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What we do matters more than labels

By Anousheh Ansari, Special to CNN
  • Anousheh Ansari: When I saw the world from space, human divisions didn't appear
  • She says people continually label each other, dividing the world
  • She says what people do is far more significant than how they're labeled

Editor's note: Anousheh Ansari is the first female commercial space flight participant and the first Muslim woman to travel to space. The co-founder and former CEO of Telecom Technologies, she also co-founded and heads Prodea Systems, a global consumer services company connecting people and technology, as well as the Ahoora Foundation, a nonprofit organization that enables social entrepreneurship. She is also the author of "My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer," published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Who am I? That's the question that we ask ourselves from our early cognitive years to the day we die. The answer changes as we grow and live our lives, but we never stop asking the question.

Who am I? I'm a daughter; I'm a sister; I'm a wife; I'm a friend; I'm an entrepreneur; I'm a space traveler; I'm an Iranian; I'm an American; I'm a woman; I'm a CEO; I'm a Muslim; I'm an engineer; I'm an author.

I am all that and yet I am none of it. These are the different ways people define me. They would relate to me in their own way -- see me in their own light -- and label me and box me as they see fit.

I have never been one to care much about what people think about me and how they label me. I don't preoccupy myself with it, since I have very little control over it.

Those who label me as an Iranian would argue with those who would label me as an American. Some would question why I should be called a Muslim and some would take offense if I wasn't. At the end of the day, none of it matters. At night, when I close my eyes and look back at my day, what matters is what I did and not what I was called doing it.

Who am I? I am a human -- plain and simple -- no labels attached. I would be honored if everyone would think of me and preferably others as such.

Name: Anousheh Ansari
Age: 42
Birthplace: Mashhad, Iran
Occupation: Entrepreneur, space traveler

By labeling ourselves or others, we create boxes, boundaries and decide who belongs on what side of the line. We divide ourselves, and by dividing ourselves, one would determine which side of the line is better.

Sometimes each side believes that their side is better and sometimes one side can be so persuasive to make the other side believe that they are on the wrong side. At the end, it doesn't matter which side you are on because no one wins. The labels we put on ourselves and let others put on us are just that -- labels. And they can be removed. Once we are free, we can just be human, pure and simple.

I have lived my life fulfilling many roles, as mentioned above. Sometimes I did a great job at it and other times I came short. At the end, however, I filled each role with love.

When I was floating freely in space and looking back on Earth from my safe haven amongst the stars, I saw a world without division...
--Anousheh Ansari

As long as love was involved, it didn't matter what I was called -- I was doing something I loved, something I wanted to do and something that was important for me to do.

At my core, I am someone who is at awe of the universe and this mystery we call life. When I was floating freely in space and looking back on Earth from my safe haven amongst the stars, I saw a world without division -- just one Earth -- in this vast universe.

From my vantage point, the lines had been blurred and had become invisible. I knew that back on Earth, these imaginary lines were very much present and causing all of our problems. But up there, the lines did not matter. They did not exist. I made a promise to myself: Remind people of who they really are and not which box they are in, because those lines really do not exist.

So who am I? I am a human who loves to live my life to the fullest. That's who I am.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anousheh Ansari.