labels: what’s yours? …we scout wednesday

vintage drug label

tonight, i made a very difficult decision. instead of turning off the tv and enjoying some peace and quiet before one of the final episodes of LOST came on, i turned the channel to american idol.

jamie fox was the mentor. seriously? anyhow, he handed each of the finalists a black cotton t-shirt that simply said: artist in white lettering.

the idea was the contestants were no longer to label themselves as, well, contestants – they were to become artists and label themselves that way. clearly, the language we choose to label ourselves affects the way others perceive us, the choices we make, and even the direction we choose to pursue with our passion.

how i label myself

i struggle with this plenty. am i a blogger? a writer? a web designer? entrepreneur? i’ve used each of those labels to describe myself to friends and strangers. which i pick at any given time depends on how i think the other person will perceive the label, what accomplishment i’ve just acheived, or how long i have to explain myself.

oh, you want me to be honest? it pretty much depends on how the other person will perceive the way i label myself.

although, again being honest, i’m not sure what i want to call myself. giving yourself a label can fence you in, limit you. of course, it can also give you the strength to reach higher goals and find confidence you didn’t know you had. a label can empower you to do great things just as jamie fox hoped it would for the american idol contestants.

how do you label yourself?

for this week’s we scout wednesdays, share how you label yourself. do you struggle with a need to put a label on yourself and what you do? do you make excuses or offer explanation where none is needed?

you can share you thoughts in a blog post, your twitter feed, your flickr stream, in the comments below… where ever you’d like. just link back to scoutie girl (pretty please!) and put the direct link to your thoughts in the mister linky below.

42 thoughts on “labels: what’s yours? …we scout wednesday

  1. I label myself, quite consistently, “writer, artist, teacher, mom” and sometimes “waitress.” I rearrange the order. Sometimes I leave off teacher. Sometimes I leave off mom, depending on my mood and the audience. I often leave off waitress, because that’s not who I am, it’s just what I do, now and then, for money.

  2. It’s so funny that you mention this, Tara! In December I graduated from grad school with a Master’s in International Relations. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to pursue my creative career as opposed to a political path, but every time someone asks me what I do, I tell them “I just graduated from grad school…” and go into a spiel related to that. When, in fact, I’ve been working on my small business full time since October (8 months!).

    How I label myself is a direct a reflection of the internal struggle I’m feeling about deciding what my path is going to be. I just need to pipe up and say “I’m a jewelry designer!”

  3. You ask the best questions, I love it!
    I recently asked myself just this question when making up biznez cards…i was thinking of “Creative Consultant”, bah! WHat a bunch of malarky! ha ha! You can see what I came up with here
    Thanks for asking these questions and doing we scout wednesdays, i love this!

  4. I think if I was to label myself it would be an open label like “Create being” It covers so much of what I am and what I do.

    I am Keira Morgan, Creative Being.

  5. Tara, Tara, Tara… You just have to go right for the jugular, don’t you?

    This is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. At the moment, there isn’t a label I feel entirely comfortable with. For a while, it was “disgruntled office manager and aspiring artist” but that seemed unhealthy on several levels.

    So, the big dilemma: label myself by what I’m doing, what image feels safe to share with others OR by who and what I am in the deepest, darkest depths of my soul? That’s some scary stuff! Not to be all Betty Davis, but… Do I want people peering into my depths? Heck, do I want to peer into my depths?

  6. Fantastic topic! This has been a huge question for me recently! Up until 2 months ago I was confident in calling myself an event planner (because it’s what I got loved and got paid for 60-80 hrs per week). I recently quit that job and have been devoting the same number of hours to starting a handmade kitchen textile business. So strictly speaking I am “self employed without income” -fine line between that and unemployed!. But beyond that I’ll call myself a designer, textile artist or entrpreneur.

    I think my favorite part about my current situation is I’m still figuring out where this adventure is going to take me and so I can change my label to fit how I feel on any given day!

