Lose The Labels That Keep You Small & Expand Into Real Freedom

labels, self love

April 18, 2023

There are more “labels” than ever floating around out there, especially in the areas of self-help and personal development. Occasionally, labels can be helpful by helping us to feel less isolated and alone in our “weirdness.”

But identifying too strongly with any particular label has the potential to do more harm than good. They prevent us from viewing individuals (including ourselves) as a whole, complex and unique being. Labels, therefore, can keep us small, rigid, and wrapped up in parts of ourselves without allowing the fullness of our personalities to shine through. Not every little quirk or thing that we’re working on about ourselves needs to have a name. Nor should you believe the lie that there’s a laundry list of things about you that need “fixing,” either.

Labels can also keep us so deeply focused on “self” that we forget how much connection with others heals us, because we heal IN relationships.

We’re going into all of this plus specific examples on this episode, and how to nourish yourself instead – without all the extra labels that can weigh us down.

In this episode, we’re talking about: 

  • How labels weigh us down and keep us small
  • How to nourish yourself without the labels
  • Personal development and self-help
  • Judgment
  • Relationships and human connection

This podcast topic actually came from a suggestion on Instagram. I’d love to know your thoughts about labels. Email me or DM me on Instagram @emilygoughcoach. I’d love to chat more!


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Episode 302 | Self Love, Loneliness & Learning to Like Yourself


I am Emily Gough, a human connection coach, writer, and speaker with an insatiable sense of curiosity and adventure, always asking more questions and using the power of stories to teach, learn, and Grow. We boldly explore relationships, connection, and the nuances and complexities of the human experience with compassion, honesty, and a sense of humor. With both solo episodes and highly curated guests sharing incredible stories,

experiences, and expertise. The Room to Grow Podcast takes the entire idea of growth to the next level, all while covering the uncomfortable topics many of us would like to avoid. There’s always more room to grow. Let’s do this. Hey there. Welcome back to The Room to Grow podcast. Emily here. And today’s episode is one that actually aired previously,

but I wanted to give you a little refresher crash course on this because this is a topic that I hear come up a lot with people. It’s, it’s one that I still regularly break down to get into discussions with people around this because we can over-identify with labels. We are in a culture that really enjoys labels too much, where sometimes it can actually be detrimental to us,

and we can over-identify with labels when it comes to ourselves. We can over-identify in terms of wanting to categorize others and our relationships and all kinds of different things. And it can be actually quite harmful. There is a time and a place, but it can be harmful. So I’m excited for you to listen to this one. Can’t wait to hear what you think.

Let me know. Today we’re gonna be talking a little bit about losing the labels that keep us small and how we can sometimes pathologize ourselves or other people potentially into these boxes and categories that don’t serve us, they don’t serve others, and they just keep us from actually expanding into who we’re trying to become. And what gave me the idea for this episode,

I asked on Instagram stories a while ago for if anyone had had any ideas that they wanted me to cover on the podcast, because I’m, I’m about to start batching a whole bunch of episodes and someone who is a, a former client and, and I adore this, this person, she’s amazing. She reached out with an idea and I thought it was a great idea,

but I’m going to be taking an angle on it that I think was not necessarily what she had in mind when she, when she gave it to me. So I’m gonna be talking to her to, to let her know before this episode comes out, what we’re going to be kind of covering on this one, and, and I’m interested to get her feedback on this as well,

but she suggested talking about something called Self-Love Deficit Disorder. I had never heard of this. I, I had to Google it, and as soon as I heard the term and started looking into it a little bit more, I, I, I’m, I’m no expert on it, but my understanding is that it’s, it’s simply a name of something that someone has invented or created.

It’s not, you know, like an official diagnosable thing or, or, you know, disease or, or illness or anything like that. It’s just a name that someone has created to help, I help identify something that is maybe lacking from within so that you are then pointed in the right direction to do the kind of work that will help you get to your own next level.

Okay? That’s, that’s my, my very base level understanding of it. Here’s my issue with it. I, as soon as I heard even just the terminology, there’s nothing about that that feels particularly complimentary. And, and listen, I’m open to feedback on this, so anyone who wants to argue with me about this, feel free. We can ha we can have a conversation about it.

