I have been thinking about labels lately. This was partly brought on by some comments on my That’s Not Minimalist post which was why do I feel the need to label myself as a minimalist and that labels in general are not good.
When I think back over my lifetime I have at other times given myself labels. These include vegetarian and vegan (although I never felt that comfortable with this one as I never quite got there 100% and other more vegan people can be quite judgemental at times). And after some contemplation about the benefits and potential pitfalls of labels I thought I had it sorted out in my mind and then I recently watched one of my favourite minimalist youtuber Brittney Taylor’s discussion on her lack of definition in her somewhat unconventional relationship and how not using labels for anything allows her to think more critically about what works or doesn’t work for her life. And now i’m not so sure.
But here are my thoughts on topic and why I have felt the need to give myself a label and how I believe it has helped me, but how these benefits I think really only work for me due to my personality type so might not be right for everyone.
1. Labelling myself a minimalist keeps me on track. Like many labels the word minimalism describes a fairly complex concept in a single word. Yes i could probably tell myself whenever i’m tempted to stray from this lifestyle that i’ve chosen that my goal is to only have what is necessary and adds value to my life. But saying that, even in my mind is a lot more effort than just staying minimalism or minimalist. I can think the word minimalism and it conjures up a feelings and images that transcend words. This is far more powerful for keeping me on track than just saying a definition that I personally would fine easier to bend and shift as suited me with momentary whims of consumerist desire.
An easy comparison of this for me is with vegan. For 2 years I ate a mostly vegan diet and I found having this label allowed me to make better food choices health wise overall. Yes sometimes I may have turned down food which was still healthy because it wasn’t vegan, but if i’d started eating it that would have opened the flood gates for me to eat other less healthy non-vegan foods. I’ve realised my personality type needs consistency and rules sometimes.
2. Minimalism is a more powerful word to me than Simple Living. Likewise it has been suggested to me that i might be better to fit myself in with the simple living crowd. It is true that I have many competing philosophies like environmentalism and working towards self-sufficiency as well as zero waste. This therefore does position me smack bang in with many Simple Living ideas and communities. And yes definitely i’m trying to practice Simple Living. However I feel like as a concept Simple Living is less defined and since the minimalism aspect of it I find the most difficult to impliment in my lifestyle calling myself a minimalist is more powerful for assisting me to live a less consumerist lifestyle than the label simple living.
3. I’m a content creator and therefore labels are useful. As I run this blog and primarily a youtube channel it is extremely useful for me to use labels as it makes it easier for viewers and readers to find my content and for me to ‘find my tribe’ and share and exchange ideas with people looking for content on this topic. Minimalism and minimalist I believe is a useful search term, and people will know that is a primary focus of my channel because this term features in my channel’s name. Unlike people or channels who might just do a one off post on the topic.
4. Labels help you fit in. It is human nature to want to be part of a community, even if that is an online community. I consider myself part of many communities, the minimalist one is just one. It makes it clear I have something in common with other people who also use the same label and gives us something immediately to talk about. Perhaps an extrovert might not need this in the same way, again i’m sure this is partly a personality type thing.
5. I know when to quit. While I did previously say in point number 1 I like rules to keep me on track, I am always critically analysing and over thinking everything. I will stick to the ‘rules’ when I know it is overall in my best interest, however I also can recognise when something isn’t working for me and choose to step outside the label. This aspect is probably key as if someone will blindly follow something regardless of whether or not it is working for them, particularly if they are worried about falling out from a particular group or what other people might think is perhaps not going to benefit from labels at all.
So overall i’d say I believe I personally benefit from the use of some labels. This is not the same as labelling others which is stereotyping and wrong and down right not fair on the person being labeled. I think someone’s approach to the way they eat and how dieting may or may not have worked and in what way is actually probably a good indicator of their personality type and whether labels may be beneficial. This might then explain perhaps why so many people who label themselves as minimalist also often subscribe to restrictive diets such as veganism (although I believe there are also other reasons for this and this is something i’ve explored previously).
Do you benefit from labels and If so what other areas of your life have you applied labels? Comment below!