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The Limiting Labels We Give to Each Other

It’s very easy to judge things as different and find their opposites due to the labels we tend to give everything. When was the last time you enjoyed something as it was without giving it a label? I wish I can enjoy the beauty of a flower without labeling it a flower and then comparing it to a weed. The only reason why we label things is because of the vastness of the world and the limitations of the mind. It helps to compartmentalize people, places, and things. It also comes with the real threat of mislabeling and even stereotyping people based on their appearance and behavior. The label then places limits on the people and things we interact with.

We do it to ourselves all the time. When you say “I am…” you are limiting yourself. I don’t like saying my profession as I am. I’m more than what I do at work. It’s kind of awkward for someone to ask, “What do you do?” The answer becomes I’m a digital marketer. The question is a question of action whereas the answer is one of identity. I know that I’m more than my LinkedIn profile, but I don’t know if I can say the same thing for everyone else. I’m also more than just my skin color, my knowledge of things, or how I dress. Yet, I am labeled as black, smart, or fashionable.

The Limitations of Labels

The worst part about labels is that it designates something that cannot be changed. If I label a plant that I see as a flower, it is only a flower. It can’t be anything more. It’s the same thing if I were to label someone incompetent. It’ll be almost impossible for me to then change my perspective after the label has been formed. We live in a society where if a person is labeled as a criminal, they are a criminal forever. The consequence of this label is not the years spent in jail or prison. They will find it hard to reestablish themselves back into society as it will be hard to do things like find a respectable occupation based on their status as a criminal.

Believing the Label

Once we subscribe to a label, we believe in the limitations that this label brings. Let’s say a person who’s gone to jail for committing a crime believes that he is indeed a criminal. Society tells him that he’s a criminal every time he fills out a job application and a background check is run. What do you think this person is going to do if he can’t find respectable work? What do you think he’ll do if he has a family to support? If he can’t earn a living the legal way, there’s only one other way to do it. Why not, he’s already a criminal. He’s just upholding the label that was given to him.

If a teacher tells a student that she is stupid, there’s a good chance that the student will believe this label. As a result, the student will never know her potential because someone else gave her a label. Kevin Hart is a funny comedian, but if he got a job at CNN as a news anchor, would you take him seriously?

It’s very difficult to prove to others who you are not. One shouldn’t have to do this. We live in a society where people are innocent until proven guilty, but once proven guilty, the person has no shot of becoming innocent again. Labels take on all or nothing meaning and if you are labeled something it’s very hard to shake it. Come with me over to the friend zone. No one wants to be labeled a friend to someone they see as potentially more. We do what we can to stay out of the friend zone because if we are labeled a friend, there’s nothing more that we can become. We are limited to this level of intimacy for seemingly ever.

Labels Bring Separation

Labels are the best way to cause separation. It’s the difference between the in-crowd and those on the outside. We identify as Republican and anyone who is a Democrat is completely different from us. It’s the reason why bread goes in the pantry and spoons go into an entirely different drawer. It makes it easier for our logical minds to organize the different characteristics of people.

The characteristics of people are limitless. It will always cause conflict because we can’t put the being of an entire person in a box of a word. We are more than just our sexuality, our race, our personality, our clothing, our education, our experiences, and anything else you want to bring up. If this is true for us, why can’t be true for everything else we don’t know yet we still label… like death. Is it hard to shake the idea of death because we’ve given it an identity and we are unable to change our perspective?