But when I hear some of these terms and, and the number of terms are, are increasing, and sometimes they can be really, really helpful, okay. They can be so helpful. We, we as humans love labels. We love categories. We love having a sense of community because we want that. We want to feel a sense of community so that we feel less alone in whatever issues we’re facing or dealing with.

But to me, the answer is not necessarily sometimes yes, but not necessarily in creating more and more labels. And as things like science expand and, and we, we learn more about different disorders and different things. I am very pro-science, so I’m like, yes. Like whatever, whatever we, we find and uncover, as science continues to evolve and grow,

I am here for it a hundred percent. What I have an issue with are the, the types of, of terms that people create that we, we get kind of sucked into. And sometimes in the, the sort of self-help and, and coaching space in particular, I would argue that it can sometimes be harmful, sometimes it can be useful. But,

but in these types of instances that I’m talking about where these are not scientifically diagnosable disorders, they are proprietary labels that have been developed that I think can cause more harm than good in some cases because it can make us feel as though there’s something wrong with us or that we’re broken. And it, it makes us believe that there’s always more and more and more and more to heal and fix and work on.

And while, yes, that that is, that is true, growing and evolving doesn’t have to mean fixing because that can make us feel like we’re inherently broken somehow. And all these labels can for some, give us an option to evade responsibility for the ways we show up and behave towards ourselves and others because it, it allows us to put a label on something that makes us feel safer and more understood while potentially blocking us from taking the necessary action steps to progress forward.

And the label can provide something to hide behind if we choose to identify with any label too closely, like even things like different personality tests and, and the Enneagram and, and all those things. I love all that shit. I, I think it’s amazing. And I think that all of them are really, can be really, really useful tools to better understand ourselves and in turn,

than to create better relationships with others because we have a greater understanding of self. If there are things that resonate with you, take them. Like I always say, and I say this about anything that I tell you as well, take what you want and leave the rest. Like, not everything I say is gonna be for everyone and, and good.

Like, I don’t want you to only learn from me. I, I want everyone to learn from a, a wide diverse range of, of sources that feel really good to you. And that’s what I try to do with myself too. I don’t, I never want to put any single person or entity or idea up on a pedestal and then just decide that that’s the thing.

That’s the thing that, that is the answer to everything. I want to make sure that I am very intentionally cultivating a, a wide range of diverse opinions, even ones that I don’t necessarily agree with, just to explore what’s there, right? And something, something like, like some of these labels, they can also keep us so deeply focused on self that we forget how much connection with others heals us because we heal in relationship.

And yes, anyone who’s been around here long enough knows I am all about the relationship we have with ourselves. That is a constant evolutionary journey that will shift and expand over time, hopefully in the most positive ways as you get to know yourself more and more intimately. And that is part of your, your ongoing journey and, and the ongoing work that you have to do that we all have to do.

But you will never hear me preaching that we are islands unto ourselves, and that you have to so-called fix everything on your own by yourself. An enormous part of how we get to know ourselves is through the relationships to others. We get to see ourselves through their eyes. We get to experience who, who they are to give us a better sense of our own selves.

Think of it this way, you know, I, I use this example a lot, but we wouldn’t recognize joy without experiencing the heavier emotions. Similarly, we wouldn’t have an understanding of who we are as individuals if we didn’t have others to relate to. It kind of, to me, it almost reminds me of practicing an open palm versus a closed fist.

Have you ever heard that saying about, you know, if, if you’re looking to, this is just like one version of it, but, but basically if you’re looking to, to pull in like love or abundance or, or whatever, that if you’re not actually open to receiving it and you’re just kind of walking around with the fuck you on your forehead,

that’s a closed fist, right? Like, you’re not going to be able to receive if you are closed to the receiving. And if you remain closed all the time because you think you have to fix everything about yourself first, you’re going to miss life. You will wake up one day and you’ll wonder what happened and where it all went. And you’ll realize you spent your time investing in labels and stories as,

as we all do in a variety of ways. And it can be helpful. Sometimes it can, it can almost give us, it can be like a, a, a little security blanket sometimes that we use. We’re like, oh, okay, this thing makes sense about myself now that I’ve, I’ve heard it explained to me in this way, and I also recognize that there are other people who are going through the same thing,

