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Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus help over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and Netflix films. The Minimalists have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Forbes, TIME, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, BBC, and NPR.

Labels Are Necessary

“I don’t label myself a ________, but…”

We hear prefaces like this all the time. There seems to be this strange misnomer promulgated throughout the Internet—and throughout our daily lives—that labels are a bad thing.

We posit to you, however, that labels aren’t necessarily a bad thing: labels are a necessary part of our lives. If you use a language, then you are, by definition, labeling things.

Label: I am sitting in a chair. Label: I am typing on a computer. Several labels: I am a thirty year old heterosexual white male.

So why are we bothered by labels? The rub seems to be when we give too much meaning to our labels. You see, you’re not only a black woman, or a tall man, or an agoraphobic person: you are so much more. You are thousands of labels at once, and that is okay. Labeling is just the start in the process of better understanding someone or something.

Labels are like material possessions: they are necessary, but we don’t need to give them as much meaning as we often do.