Labels can help us (and others) know who we are, and they can limit how we grow.

Creative entrepreneur, designer, nonconformist, freelancer, blogger, wife, mother, roller girl, hippie … at one time I’ve wholeheartedly embraced these labels to only later feel confined and limited by them.

There are times when labeling who you are gives you a sense of identity and belonging. It can help give your work focus and let other people know what you’re all about. People ask us here about job titles all the time. They want to stand out – they don’t want to be like everyone else. Coaches want to call themselves “lifestyle designers” or “happiness engineers,” and designers want to call themselves “strategists” or “creative consultants.” But when it comes to being hired, would-be clients are looking for “a business coach” or a “graphic designer” – those same clear labels we sometimes feel compelled to cast off.

Labels can also give you a little boost of confidence. For example, sometimes I want to give up in the gym – especially when I’m boxing. But when I label myself an “athlete,” or even harder to imagine, “a fighter,” I get a little extra boost to put in the work. I’ve also tried on “writer” for size when I’m scared to get words on paper and you guys … it works. After chatting with Brenda Mangalore on our podcast earlier this week, I wondered how trying on the label “artist” might feel after ditching my background in fine art to pursue a more commercial route.

But labels can also be limiting – they can keep us from stretching beyond our boundaries and evolving into what’s next. For example, when I was “just a designer” the idea of coaching someone felt too far out of my pay grade. I’ve witnessed the label “introvert” keeping talented creatives from showing up and being seen, and I’ve seen the label “broke” self-limit artists from making bank.

I want to leave you with two questions today:
What label is holding you back?
And what label would you like to try on for size?

P.S. Have you read Danielle Krysa’s post on art & criticism this week? It’s a must-read for anybody who is trying on the label “artist”.

Kathleen is the co-host of Being Boss Podcast, helping creative entrepreneurs learn how to run their own creative business while being their most authentic selves. She also co-owns Braid Creative, a business visioning & branding agency for people- and purpose-driven businesses.