which makes me feel less alone. That is beautiful. That’s a beautiful gift. I’m not faulting any label that that helps support someone in that way. I’m just cautioning you against getting too tied up with any particular label. You know, I I, I’ve mentioned a couple times, I, I did some really intensive trauma work months ago, and one of the visualizations that came to me in during,

during this, this kind of journey I was on was that of myself being curled up, hunched over, like, and, and wrapped in ropes that bonded me tightly. And the ropes were made of the words that I strung together from all the stories I chose to believe that weren’t serving me. All the stories that kept me small, all the maybe,

you know, negative feedback either that, that I had received from others or that I had thought or said about myself, that the ropes were, were created from these words. And then I visualized breaking through the bonds of those stories and the ropes that bound me and kept me small. They, they started disintegrating and shattering around me as I expanded and grew tall and,

and really opened into the fullness of my presence and taking, you know, learn to take up space in this huge way. This is what I want for you and for myself, by the way. I, I am still very much like on, on my journey to get to that, that next level version of myself. I am continuing to expand and,

and again, we will all always be continuously expanding or, or I hope so we, that’s something that we, we want to work towards. But I would rather that you focus on how to expand and take up stor and, and take up space as opposed to looking for more stories that focus on your smallness and instead to create new stories that expand and grow you,

and that allow you to break free from the cage of your own making, because that is real freedom. That is real freedom. This is one of, freedom is one of the pillars that the room to grow ba brand is built upon and it’s freedom from within because that is real Freedom is the freedom from within. It’s, it’s one of my biggest core values in every sense of the word.

Not everything needs to have a name or a label. In fact, here’s, here’s an example. I recently held a compassion or a workshop all about compassion. And when I came with the idea for it, I, I knew what I wanted to talk about in the whole workshop, but I didn’t have the name for the workshop. I was like,

well, I can’t just call it like the compassion workshop. Like I, I need to have something a little bit spicier than that. And I, I was worried about marketing it because I didn’t have a title for it. I actually ended up pushing it back by a couple weeks because I didn’t have a title for this workshop. And what I actually realized,

I was like, why am I having so much trouble naming this? Like, what, what the fuck? And I, I realized that when I create podcast episodes, I actually usually name the podcast episodes after I record them, partly because I always end up talking about more than I expect to share or, or things just, just come to me and flow out of me in the moment.

And I finally sort of realized that the people who were going to, to come to the workshop were going to do so because they trust how much value I bring to the table in all of my work and everything that I do. And to be honest, I, I don’t know how to not be generous with what I teach. I, I, I received,

by the way, just the most beautiful comment on, on one of my, my posts on social media a couple months ago from somebody who said, I’m gonna get the quote wrong, but something about that this person thought that I, I was one of the most genuine and and generous people on social media, and I was just so humbled. Like,

what a compliment, what a compliment that, that was just so lovely. And what, what I want to stress there is that people remember how you show up, people remember how you made them feel, right? Like the, the Maya Angelou quote sums that up pretty beautifully. People remember your presence, your energy, all all of these things, your generosity,

they don’t remember the label you identify with. And I finally had to come to that realization just with this, this workshop I was offering. I was like, you know, it’s not about the title and the label I put on it, it’s about identifying a problem and then taking steps to create a solution. So if you feel that you have a problem from within,

something that, that you’re working on, again, we are all always working on something, right? I think that it might be useful that even if you are, you know, looking around for, for labels or for communities that can make you feel less isolated in your journey, which is such a gift that is, that is a beautiful, beautiful gift to also just be very cognizant of not wrapping yourself up in the entire story.

There’s another example actually that, that I, I thought of when I was putting the notes together here. You may notice, maybe you haven’t noticed, I rarely ever, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually really used the word narcissist on this podcast and given, you know, some of my, my personal experiences, given some of the, the work that I do with people,

variety of, of different things. It’s, it is probably something that I cou i, I could very easily use, but I also tend to have an issue first of all, okay? Got a lot to say on this one. The term narcissist, in my opinion, is getting thrown around way too much these days, way, way, way too much,

especially on social media. It’s like everyone and their brother is, is a narcissist or suffers from narcissism. First of all, we’re all a little bit narcissistic. It’s, it’s a human trait, okay? We, we all have a degree of narcissism from within us. The other thing is that I don’t use a lot of terms in general around here,

not just on the podcast, but, but in my everyday life too. Like, like, because it truly how I show up on here is how I show up in real life too. So I just don’t really use that type of terminology or a lot of other terms that would be considered diagnosable issues because first of all, I’m not a mental health professional,

okay? I’m very clear on that. I am not a mental health professional, so it’s not my job to diagnose anyone. Absolutely not. It is not my job to do that. But I also think that thanks to so-called Instagram therapy and like couch psychology, a lot of diagnosable conditions and the terminology associated with them have gotten tossed around far more than they should.

