MavK

Art and Creativity Coaching Articles

How to embrace the power of labels!

How to embrace the power of labels

Through all our striving to be better, happier and generally different from what we perceive ourselves to be, perhaps we already are IT; and what a wasted life it would be to live it thinking constantly that we are lacking and deficient.

Sometimes it is easier for us to stick to verbs and say that we are “doing art” or “painting” or “performing” or “dancing” or “writing”, rather than daring to label ourselves with a noun such as “artist”, “performer”, “dancer” or “writer”. And yet, not daring to embrace the label, can prevent us from developing and inhabiting an identity as the very thing we want to be.

Labels are a thorny topic and many people balk at labels and defy being “put in a box”. The problem I think comes from the idea that we feel we have to accept the general definition of said label (whatever it may be), that labels come with implications, assumptions and judgements. You might hate to be called an artist because you have been exposed to the stereotype of a flaky artist with poor hygiene habits living a bohemian life of no commitment, no routine and no social graces. Now there will be some people reading this who think that stereotype sounds pretty awesome and irrespective of the hygiene issue, they would love to be that. But for you, maybe not so much. Or you avoid calling yourself a writer because you fear that you will be judged because you haven’t been published, or you have self-published, which you feel will be looked down upon as “vanity publishing” (a loaded phrase if ever there was one!). And yet, you sit down every day and you write and you have pages and pages of completed and half-completed pieces that together might fill a small (or big!) library. The point is that probably no two people will agree on definitions of creative labels such as artist and writer; some will think that you have to be earning money from it in order to warrant the label, others might think you have to be dead and only discovered once you’re in your grave before you’re a true artist, and others still will say that you must wait for said others to label YOU and how dare you be so uppity as to embrace the label yourself … on your own terms … defined in your own ways!

So let’s just imagine that it’s okay for you to chose a label – artist, writer, dancer, musician – be that one label or all of them! And let’s say that you are allowed to define them however you wish. What label would you choose and how would you define it? What makes you identify with it? Hint: you will probably feel drawn in your gut towards certain labels, irrespective of stereotypes and assumptions. Go with your gut feeling and allow yourself to play with the idea. How would it feel to just say to yourself, “I am a writer” or “I am an artist”? Begin by saying it in your head, and then out loud, maybe to yourself in a mirror. Sit with that little sentence for several days or weeks and see how it shifts and morphs in your mind. It can be terrifying, but if you sit with it – privately, on your own, just for you – you will be surprised how naming yourself creatively can affect not just your personal identity in terms of confidence and character, but also your creative discipline. When I first started identifying myself as a writer, I was confronted by my own procrastination very deeply; because in my world, a writer writes every day and embraces the craft with an almost addictive passion. So my poor, lazy excuses not to write challenged me and my identity and made me feel extremely uncomfortable. But I loved the identity more than I loved my laziness, so I would almost use it like a mantra, “I am a writer”, and I would write …

The next stage is outing yourself, which can be just as frightening as any outing, whether it’s to friends and family, or more publicly. This phase is best attempted after you have sat with your self-defined and embraced label for a while. Wait until you feel comfortable and yes proud of your identity! You know in your heart of hearts that you are that very thing you have longed to be.

When I began to out myself, I did it sneakily (yet nonetheless scarily) by adding the word “writer” to my social media profiles. I thought that people could always assume it was a hobby if they wanted and it was hidden away in my About sections which no ones reads anyway, right?? And when it came to friends, again it was like most outings, they rolled their eyes and said, “We’ve known that for years! Of course you are a writer!” It was liberating and also broke the isolation that I had imposed on myself. I began to feel more confident in my craft and in my identity.

Roll forward several years and I am training to be a creativity coach in order to help others find their niche and develop their creative identities. Instead of fearing the labels, let’s play with them and reclaim them in whatever way we can imagine. After all, we’re creative, right?! So let’s get creative with our labels, bold with our identities and proud of saying that we are what we always longed to be.

Recently someone told me their impressions of working with me. It was detailed and positive and astounding! I said, “You have just described the person I have always wanted to be!” She said, “Maybe you are more that person than you realise.” Through all our striving to be better, happier and generally different from what we perceive ourselves to be, perhaps we already are IT; and what a wasted life it would be to live it thinking constantly that we are lacking and deficient.

So start embracing your creative self by owning the label of your choosing. Then the journey begins of being what you already are, and I promise you it is a place of abundance and inspiration – challenges too – but gradually you will discover context and drive and motivation (and importantly a tribe of “labelled” others!) which will support you as a defiantly out and proud creative person.

How would you label yourself? In this no-judgement zone on my blog, share below who you are. The journey starts now if you want it to …

©Mav Kühn 2016

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4 comments on “How to embrace the power of labels!

  1. Joleene Moody
    June 21, 2016

    This post is brilliant. SERIOUSLY. I told someone recently (when they asked) that I was a writer, and he said, “Do you really make money doing that?” I’ve learned to respond with, “If you tell me your salary, I’ll tell you mine.” They generally don’t share, but it’s my way of thwarting off the label of starving artist. I am bold with my identity, for sure (and they see that), and even bolder in standing up for all artists and creatives everywhere. I love you and your posts, Mav. xoxo

    Like

    • Mav Kühn
      June 21, 2016

      Oh thanks so much, Joleene! Yes, I know what you mean. It isn’t all about money and public recognition. It has to be right inside first and then, with effort, the outer world may begin to recognise what you do, but without that internal shift we are always second-guessing ourselves and it leaves the door open for the inner critic to rise up and sabotage us.
      I’m so pleased that you get something from reading my posts (as I do from yours!). Mav xx

      Like

  2. Self-DiscoveryWeb
    June 26, 2016
    • Mav Kühn
      June 27, 2016

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Good luck with your blog! 🙂

      Like

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