    I’d blog about this, but as part of this process my blog won’t be up and running until next week!

  7. I have come to the conclusion that, for me, labels are limiting. If I try to box myself into being the best at being whatever it is that I am (Etsy’r, mother, wife, etc.), I don’t find pleasure in any of them. If I determine that I wish my label to be “mother” than I tend to not give my creativity and drive enough room to grow. If I cocentrate solely on my store, I can slip down the slippery slope of not feeling like I am not doing as well as the “super-Etsy artists.”

    I think that the search for “authentic self” if often the same as chasing our own tail. This may be my education in sociology talking but I believe that are really the sum total of all of past experiences, current situations and future dreams. If we try to boil that down to a label or two, we are missing out on the whole package! I wrote about this on my blog a couple of months back:

  8. I guess I say artist, business owner. I have (or at least I think) always thought of myself as an artist. Now being a business owner it is hard to put on those shoes. Is anyone really 1 label? I find myself switching from each part of the day to wife, business owner, mom and artist. Many people wear many hats!

  9. Tara! Again, you read the little thoughts in my head…this question has been a struggle for so long…even since my post I’ve thought of more labels for myself. I think for me using labels to aspire to may be best for my soul…

  10. Oh, you opened another can of worms. :) An eternal one at that. As long there is history people have been struggling with labels of this sort. Artists always, as the extreme example Van Gogh is thought to have destroyed himself over this particular question, not to mention the scores of other ones that we deem as ultimate inspiration for ourselves today.

    I think it is about time we accept all the “labels” that we carry, for no person is just one thing. I am an artist, a mother, a wife, a woman, an enterpreneur, a writer, a poet, a designer, a shopper, a cleaner, a builder, a gardener, etc. But the ones that I am most proud of, the ones that give me most joy, are the ones that matter the most, and I try every day to give them most energy and time.

    Good luck to you all, may you find your way. :)

  11. For the past couple of years, I have been saying that I am in Marketing & Advertising, but aspiring to move into being a full time potter. I have been deeply unhappy with my day job for some time now and the “aspiring to” portion of my comment made me more unhappy everytime I said it.

    Earlier this year, I decided that I was a potter with a second job in advertising (not the other way around). All of a sudden, I found that I was happier and more driven to make my *first* job my primary source of income. I set up my Etsy shop, applied for a big Home and Garden Show in September, started getting applications for gallery shows out, and began the process for becoming an LLC and opening up a business bank account. The change in which job I labeled as my *first* job vs. my *second* job has given me the confidence to pursue my goals with a confidence I did not have before. Now when people ask me what I do, I proudly profess, “I am a potter” and I leave it at that.

  12. I have had a really good think about this and I am so many things to so many different people. Mum, wife, woman, daughter, sister, marketer, colleague, friend, expert finder of household objects, a talker, a listener, maker and doer of many things, an optimist. But I can’t introduce myself as that can I? Just imagine the glazed expressions as I reel all that off. I suppose I do label myself, sometimes you have to, but it’s not as simple as that is it? I am all the things I am, the experiences I have had, the bad times, the good times, the people I know, the people I love, the people I have lost. Hell I just AM! No label, nothing, just me, on life’s journey.

  13. Well..this way of commenting was not easy to figure out. Nothing I clicked on worked. I didn’t want to “participate” so you can remove my name from that part. LOL! Just wanted to comment that this is something I’ve been batting around awhile and just this morning I was trying to figure out what my artist’s statement is and where I want to put it on my blog, and my business card, and wherever else seems appropriate. I do not want to limit myself in my description so it will take some thought and no hurry. (smile)

  14. Well…a thorny question, to be sure. I’ve decided to call myself a designer and sewer primarily, because honestly that is what I spend most of my time doing. Designing things and then sewing them up! When I first started out with Holland Cox I was a little hesitant to call myself “designer” – I felt like I couldn’t really, because I wasn’t trained or anything. I’m over that now.

