow will find you. That’s cool but what might happen if you didn’t clone love?

What if we all stopped trying to…

  • Reinvent ourselves to be exactly like everyone else in love, life and even business
  • One up each other by delivering more roses to our sweetheart than our best friend does to theirs
  • Be in love based on the latest New York Times Bestseller

In other words, what if we all stopped CLONING each others love style and just allowed ourselves to love in a very unique way…our way?

With that being said, I’d encourage you to repeat the love style that you’ve learned from others that makes sense to you – towards yourself, and others – but don’t forget to ask yourself, “If I was the Cupid of my own life, how would I uniquely love without expectations and boundaries?”

Now let’s get back to those Roses and Chocolates, shall we?

Happy Love For Love’s Sake Day

5 Ways To TRULY “Belong” (Instead Of Just “Fitting In”)

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Don’t hide who you are just make others like you.

You’ve heard people say it, from your kid to your co-workers (and maybe you’ve said it yourself) — “I just want to fit in.”

Seems logical; after all, every human craves connection, right? Definitely. But, I’m here to tell you, word choice matters a great deal in our pursuit of connection.

Why? Because there is a BIG difference between “fitting in” and truly feeling like you “belong.” And that difference has a surprising impact on your self-esteem.

It’s a natural instinct to hunger for other humans in our lives. We long for camaraderie, acceptance, feeling desired, and that doesn’t even touch on the “biggies” — being liked … and loved. And in effort of securing those things, we often find ourselves busting our ass to “fit in,” all in hopes of avoiding rejection.

Take Jessica for instance. She’s a thrift store junkie with a flair for making high-style out of others Buffalo Exchange trade-ins. She’s a “Never-Pay-Full-Price” fashionista.

Her one bedroom, 5th floor walk-up, studio apartments has just about enough room to eat, sit, pee, and do her hair. All at the same time. She’s quirky, very earthy, and laughs at stuff that causes others to say, “Are you for real?”

Her education (Yale honors, MBA in International Business) landed her a key position for a Wall Street investment firm, known for cut throat buy-outs and takeovers. An interesting environment for Jessica, given that she’s more of a sweet, meek, hearts and peace signs kind of gal. Yet, never judge a book by its cover because her magical mind processes the intricacies of a hostile takeover like a steel trap. She is stealth at her job.

But, what most people don’t know about Jessica is that she has a hard time feeling like she belongs; even though she’s figured out a way to fit in.

What’s the difference you say?

“Fitting in,” as I define it, means blending in … following the crowd, seeking sameness, sacrificing your own personal beliefs, values, interests and standards to align with the crowd. In contrast, “belonging” is feeling embraced, accepted, and valued for being exactly who you uniquely are, while feeling unified via a common connection that binds you to a person or group without fading pieces of yourself out.

Jessica fits in with the other sharks in the firm who are circling their prey, ready to blindside the innocent, unsuspecting corporations they overtake. She’s good for all the background shenanigans needed to get the deal done, but she’s never asked to the ball. God forbid she join the stylish boys and girls at the final negotiation table in her black, Ann Taylor circa 2009 Refined Tweed Suit, with the matching Pencil Skirt and Valentine (not Valentino) faux calf-skin, metal studded booties. I mean, c’mon gurl. We know you’re a business dominatrix at heart, but the outfit is enough to leave any competition handing the business over out of fear alone!

Yet at the same time, though Jessica’s quirky, eclectic ways, and simple demeanor outside of the “shark tank” fits better with Junior Management team, they shirk away from her, as well, in fear that the “sharktress” might turn on them in a heartbeat, for a misspelled word in a takeover document.

Thus, poor Jessica finds her way to fit in at the surface level, but she never feels like she actually belongs. 

Can you relate? Most of us try very hard to fit in wherever we go in life because we’re told that doing so (fitting in with the cool peeps) can help us get ahead with less stress. So, do you change to blend in or find a way to belong while remaining true to yourself?

It’s easier to blend but your self-esteem is stronger when you stay true to you. So, here are 5 ways to give up trying to fit in and finally feel like you belong:

  1. Love yourself first

Confidence is cool, sexy, and it rocks. If you love and have authentic confidence in yourself, then you’ll hold your own anywhere, even if no one else showers you with attention. People are drawn to people who like themselves. If you doubt yourself, others will doubt you, too.

