Every day we interact with strangers. During social occasions, when we get to work, at the shops, down the street to our favorite restaurant, we come across and talk with people we don’t know. Whether it’s inside the bus or on the tube, or even while walking on the street, through our days we are surrounded by new faces and complete strangers. As if in a knee-jerk reaction, we label those people right away.

We judge strangers according to what they wear, how they look like, or simple because of some special physical or personality trait that catches our attention.

The categories we create in this way, based on a chance meeting, on our mood and disposition, are anything but comprehensive or fair, but they serve the purpose of providing  us with a classification of ordinary encounters, a little structure in the overwhelming chaos of daily life.

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It may seem like a harmless habit, if you’re not aware of the consequences. By placing others into categories, we most certainly fail to see anything else about them beyond that characterization. Negatively labeling people makes them feel as if we don’t expect of them to change or improve. They learn to live their lives according to those negative labels, often confirming them.

In addition to that, when we give people negative descriptions, especially to friends, family or  those we love, we indirectly ‘motivate’ them to concentrate on that specific characterization, ending up exhibiting feelings of low self esteem and self value.

By oversimplifying those around us with labels, we are essentially precluding further development of their selves, and harm them far more than a simple insult would. Why should the “loud” girl ever try to be anything else, no matter what her aspirations are? She has been provided with a perfectly comfortable role to be stuck in, by you.

Due to labeling, many people and especially children have to struggle through social prejudice and racism; ‘normal’ children versus ‘problematic’ ones. The problem extends from school, to neighborhoods to other educational and recreational places. Most cultures and societies lack essential education on the matter  – one is not fat rather but has more kilos than someone else. People are not short, hyperactive, dyslexic or autistic. They are shorter than some others, have  more repressed energy than some others, more difficulties in reading and writing than other people and different mental and emotional perception than others.

We should label food and not people! The only thing we achieve when labeling people is to emphasize a negatively perceived, for society, characteristic of theirs.

[quote_box_right]‘Labels shape more than our perception of color; they also change how we perceive more complex targets, like people.’ (Adam Alter)[/quote_box_right]

Sometimes labeling is useful.  ‘It would be impossible to catalogue the information we process during our lives without the aid of labels like “friendly,” “deceitful,” “tasty,” and “harmful.” But it’s important to recognize that the people we label as “black,” “white,” “rich,” poor,” smart,” and “simple,” seem blacker, whiter, richer, poorer, smarter, and simpler merely because we’ve labeled them so.’

Have you ever thought about what kind of ‘label’ you fit under? Are you a nerd? a workaholic? a stressed-out mum? Are you black, white or Asian? Whichever it is, you believe you are special and you wouldn’t want people seeing you like that one thing alone. You are much more than just one label.
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Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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