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Labels, Masks, and Knowing Who We Really Are…

| March 11, 2014 | Reply

labels, being

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. ~ Socrates

One of my favorite classes in college was philosophy. I loved learning about Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Socrates, and probably spent 99% of my free time writing poetry about the meaning of life. Reading poems at a local open mic night in a dimly lit bar, walls covered with stickers from bands that played there, sometimes even with the sound of the drum beating behind me. Yes, it’s true. When I told my husband about it, he laughed picturing me on the stage reading. And I think he may have thought I was kidding until one of his friends’ bands recently played at the same bar, and the bartender actually remembered me!!! This is going on 20 years ago :)

Writing and reflecting and questioning has been a part of me since I can remember. But, sometimes we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves again. I graduated college, worked in a corporate job for a few years, and then when I was 25 years old, I began working with people on achieving their goals. Still a philosopher, still searching for the meaning of life, I took some courses, and proudly wore the title ‘Life Coach’ – then something switched. From knowing nothing, to becoming a “know it all”, if you had a problem, I had the solution. I thought I knew everything. I was ridiculous. I barely listened before blurting out what you needed to do to fix it.

Fighting Between Worlds Over Words

I spent a few years in this fighting between two worlds – the ‘philosopher life explorer’ and the ‘advice-giving know it all’. Deep within me, I was still the vulnerable wide-eyed girl just trying to figure it all out myself. But the title became more like a mask, as if I was masquerading as somebody who had the authority to tell you how to live your life. Now, please, don’t misunderstand me – there are many brilliant life coaches who know that THEY don’t have all the answers, the answers are within the client. But me, at that time, I just became accustomed to people asking for advice and me doling out the answers so quickly that listening and reflecting {as I was trained to do} took a back seat. It might have just been the title, the title ‘Life Coach’ implies said ‘Life Coach’ can change your life ~ no, I’m sorry, but He or She or Me cannot.

I get that people like ‘titles’, but when somebody refers to me as a ‘Life Coach’ {although I know they mean well and, quite frankly, probably don’t know what else to call me, and ‘Life Coach’ is part of my credential}, I cringe. I want to hold up a sign that says “I KNOW NOTHING. I don’t have the solution to your problem. I cannot change your situation.”

The burden of holding those promises is too great to bear. And, it’s simply untrue. It wouldn’t be fair for me or any other human being to make those claims. As Socrates says, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Even deeper rooted in scripture, it says over and over how wisdom comes from understanding, and the understanding that we do not have the answers {there is much about this in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, James}…

Just ‘Be’ and Learn

So, I let go of referring to myself as a ‘Life Coach’ years ago. I realized after I had my children that they were my greatest teachers, they were the essence of life. I also remembered that people around me were teachers. All of humanity is a teacher. The sky is a teacher. The birds, teachers. The trees, teachers. I learn from them, from you, from all of God’s creation, and write about it. Speak about it. Share about it. Teach about it. Learn more. And repeat.

Back full circle to my younger days, I am a student in this gift of a world, and {I guess} also a teacher because writing and communicating is natural for me, and kind of like a second skin. I use words not because I know, but because I want to know, I long to know, I yearn to know ~ and by writing it all down and dumping stuff out onto the page, I open up a dialogue with myself {and others}, and free up my brain so I can better listen to my heart. Sometimes I write and truly have no clue where the words came from. It’s as if God wants to teach me with my own words. I know, it might sound weird, but it’s true. Even after I wrote and HarperCollins published my book, Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale, I myself am learning from it…and that has been quite amazing and fun ~ my own words found deeper roots.

Giving Our Power Away to Labels

While the label of ‘Life Coach’ taught me a lot, the label-trap-masquerade really applies to any label we give ourselves or others. I’ve blogged about the power of our words  on Bella NYC before, and how “negative” labels can create deep wounds, but even “positive” labels can hold us back and weigh us down ~ being “organized”, being the “go to person”, being a “problem solver”, being the “health nut” {I mean really, what if you just want to eat a cookie or say no to something or organize later?!}. Sometimes it’s hard to always live up to a label, which leads us running and racing, stressing, and sometimes even hiding. Remember Monica from the sitcom Friends? She was known for being so neat and organized and then one day Chandler found her closet filled to the brim overflowing with junk!!

By learning how what we label ourselves {and others} impacts us, we can easily release the label and relish in the fact that we can just be ourselves, be the magnificently made human beings we were each uniquely born to be. In one of my recent conversations with a client, she said she lived up to a label that had her masquerading for years. It finally led to a meltdown because she didn’t even know who she was anymore. I totally understood, and by saying it, and discovering it, she felt peace with releasing the label.

I am all about self-discovery ~ and I love learning, whether it is a class or a blog or a book or whatever – these are tools designed to assist us in owning our innate power, realizing our gifts, our values, our worth so showing up and lighting up in the world becomes natural. And being gentle with yourself and others allows deeper connections because, after all, we all need each other in this amazing, beautiful, sometimes crazy and hard to figure out, gift of life.

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Category: BELLA Blog, Home

About the Author ()

Jennifer Tuma-Young is a writer, speaker, dreamer, foodie, believer, wife, mother, and inspired girl. She is also the Founder & CEO of INSPIRISTA life design company* and author of the 288 Page Balance Book, “Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale”… Check out her personal blog at

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