  1. Stop making up stories 

Quit creating stories about why you don’t fit in. “They’re all just too <insert negative assumption about others> to ‘get’ me.” Instead, create a new story about why you do BELONG — you in all your cool glory! Also, don’t assume that the people you’re trying to connect with are the keepers of the keys. Cool peeps hang out in lots of different nooks and crannies of life where “fitting in” isn’t a criteria for acceptance. If one pathway to connection isn’t welcoming, seek out alternative paths (and people).

  1. Focus on your WHY!

If belonging, not fitting in, is what’s truly important to you, be clear on your why! Does belonging make you feel secure, loved, accepted, desired, etc? Once you know your WHY then show up as if you already belong. Honestly, it makes the busy talk go away. And remember, it takes more than fitting in to get ahead in life. It might help, but it isn’t the holy grail of success!

  1. Connect the dots

Maybe you’re the nerdiest nerd, or dreariest dresser, yet, regardless you’ve got something that someone (maybe everyone) admires. Help connect the dots for them so they can see what they’re perhaps overlooking. Don’t wait for others to invite you, create the environment of belonging by reaching out to others, as well (maybe they long for connection, too).

  1. Dig your difference

Just like loving yourself first, you’ve really gotta dig your “differentness.” Own it, rock it, be it! Your differentness is opposite of the 99.9 percent of you that makes you like every other human walking the earth. Stand proud in your .1ness and let your differentness shine, not hide in a closet. If others don’t get it, then that’s their .1ness flashing and move on until you find your tribe.

We all have moments of just wanting to fit in. 

Reaching, striving, and yearning for that “accept me as I am” feeling is normal. But, your self-esteem suffers when you hide parts of yourself away. The antidote is dropping the sameness crap and embracing our differentness (our own and others’).

The differentness = our unique, true self.

And when you live in your true being, you’re more likely to find yourself drinking the sweet nectar of belonging, rather than the bitter cocktail that continuously leaves you with a hangover from trying to fit in.

How about you? Isn’t it time to go dig your diff and belong?

This article originally published at YourTango.com 

5 Blunt Reasons You’re Not #Winning At Life (The Problem Is YOU!)

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It’s time to unscramble that brain of yours. Happiness is waiting!

#Winning at life!! Is that you? If not, put the blame for failure where it really belongs — with you — and then see what happens.

I confess. I, myself, have been failing.

Failing to, truly, be productive.

Failing to, wholly, be in my relationship.

Failing to, unconditionally, be the captain of my own ship.

It’s become so much easier to blame outside circumstances and others for everything, from the lack of money to lack of time — they’re all the reasons life isn’t completely peachy keen. My life! The one that I’m in charge of living

Does this sound familiar?

Ever find yourself backed against the wall of failure? Stuck in the mud of “some day”, seeking happiness (but not creating it), and wishing that something (anything) could whisk you away?

Well, you’re not alone!

As author, Haruki Murakami says,”Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Personally, I’ve decided to take her up on that sound advice — it’s time to accept that the pain of failure is inevitable, but the suffering I inflict upon myself, surrounding failure, is ridiculous and over-rated.

Here are 5 hard-to-hear (but straight up honest) reasons your mindset is the cause of your failures; plus, the truths you must embrace about failure if you ever want to reach that proverbial pot ‘o gold at the end of the “success” rainbow.

  1. You’re living for others, instead of yourself! Contrary to popular belief, doing for yourself is not entirely selfish … it’s healthy. When we give of ourselves, to ourselves, it becomes much easier to give freely to others.

It simply takes a shift in perspective to say,”I’m giving freely to myself in a healthy, non-egotistical manner, so that I don’t resent giving to everyone else first without having a sliver of self left for little old me!”

  1. Your definition of “failure” and “success” are EPICALLY misguided. We’ve all heard the phrase,”blind leading the blind!” Truth is, you’re probably leading yourself down hazy, obscure, and unrealistically defined paths of failure and success.

Are your definitions of failure and success fully aligned with your values, beliefs, and the truest essence of who you are? If not, you might want to put those two words back under the microscope and redefine them aligned, more closely, with YOUR values (no one else’s).

  1. You haven’t started with “why?” I’m not trying to steal Simon Sinek’sthunder, but the man knows what he’s talking about when he says,”Start with ‘why!'” If you don’t know WHY failure and success weigh heavily on your psyche, heart, and soul then your simply allowing un-tethered feelings to run amuck. You have to un-muddle the muddled, and sift through the mud to get to the “real deal” answers as to why success and failure drive you to do what you do … in life, love, and every other aspect of life, including business and career.
  2. Your inner-“drama queen” is ALWAYS in the house! Yes, we all have one (so don’t lie)! Our inner-“drama queen” is that alter ego that likes to make mountains out of molehills. You know, the ones that stamp their heels on the floor incessantly, eyes tightly shut, crying,”I’ve failed, I’ve failed, I’ve failed” — all the while stopping between beats to peak out of the eye slits, to see if anyone is paying any attention to you.