    Deep down inside, I probably do consider myself an artist, but I won’t lie, I am very often too chicken to say that out loud. Same thing with the “writer” label. If I call myself either of those things (although I regularly write and create art), I still feel an urge to justify myself, even if whoever I’m talking to accepts it without comment. I guess I have a little baggage to deal with there!

    I am definitely also an entrepreneur, but I’ve found that’s mostly what other people call me. I think “designer & sewer” is the most accurate, and the label I’m most comfortable with.

    I used to be a lobbyist, and curiously enough when I had that job, I was sometimes reluctant to use that label also, and preferred “advocate.” Like you, I was concerned what people might think when they heard that word “lobbyist,” which is a dirty word to some people. Eventually I learned to get over that and use “the L word,” because that’s what I was, after all. Registered with the federal government and everything. Accepting it definitely gave me more confidence in that job, just like calling myself a designer (because that’s what I really do) gave me more confidence in my current job. Still working on the artist/writer thing, though. :)

    Great discussion!

  15. Thanks for inspiring me to participate in We Scout Wed! This is a great topic, Tara! My twitter account says I am an “artist, jewelry designer, business woman, wife, mother (not necessarily in that order)”. We all wear many hats, but must choose which ones we want others to see.

  16. good question…and one that I enjoyed writing about in my blog – which was just as well as the piece of jewellery I was hoping to post about is still not finished.

  17. This is a fantastic question, and one that I think about almost every day, I think. I tend to be an excuse-maker… I always feel like I have to justify my answer, as though the many roles I take on aren’t enough! Then I feel bad about that~ I consider myself a student of Jesus, wife, mom, crafter, and writer- in that order usually. I am trying to let myself live free of labels at all- who do I have to answer to, anyway!? I love reading each of the responses here. you do such a great job helping me to dig deeper!

  18. Excellent question! I always ask that myself – not because I don’t know who I am, I pretty much do have a clear picture of myself. But I’ve always struggled with other people’s perception of myself – so I frequently ask myself – how can I explain myself to others?
    I hate the job/work label… it’s extremely confining (if you have any life beyond work). The outlook/appearance is also a wrong one. All this things can change, thus, they don’t define me.
    So… is there any appropriate?
    I don’t think so. Everything about me can and will change, eventually.
    You’ll just have to know me, then! :)

    I chose that photo because there is a thing about me my parents and all the people I know think never changed about me – my smile and my bursts of laughter!

    So – there I am! Nice to meet you too! (so unladylike, so discombobulated!) :)

  19. In order to have the guts to get going in my new business I put a sign up above my desk that said “I AM AN HISTORIAN”. It has been so liberating because I could put everything else away and just be that. So focusing and direct and inspiring as well – I want to live up to my sign! And, now I’m very comfortable in saying to people I meet that thats what I am! All good!
    ps. I am actually an historian too!

  20. I am a person who enjoys experiencing new things, a member of blogging community who wants to learn as much about her creative abilities, looking to inspire and be inspired by others.

  21. Wow…cool post!

    Hey Tara,

    A great and interesting topic, something which I have been giving a lot of thought too lately; as life has been morphing and unfolding.

    I also have to say that I have been reading you blog for a couple months now and it has been a great resource for me….especially the post you wrote talking about Dave Navaro. It was the start of what is now a very interesting journey.

    So thank you and keep up the great work!!


  22. Thanks for this, Tara.

    I needed something to spark me back to my blog…been in a blog block / rut.

    It’s a great question – labels can be used to our advantage or sometimes to our disadvantage…you know the ones that we put ourself down with. So I say grab on to that positive, affirming label and go for it!

