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Mindful : December 2018
By Elaine Smookler Recent research from the Univer- sity of Pennsylvania suggests that we may actually ignore information that does not support our ideas about “who we are,” and our behavior follows suit. We can essentially get stuck with a confirmation bias toward our own selves, where we receive information in a way that confirms our preexisting ideas and beliefs, and we don’t investigate any further than this. So, once we determine which category something falls into—in- cluding our own personality—we lose all curiosity. Living with blinders on limits our potential for growth and well-being. When we become too cer- tain or fixed upon any given label, we restrict our chance to experience → Let Go of Your Labels You know all those tiny boxes we try to fit our spacious, colorful, uncategorizable selves into? We could all take them a little less seriously. Growing up, were you labeled the “sensitive genius”? The “rebel”? The “problem child”? The “nice guy”? I’ve especially enjoyed sporting the “smart aleck” persona, which is just one of the many identities I’ve walked around with, or have been dragged around by, over the years. Some were self-imposed, others gifted to me from hither and yon. Labels come and go, and they are incredibly subjective. For instance, where one person might find me “a good listener,” or “kind,” another might label me “controlling,” “impatient,” or “obsessive.” Whether we recognize them or not, we all move through our lives wearing a hodge- podge of sticky labels. And these labels frame our experience in a powerful— though not always helpful—way. It’s not all bad. Labels can help us bring order to chaos in an instant. The challenge is that each person and situation is more than any one label you might give it. Nothing and no one is only wonderful, or only ter- rible, or beautiful or ugly or right or wrong. Ignoring this fact can make a big difference to our overall experi- ence of life. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Elaine Smookler is a registered psychotherapist with a 20-year mindfulness prac tice. She is a senior faculty member at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. 26 mindful December 2018 LIVING | inner wisdom