If it requires drama for you to announce you’ve failed, then the likelihood that you failed in a big way is probably more made up than real. Here’s the “drama queen” test: If you’ve failed and you don’t have knots in your stomach, find yourself afraid to look people in the eyes, your heart isn’t racing, and you’re not having to stutter the words, then your failure is more likely an attempt to get attention. Just saying!

  1. You’ve cried wolf one too many times. Honestly, hearts break when someone fails. It’s not pretty when you genuinely fail at something that, for all intents and purposes, you were certain you’d be successful. Admit it — the feeling sucks!

However, the first cousin to “drama queen” is the person who cries wolf, and this ain’t no fairy tale. No one (OK, maybe the secret league of “Let’s Cry Wolfers”), enjoys being called into pains of false sympathy. It’s exhausting, nerve-racking, and down right annoying to always be around someone who’s knickers are perpetually weighed down by a fresh, large load of FAILURE.

At this point, you’re probably experiencing one of these feelings:  

  • You’re in full agreement with at least one, if not, all five of the reasons listed above and you’re ready to take steps to get out of the rut.
  • Your denial, which runs deep, has set in and you’re feverishly Googling my name — trying to figure out where I live, so you can hunt me down and rebuff me to a pulp, in order to successfully avoid the real truth of your failures.
  • You remain in a complete state of confusion about what you’ve read and, therefore, need to re-read it a couple hundred more times to ensure you comprehend the five reasons you’re failing at everything.

Truth is, where you stand is completely up to you — in your heart, mind and soul — no matter where you fall on the roads of failure or success. Just remember, where you stand in, both, failure and success is a choice … a choice of how you define, react, and move through life.

This article originally published at YourTango.com 

Listen…no solution required!

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in our household.

Let’s just say, our young adult daughters have been dealing with adult stuff, of the boyfriend kind. Not pretty stuff and emotions are running high.

Of course, this puts Poppa Bear on the defensive. Don’t mess with my gurls is the first response I had, but then, I listened.

I listened to hear what they needed.

I listened to hear what they’d been told.

I listened to hear what their real pain is.

I listened to hear what needed to be heard.

I listened to hear what didn’t need to be answered.

Yup, Poppa finally heard, for once, what just needed to be listened to. Sure, I wanted, and did jump right into the fray, trying to fix what I can’t fix, when in reality, all both my daughters needed was to be listened to and heard. And what happened?

Both of them, have now started asking me to come talk.

Both of them, have asked what I think.

Both of them, have questioned what I would do.

Both of them, have said they appreciated my insights.

Both of them, have walked away finding their own answers.

And as for me?

My ego is just fine, not being the center of attention.

My humility is beaming, knowing it finally got to be in the spotlight.

My heart is open and full because I let my daughters find their own answers.

My self-worth is validated without me having all the answers.

My love for my daughters is through the roof because, they’re just fine.

I never would have thought all of this would have come simply because I learned to Listen…no solution required! Funny how this experience has given me a whole new level of confidence.

What might you need to listen to and hear without needing to offer up a solution?

How might being this way be the solution to you having more confidence in yourself?

The Brutal Reason Judging Everyone INFECTS Your Own Self-Esteem

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We all need to STOP infecting others with our own stigma.

I was recently scanning through the world’s favorite past time (Facebook, of course) and saw a post by one of my gay friends. That boy had called forth his inner diva and was on a roll about the stigma towards people with HIV.

I commend him with being so forthright about his status, but it also made me realize something. The way he was talking about the stigma of his illness can be applied to so many people of all different conditions. Stigma truly causes one to believe they’re damaged goods, unclean, and not worthy. It degrades and erodes our self-esteem until there’s nothing left. And THAT’S something that needs to be stopped.

I began to realize something: We’re all under the belief that in some way we’re infected, we’re damaged, we’re not good enough. And we see others this way too. We’re infected with beliefs that because of how someone is different from us that they’re deserve to be separated from the crowd—contagious disease or not!

Ironically, as I talked to my friend about his status, his life and the situations he faces as a HIV+ person, I realized I was infected too.

Or rather, because of who I am, I appear infected to others.

