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  • Writer's pictureSara

Understanding Yourself

When something significant happens in your life how do you make sense of it? Do you have a close friend who listens to your experience, or do you speak to family members who know everything about you? Or maybe none of these apply and you sit mulling of your life events possibly writing in your journal.

In my coaching development I have undergone a series of explorations to understand what makes me tick. Journaling was the key to all of the assessments as it allowed me to keep a record of my thoughts and it also allowed me to record the theoretical implications of what I was finding out. I have used a combination of tools partly out of curiosity and partly because we were using them as self development exercises in class.

I came across Gardners Multiple Intelligence assessment when I was teaching life long learners, it provided a series of questions that would allow you to consider your intelligence type, it looked at how we behaved and at some of our preferences. The interesting part for me at the time was how it suggested the career pathways that you should be following after assessment. offers a summary of this assessment with examples of personalities who are typed. It is unclear if these individuals undertook the assessment as they use shakespeare as an example and we know that Gardner created his tool in 1983 'Frames of Mind'. What I do like about the article is it is referenced with additional resources for you to follow up with.

Now this leads me to my pondering this morning, as I walked the dog around our local common I considered the love of labels. I wondered was there a psychology behind the labelling. There is a 'labelling theory' on a positive note is suggests that it helps us process information faster and allows us to build up a rapport if we can observe who is labelled in a group that feels safe and acceptable to us. The interesting part occurs when we look at our behaviour when we come across things that we either do not understand or have been raised to dislike/hate due the labelling. We review these labels and do not always explore the humanity underneath. I am left with a clear insight into my own use of labels and the ones I do not like, and those that trigger uncomfortable feelings.

For me labelling created difficulties in my transitions. I had a strongly fixed label of being a officer in the Army, it was 19 years old and it described a wide range of parts about me. It also created barriers in some social groups as people did not look past the green and see the other parts of me. I will be honest I generally found that acceptable as I was not that keen on getting too close to people. I left the Army (retired) in 2017 and here I am in 2023 still partly attached to the label because I use it to explain my past experiences as it allows me to get away with not explaining huge parts of my experiences. But I can also see that it allows me to avoid sharing the other parts of who I am, I do not share my other labels.

Examples of labels that we use:

Our hobbies - 'I am an artist' 'I am a poet' 'I ride horses' 'I ride a motorbike'

Occupational - 'I am a nurse' 'I am a policeman' 'I am a tax man'

Status - 'Married' 'Employed' 'Working Class'

Horoscopes - 'I am a Sagittarius' or 'I am a Taurus'

What labels do you use on a regular basis?

If you were writing your profile on online dating site what labels would you use? Would they give someone a good idea of who you were?

When you meet people for the first time what label do you share? Who are you? Which labels are standing up there loud and proud?

An exercise that I remember carrying out in my journal was a drawing of me surrounded by my labels and my roles in my life and I could see why I was so busy, I then reviewed the labels that I presented on a regular basis, and then explored the secret labels that only my journal and few people might have heard.

That is possibly one of the blessings of the internet and creating alternate lives is that you can relabel yourself and find out what it is like to experience life under those tags.

Julia Cameron in the artists way, suggests looking at new roles and hobbies creating a story around how you will become that 'Label' I wrote one about being a bee keeper, it felt unusual as I have very little experience with bees especially honey bees. I have a garden that is designed to attract as many bees as possible. Strangely a synchronous event generated from my journaling about my new role as a bee keeper. On my return from a trip away - I was greeted by a small swarm of honey bees who stayed for a couple of days in my porch. Not the ideal location. They taught me a couple of lessons about how supportive they were of each other, and that when it comes to food the message is shared really quickly. I am exploring the concept of the beekeeper label further next month when I attend a days natural beekeeping at the lost gardens of Heligan.

In summary I would recommend looking at your labels and other peoples and think about if you would like any of these labels to change, which labels still serve you well and which labels can you shed?

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