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What The Notorious B.I.G. can Teach us about Mental Health

Labelling is one of the most powerfully

dangerous thought traps that we can fall into. Today, we turn to one of the masters of hip hop to learn more about it. Give Juicy by the notorious B.I.G. a listen to hear about the dangers it presents, and the power of overcoming them.

Labelling is a habit we fall into where we “label” a person by something that they do. We can do this to ourselves, and it will often result in depression and a loss of self-esteem. We can also do it to others, and will result in anger and alienation. The problem is, no one is defined by any single thing they do. Let’s look at how this shows up in Juicy:

It starts in the introductory lines:

Yeah, this album is dedicated

To all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothin'

To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustlin' in front of

Called the police on me when I was just tryin' to make some money to feed my daughter

It looks like Biggie’s teachers and others around him saw some parts of him, and took that to be all of who he was. At another point in the song he says, “considered a fool because I dropped out of high school.” Now it’s easy to imagine a teacher getting frustrated with a student and then labeling them as someone who will “never amount to nothin’” and writing them off. Could you imagine though all the parts of this student they missed out on? B.I.G. is well known and appreciated for his musicality and lyricism. Even if he hadn’t have become a world famous rap star, he certainly could have been another sort of writer. For that matter his time spent “hustlin’” reveals an entrepreneurial spirit that is also being discounted when somebody told him he wouldn’t “amount to nothin’” When we label others we miss out on their gifts, and ultimately we are robbed of the chance to experience those.

If he had accepted the labels, we might all have been robbed of the chance to experience those gifts. Biggie, however, refused to accept those labels. Instead, he thought, “you know very well, who you are” and refused to let them “hold [him] down.” He knew he wasn’t defined by when he “used to eat sardines for dinner.” It was refusing to accept labels, and see that - like all of us- he was much more than his lower moments that allowed him to make “the change from a common thief, To up close and personal with Robin Leach.”

So let’s all try to pay attention to how we label each other and ourselves. Some common ways are to say things like, “I’m a failure” or “I’m not a good _____” where the blank is a role that is important to us like, parent, teacher, or even person. When we can realize that we all have good moments and bad, good aspects and negative aspects, we can start to let go of those labels and instead see ourselves as “A person who sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails.” There is no shame in that - that defines every single person on earth! When we can free ourselves from labels, having some failures is no longer a problem - in fact it can be a joy because it shows us something to work on to move the direction we want to go. Dropping the labels can allow us all to live “life without fear.”

And if you don’t know, now you know!

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