To some, I’m infected because I’m gay. Others see me as infected because I’m overweight. Then there are those who see me as infected because I don’t practice a particular faith.

I began to realize the thoughts my friend was sharing about the stigma he carries align with the way I think about myself and my own burdens.

I constantly find myself having to explain myself to yet another person. I wonder if people are going to be respectful to me because of the infections I carry forward brought on by my life experiences.

I dread the conversations that begin: “I like you, but you’re … divorced, got kids, overweight, bald … yada, yada, yada.”

My friends’ HIV+ status reflected back to me like a mirror. I saw the same fears, behaviors and words that come with stigma. We all push and pull at each other. We think we’re not good enough and simultaneously treat others like they’re not good enough either—as if a normalcy of humanity actually exists.

As he continued to share his truth—his journey—with me, I became queasy, angry determined to rid stigma from my life

Through his hardships, I realized the pain of coming out to live your truth is universal, not personal.

In the sandbox of life, stigma and hypocrisy grow out of the seeds of naivety. They come from lack of education. They sprout from personal insecurities.

We project towards others these unflattering character flaws. We lead the “infected” to often feel they have to hide their truth or isolate themselves.

In the worst scenarios, we tell them to completely remove themselves from the human experience.

My friend told me that at times he felt the need to hide his status to feel whole, loved, and desired.

That approach worked … until it didn’t.

He finally stood up to his shame and confronted it, finally realizing it wasn’t shame. It was the stigma, and projections of others about his status driving his actions. He wanted control of those actions back and he finally overcame the shame.

When you do the same to your own stigmas, you find yourself suddenly faced with introspective questions:

  • Why am I really hiding this part of me?• What good is this type of behavior doing for my self-esteem?• How might my life be different if I came out of this new life closet of being HIV+ and owned itno guilt, no shame?

I knew I was entering the inner vortex of self-discovery to unearth answers as to why I inflict stigmas upon myself, and others.

I also realized that there is a healing cocktail to cure the infectious diseases of stigma, hate, and intolerance. It isn’t a cocktail that you drink or a cocktail of drugs prescribed by a physician.

It’s a simple cocktail of consciousness and self-awareness.

Stigmas we throw upon others mirror the stigmas we haven’t come to terms with about ourselves.

HIV is a life-changing disease. It’s not a invitation for hypocrisy, hate or discrimination.

Think about that the next time someone calls you stupid, fat, ugly, or damaged goods. And remember: The stigma thrown upon you is just as damaging as the stigma of HIV!

This article originally published at YourTango.com 

Let’s Play Hide and Seek For The Right Reasons

Hide and Seek was one of my favorite games as a kid. Mostly because it was the one game I was damn good at.

Ironically, I’m still good at it, but in different ways, and I suspect some of you are good at it for similar reasons.

I’m good at…

  • Hiding what I’d really like to say for fear of being rejected
  • Hiding how I feel out of fear that the truth may be more than someone else can handle
  • Hiding feelings about what I truly desire in my life because someone else will think those feelings are silly
  • Hiding when i’m frustrated and hurt, and pretending that nothing is bothering me
  • Hiding my happiness because I don’t want others to think it’s all about me

When in reality, what I seek is…

  • To be heard, understood, and embraced
  • To be honest and truthful in a way that shows I really do care about others, even if it may be hard for them to handle
  • To be able to share my desires and not be ridiculed
  • To be vulnerable without fear
  • To share my happiness without feeling shame

So I’m wondering, are you still playing hide and seek?

If so, let’s both commit to stop hiding one thing this week and share one thing we seek to have more of in our lives.

5 Tips For Loving The Gay Man Within

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Whether your Gay or Straight, Loving Yourself From The Inside Out Makes For The Best Valentines Day!

In just a few days it will be Valentines Day. Thie day to celebrate being in a relationship, brood because you’re not, or stake your claim proudly as a member of SAD (Single Awareness Day)! I have to admit that some of those SAD parties I attended on Valentines Days’ past were so much more entertaining than the $200 dinners out with the one you love…no offense to my partner! Well actually, he wouldn’t take offense because we’ve come to a space in our relationship where it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is – we, in our own, way always celebrate our love, and rarely do we spend $200 on dinner. Not to imply that we have the storybook relationship or that we’re cheap bastards, it just happens that we’ve put work into our relationship as a couple and as individuals, listening, challenging, exploring, and most of all…digging into “The Gay Man Within” so that we tune into our love daily, and use $200 over a couple of “Date Nights!”

