We Better Stop Labeling Ourselves
Vegan. Writer. Hedonist. Who-cares-else.
I’ve been reading a post of a creator I trust a lot recently. For a long time, he searched for a “philosophy that would explain the way he sees the world and the way he wanted to live”. He was going through a lot: learning to deal with social expectations, trying to find his voice, listening to his true self. I admire him a lot because of that. But that post of him made me sit in silence for thirty minutes. The subtitle exclaims: “Become a bohemian”. The content is great. He suggests a not-really-new but attractive mindset as an alternative to consumerism culture. But my thoughts were way deeper than that.
I don’t really differ from him. It seems like I was always running away from social expectations and stereotypes. I didn’t try to be a “quirky”, “not-like-other-girls thing”. I was pursuing my dreams, wondering about alternatives. But then I started to reflect on the way I think, not what I think.
Vegan? Is this a disease..
I went vegan for 3 years. At first, it was hard to confess my new mindset to my parents. I was still a high-school student. This precious time when nobody cares that you already have your dreams, thoughts, and priorities. (Haha, you’re a teenager, what do you expect?) In the Russian environment (especially in a middle-class family) no word “vegan” existed. Probably they thought it was a disease.. Even after three years of veganism they didn’t accept the way I live and eat. Then something happened. I felt like I stuck in this mindset. Being vegan I decreased my range of life choices myself. I didn’t like it.
It’s okay. Of course, your mindset will change with time and age. But there was something I was anxious about. It was fear. I felt like the word “vegan” make me feel limited in my actions and my thoughts. I felt like I can’t be a part of neither “herbivorous” community nor unfastidious people like my parents. I didn’t fit anywhere. I didn’t feel like a functional element of society.
Can I run away from social expectations?
There is a saying: happiness equals reality minus human expectations. Easy to say. People will always have expectations, but the worst thing is we fuel them ourselves. Just remember your bio on Medium/Instagram. Remember the last time you were introducing yourself. You always want to fit in. “Natasha — a fitness blogger”, “Mark — a creative entrepreneur”, “Greta — an eco-activist”. The second you declare yourself as a person of N category your interlocutor already has expectations in this regard. “Vegan.. one of those intolerant, obsessive plant-eaters”. “Eco-activist.. one of those lazy kids skipping classes”. “Fitness blogger.. one of those photoshopped bodies on Instagram”.
We think in categories. This way we feel secure. There is no shame in it, just mass psychology. But what makes me worry is that we intentionally want to become “one of those”. One of those who have traits or characteristics you might don’t. Or one of those whose common mindset and principles can’t describe you with 100% accuracy. Sometimes we can cave under the name of a category, sometimes we acknowledge our inner voice and pursue our path. But it doesn’t change the subject. We are constantly trying to put ourselves in a category. If we don’t fit anywhere, we create a category of thinking ourselves. It doesn’t differ from older ones. In any category, you unconsciously limit your thoughts and actions. Some people visualize it as stairs. New step — a new mindset — a new category. And then other people -who also want to fit in- put themselves in a category you created.
We hate it when people label us. At the same time, we don’t notice we are labeling ourselves. We hate it when people’s expectations about us are wrong. At the same time, we fuel them. That’s the reason I didn’t say “I’m a vegan”. I said, “I don’t like eating meat”. I don’t say “I’m a writer”, I say “I enjoy writing”. I don’t say “I’m the N category”, I say what matters in this exact situation, mostly as an action that can’t be questioned. My personality can’t be questioned. I’m the ultimate specialist in myself. No one knows who am I, better than me.
I feel a piece of perfectionism in all these. We are not only searching for and creating categories. We also try to find the exact name of everything. The exact name of how I feel and what I think and how I think. We need a definition. We can’t bear uncertainty and we hate being uncertain.
I’ve taken the courage to wonder “what if”. What if we allow ourselves to be abstract. Allow ourselves to be complex. Uncertain. We’re illogical by nature. What if we stop pushing ourselves to make EVERYTHING clear. What if I don’t have a category, don’t want to create one and fit in.
Is it really that difficult to be yourself? I think I need to change my bio. I’ll change the way I introduce myself as well.
Hi, I’m Nika. A human. Nika — just who I am.
Nice to meet you.