  23. Hi Tara, this is a very interesting and important topic, even much more for those like me, who are struggling to get a name and a position into the handmade world, AND loves to do so many different things. How to call ourselves? how to answer to the ever more difficult question: “What do you do? what is your profession?”. Indeed I studied Graphic Design, that states in my Diploma, but am I a truly Graphic Designer?, or just plain a Designer? In our school our therory professors, tried to make us see and know the wider range. Something I won’t ever get tired of T.H.A.N.K.I.N.G !! on the other hand I also make art, I paint, I create from the heart, but sometimes without thinking about it, I am usually creating something with a purpose, something that is going to be used: aha! that’s Design! SO well …. My shop is about Handbags, that has to do with just sewing!, but I am designing the models, so that makes me now a sort of “fashion designer”? I don’t see myself like that. I guess is just about creating. Same thing with the jewelry, I am no expert in jewelry, so I guess it is about creating again. Same goes with watercolors, or sketches with pencils, or with toys for cats, patchwork tablecloth, knitting, or crocheting, etc…. Or even Websites ! that was my real profession until some years ago, when I moved to Germany and decided not to continue on this path, I wanted to explore more, I want to continue exploring, and most important, I want to create, as much as I can, with different methods as I find them. Is there a word to label this? Designer doesn’t fit -I’ve been told in public that what I do is decor rooms, what!?- Artist? doesn’t fit, I don’t create just for the sake of creating, I create objects with a life and a purpose, that’s design. Creative? don’t know. I’m constantly lacking good ideas and need a lot of help to develop some few good ones. I don’t see myself working in a big advertising agency popping out good ideas for campaigns. It is a difficult matter, but I guess I will continue calling myself: Designer, Artist, Creator. Thanks for your post. I think I’m going to write about it in my blog. Take care of yourself and those 2 gorgeous young men 😉

  24. I’ve never been a big fan of labels. They can be limiting, as you say & at times, damaging. I’ve experienced this first hand. So, while I appreciate what Jamie Fox was doing on American Idol (I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined writing that sentence), I try to avoid labels, whenever I can. Maybe the problem was labeling them ‘contestants,’ in the first place, rather than swapping one label for the next. I know this might make it more difficult for people to know us, but it also makes it more difficult for them to avoid looking beyond the label, to really know us. It’s a great question & an interesting discussion, thanks for posing it!

  25. I’m thinking…..

    • Labels are just the social lubricant of conversation.

    • Being labeled doesn’t bother me the more I am at peace with myself.

    • Making up labels up for myself is fun flirting.

    • Give people the opportunity to share about themselves.

    • Labels are like tags. We’re all just fishing for connection.

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  27. Today, everything has a label. You need a label. And if you want people to find you and find out about what you do, you better pick a good label. One that covers all that you do. Remember years ago we had telephone books? You had to find a plumber, electrician, restaurant, catering hall, exterminator, lawyer, ect, ect under all sorts of labels and sub labels. Now it’s search engines and social media and we get to reach a far and much wider audience with our expertise and our talents. We’re beyond our local retail craft fairs and wholesale shows now. Your website and blogs better have good labels if you want your customers to find you. It doesn’t have to take on a negative meaning, the word label today is just part of business, so use it to your advantage and make it YOUR label. It’s your identity, whether it’s supermom or super jewelery designer or super pottery artist.

    You may have started out in life as a “progeny” or a “pain in the keister”. Grown into “jock” or “nerd” and or became a “contestant” and then an “artist”. So what? Wear a dozen labels and wear it loud and proud. Labels open up discussions and communication which begets networking, begets contacts, begets customers. Then you can expand your label or change it if you like. It’s your label, make it what you will and make it work for you.

    I assemble jewelry for designers. We handcraft everything here in the USA. I don’t like to label it manufacturing or production because it does connote an image of sweatshops and employing young children in the Far East (I have been asked about that!). I run a small studio and hire local women and high school students in the community and we all work around our schedules. So far, Jewelry Assembly, Jewelry Outsource seems to work as a label for what we do. At least that opens an avenue for lots of questions so I can answer and add to it. Try out a label that you think best describes what you do. If it doesn’t stick, change it. But make sure it shows up on all the search engines!

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