The Exploration

Excavating under the masks of our outer self isn’t only reserved for gay men. Lesbians, heterosexuals, transgender, bisexuals – everyone gets invited to the adventure. Whether you choose to explore or not creates a whole different voyage. I chose to explore because as a gay man, and as a guy who at one time was also married to a woman, my spelunking expedition enabled me to confront some very dark caverns; as a result, I discovered some shimmering pools of truths that have enabled me to be in “love” and “relationship” in a whole new way – with myself and others. Now, I focus on love for what it is to me, honor what it is to my partner, and believe in one mantra, “To be in a relationship you have to be in the relationship!” No fringe hanging, skulking around the corners, playing hide-n-seek. Instead you’re able to play full out and be totally in your relationship. By stepping into relationship with the gay man within – or straight man, straight woman, whatever your sexual identity – you begin to release unending stress, stop looking at your world through rose-colored glasses, and see yourself and your world through a Windex shine view.

5 Tips for Loving The Gay Man Within

  • Stop Seeking and Start Listening – Stop. Breathe. Listen. Who you are at your core is shouting at you like a drag queen whose make-up is smeared. The difference: the drag queen at least opens up her compact, looks at the mirror, and says, “That just ain’t right honey,” then she fixes her makeup and moves on. Similarly, in order to get to the gay man within, you must first look at the internal mirror, listen to what your inner diva is telling you, then act with passionate resolve to create the life you desire. UmmHumm!
  • Own It Girl – One of the most common feelings I encounter in working with gay men who are coming out of the closet or who are reinventing themselves in their gay lives, is a recurring belief, “That’s not me!” Well if it isn’t you then “Who the hell is it?” After all, it’s your body, led by your thoughts and emotions that cause you to do what you’re doing. If those behaviors are’nt the real you, then there’s no better time than the present to go uncover the real you and Own It Girl with a Capital O! Just sayin!
  • Live In Your Values, Not In The Voids – When you find yourself in conflict – angry, defiant, struggling – stop and ask this one question, “What’s not in alignment with my values?” Honey, that one question alone will get you back to standing tall in those Ruby Red’s quicker than Dorothy can say, “Toto, guess we’re not in Kansas anymore!” Once you’re straightened up and back in alignment, it’s easier to step into the space of loving yourself so you can love others in a healthier manner. Plus it’s a little easier to change a thought than to “Work that body, work that body,” to get pecs of steel..I think?
  • See Yourself As Being Pretty As A Picture – Let’s be honest. We all like pretty things – however we define pretty. Muscle men, boy next-door types, nerdy geeks, stocky daddies – all have their appeal and draw our attention in different ways. The trap that turns “pretty into ugly” in a heartbeat, is the overt need to seek in other men what we don’t see in ourselves, thus bastardizing our own self-worth. Shame, shame, shame! The road to loving the gay man within has no room for lack of self-worth or comparisons. So shove that muscle daddy in the closet, turn the Calvin Klien poster boy around at the door that makes you feel “less than,” and look at yourself in the mirror, then embrace what you’ve got going on. You’re pretty as a picture just the way you are. If you think otherwise, just remember, it’s just a thought, so let it shimmy on by and tell it to take number and let it know you’ll get back ot it later!
  • Stay In Love – Finding love can be daunting. Staying in love can be downright intimidating. Or is it? Watching your jet black curls, known for driving men crazy, turn into a miniature forest of “pubic hairs” on the top of your head is enough to make some men say, “Who’s going to love me now?” Or maybe seeing your ripped pecs float into the Netherland Region of your Muffin Top, causes you to pause and consider, “Am I really going to end up wearing elastic waistbands like my Dad?” Regardless of the change or experiences along the journey that we encouter as gay men, the key is staying in love with yourself and realizing that change is inevitable. How you react to change is your choice. And Lord knows us gay men need lots to choose from, so why not choose to just be blissfully at ease with change!

This Valentines Day, or any day for that matter, dial into loving yourself each and every day. When you do, the message on the other end of the line is, “I’m worth it and I’m loved, so who wouldn’t want to be me and be with me!” Happy Valentines Day.

This article originally published at YourTango.com 

It’s All About The Most

“If I hear one more self-help guru say…”

You ever feel that way? I know I do!

Yet as someone who works in the self-hope (you noticed I did a wordplay on ya) arena, one of the things I try to refrain from saying is, “What you need the most is…”

To begin with, I don’t really know what someone needs the most, nor do you.

Only that person knows what they need the most. Right?