And there is nuance in everything. Pretty sure I say that on almost every episode. There’s nuance in everything, and it is not to excuse poor behavior on the part of someone who mistreated you that, that you maybe are thinking is like narcissistic or, or whatever, or to say that you weren’t treated badly, okay? It’s also acknowledging that it’s not our job to diagnose other people.

We can sometimes use certain types of terms like narcissist or whatever to make ourselves feel better when we’ve been hurt, because putting a label on something or someone can be comforting again, you know, like the, I I fully get that. I understand why, why we come up with these, these terms and, and labels and stuff that aren’t necessarily considered an actual scientifically diagnosable issue.

But there there are other terms floating around out there that can just feel kind of comforting a little bit, right? Especially if we’re feeling shame. I if we’re using the narcissist example specifically, it, it can be especially comforting to us to use that type of label if we’re feeling shame that we fell for someone who didn’t treat us well or wasn’t good to us,

or we’re actually maybe holding onto some anger and distress towards ourselves for the self betrayal we allowed to continue, even if maybe things in that relationship didn’t really feel quite right. It’s, you know, the label is often for our sake much more so than for theirs because we, let’s be real here, we don’t generally throw the term narcissist as someone as a compliment,

right? I, I don’t know if I’ve really heard of that ever being used as a compliment before. It’s a term that we can sometimes use to a, hurt the other person. B, try and explain their behavior even if only to ourselves and our own circle of friends and loved ones or c justify our own shame around why we ended up with and potentially stayed with the this other person for longer than we would like to admit.

And rarely does someone get called a narcissist and then immediately goes to seek care, to treat a condition they may not even actually have. I mean, a again, like first of all, if someone is a true narcissist by actual scientific diagnosable terms, they may never recognize or acknowledge it for themselves. Or even if they do become aware of it, they are statistically speaking,

unlikely, unwilling or, or even unable to seek the help that will change their behavior. So it can be actually more a question of why did I fall for them? Why can’t I get over them? How did I end up in this situation again? What do I need to work on? What can I take responsibility and ownership for my role in this situation so that I can learn and progress forward?

And the answers to those questions do not need to involve pathologizing a disorder for yourself, especially not a proprietary one that someone just invented off the top of their head. The answers lie in nourishing yourself and becoming aware of your own patterns and habits, like accepting the parts of yourself that are messy, that we can mistakenly believe or feel are harder to love.

The answers come from, from learning to trust yourself. And I’m realizing the, that that possibilities, purpose, and redirection can come from pain and that we can turn that into the gold that becomes the foundation of who we grow into. This is the work that I do with people and it’s powerful and potent as fuck because I don’t, I don’t gift you some sort of magic.

I just help you guide. I just help guide you into recognizing your own magic so that you can fly. That’s all I do. But it, it changes everything because it shifts your entire outlook on the world. It, it changes how you look at yourself and it, it shifts how you view others in such a significant way that you start to notice that everything starts to flourish.

So if you wanna talk, if, if any of this is, is resonating with you, let me know. I’ve got all the information listed in the show notes and let me know how this lands. So reach out to me over on Instagram at Emily Goff coach, and you can also send me an email info emily go coaching.com and we’ll be back soon.

Thank you so much for listening. If you want more, one of the most common questions I get is, where do I even start doing this work to create deeper connections and better relationships? I’ve got a free 15 page guide for you called, where Do We Begin? This is the very foundation that you need to start building healthy relationships with others and with yourself.

This is my gift to you, and multiple people have referred to it as life-changing. You can find it over at Room to grow podcast.com or check the show notes to go download it and have it sent straight to your inbox. Thanks so much and stay tuned for more episodes weekly.


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