I used to love labels, finally I could understand and compartmentalise my problems and other peoples – how useful and how restricting? Right?!
Exactly the problem with labels – when I think of labels now I think about how they limit us and they limit others too and that’s not a concept I feel is going to be useful for anyone.
We label others all the time. It helps us to compartmentalize situations and behaviors. Often, we’re actually communicating something about ourselves by saying, “I’m not that.” However, the fact that we label people by their behavior and characteristics can end up limiting our curiosity about a person.
Labeling is a cognitive distortion in which we generalize by taking one characteristic of a person, and applying it to the whole person. Because I failed a test, I am a failure. Because she is frequently late to work, she is irresponsible. If someone responded in a particular way they are unhinged.
I find it so interesting to listen to peoples labels of others because all it’s really telling me is their own perception and their own projection of people.
If you choose to see someone through a lens then remember it is through the lens of your own projection
If you choose to label someone as something what you are actually saying is they are the “not me” and therefore you hold some energy of rejection of this label
Labels can be limiting and unhelpful because they can give people an oversimplified view of an individual, situation, or group. Labels can be too broad to capture the nuances and complexities of a person or group, and may lead to assumptions and stereotypes that are not accurate. In addition, labels can be used to judge and exclude people, rather than to understand and include them. It is important to remember that people and situations are complex, and labels should not be used to define or limit them.
In the training I present we presuppose that people are not their behaviours and therefore labelling people in a way that separates the person from the behaviour is key to making sure that creating labels only means disempowering them.
So are labels ever useful?
It all depends on context and content of the way the material is framed.
Labels can be powerful tools for empowering people in many different ways. Labels can help people identify with a certain group or idea, and create a sense of belonging and community. They can also help people express themselves and their values, and be seen as a representation of their identity. Labels can also help people to gain recognition, find resources, and access services or support. They can also be used to draw attention to issues that are important to particular individuals or groups, and can be used to advocate for social change. Finally, labels can be used to create a feeling of safety and acceptance, helping people to feel supported and understood.
I would love to know what your experience is. Have labels empowered you or disempowered you?
With love and gratitude