The Poison of Labeling

Jenny, a 1st grader, shows up to art class and doesn’t do so well with her first project. She feels embarrassed, stupid, rejected, and sad. Later, she goes to music class and has a similar experience. She didn’t pick it up as quickly as the other students, so she is once again stung by negative feelings. Since she equates specific activities (art and music) with being creative, she determines that she is not a creative person. Or worse, her teachers or parents tell her this lie which stays with her throughout her lifetime.

Labeling is one of the main reasons why people don’t let their natural creativity flourish. Even when a great idea pops in their mind, they are hesitant to share it because it is “probably not very good. If it was a good idea, someone else – a more creative person – would have thought of it.”

Part of the problem is how we define creativity. Creativity is not only about music, art, or theater. Creativity is the ability to develop new ideas which can be applied to any medium. There are professional musicians in major symphonies that are fabulous technicians, but exhibit no creativity whatsoever. They play the notes on the page, exactly as written, and do not create a thing. In contrast, there are statisticians who are brilliantly creative, developing new approaches and techniques on a regular basis.

Being creative and being a “Creative” are two very different things. There are graphic designers who lack creativity, and forensic accountants who exude it. There are authors who are formulaic and repetitive while there are mortgage brokers who are constantly reinventing their approaches. There are chefs who follow the recipe exactly as written, while there are athletes who improvise constantly in order to win. “The truth is that all sorts of people, possessing various levels of natural ability are capable of engaging in fulfilling creative processes”, according to Psychology Today magazine. “Buying into a limited definition of creativity prevents many from appreciating their own potential”

How has labeling impacted your own creative expression? Have you let your job title, resume, or self-doubt inhibit your true creative brilliance? This week, throw away those imaginary obstacles. The label doesn’t make the person – just like the movie title doesn’t make a great film. Think of your only label as “creative genius” and you’ll be amazed at what you can do when you believe you can do it.