However, the stump that usually gets in our way in the middle of the road is we can’t see what we need the most to fix whatever is causing us to cringe in our life.

So here’s my thought about “most” in our lives. And, I have to confess I didn’t come up with this all on my own. Well, ok I kind of did. But, it’s a melting pot of wisdom from many beautiful mentors and teachers that caused me to come up with what i’m about to share.

In order to get our desires met, what we need the most is to have..

Tried the most…

Felt the most…

Hurt the most…

Laughed the most…

Suffered the most…

Loved the most…

Been broken the most…

Said, “Screw it” the most…

Been silent the most…

Spoken the most…

In other words, what we each need is to have lived the most in a way that works the most for us!

And with that, I’m hoping you go out and get the MOST of your weekend.

 

Labeling People Helps YOU, But It Seriously Hurts Everyone Else

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We label to get ourselves through life, but are we causing more trouble by doing so?

They say words can kill … but I say it’s words turned into labels that do the most damage!

We thrive in a society of labels. I’m not talking about Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Tiffany’s, and so on. Those kinds of labels evoke feelings of belonging, wealth, privilege, and ownership, but can also cause feelings of competition and not feeling good enough.

In other realms, we have labels like Democrat, Republican, Graduate, Undergraduate, Hispanic, African American, CEO, and Associate, all of which help our feeble human minds classify where people fit in, in the grand scheme of our planet.

Most disturbing, in the grand pursuit of peace on the planet, is our sad human predisposition toward one-mindedness. Trust me, this differs from mindfulness.

Yet, the point I’m making is how important it is to become mindful of the damage caused by thrusting labels upon one another—especially regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.

However, before we address the damages done by casting destructive labels upon one another in that arena specifically, let’s quickly explore the strong influence labeling one another imparts on our perceptions and judgments.

One study suggests that even without labels, or having labels challenged, human judgments still persist. This study quickly put a damper on my thoughts of potentially living without labels, but I still have hope for humanity and my proposal is the following …

I know we’re all human and need certain labels to help us get through life, identify what we like and don’t like, and discern if we belong in certain social constructs (big words for ‘social circle’). I’m not going to deny that labels help us “keep on keepin’ on”.

Yet, when we clarify the social, psychological, and analytical reasons for why we rely on labels to categorize one another, we discover that labels basically keep us from being:

  • Confused
  • Embarrassed
  • Misunderstood
  • Rejected
  • Ostracized

Yet, in the same breath, labels often cause us to feel:

  • Confused
  • Embarrassed
  • Misunderstood
  • Rejected
  • Ostracized

I’m gay; therefore, I’m confused, embarrassed, misunderstood, rejected, and ostracized. In your own life, perhaps you’re obese, analytical, blonde, short, blind as a bat, overly sensitive, enamored with monster trucks, attracted to bald-headed Asian women, in love with people with tattoos on their foreheads, loyal to your faith, or a parent to an autistic child.

And to you, my fellow humans, I wonder how many times (because of who you are) you’ve felt:

  • Confused
  • Embarrassed
  • Misunderstood
  • Rejected
  • Ostracized

Yes, you’ve felt the pain, sting, or scorn of not quite fitting into someone’s label—designer or not. In that moment, you wore the skin of all us gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers, if only for a moment.

How does it feel? Did it really make you anything less than the person you are at your core?

Does the label someone else chooses fit you like a glove or sting you like a slap in the face?

What I’ve learned in my journey out of the closet, through the woods of divorce, and down the walk of shame of being laid off, is that being gay, divorced, and unemployed are just labels.

These labels help others try to figure out if they’re comfortable with me. Labels help them gain clarity in conversations but those labels are only snapshot pieces of my life puzzle.

Yet, at the end of the day, regardless of studies that explain why we label and how we perceive and judge, labels are just human mechanisms to help us navigate this human experience we call life.

Personally, I have to eat my own dog food on this labeling thing daily. It’s not easy trying to un-label, especially when we’ve become accustomed to it as part of our daily routine. But, when we stay mindful of our thoughts, actions, emotions, and feelings as we label someone, the only question that bears asking is …”If that were me, would I want to wear that label?”

A person who’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or gender non-conforming, is just a person—a living, breathing human person made up of blood, cells, bones, muscle, skin, thoughts, emotions, and feelings; they’re just trying to make it through life on this planet—just like you and me.

Can we maybe just let them take their journey in peace … and maybe even with a little bit of support by saying, “I get you. I may not completely understand you, but I get that you’re human just like me.”

This article originally published at YourTango.com 

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