L is for…
Late!!! It’s almost midnight and I’m just now getting something written for today. Aagghh!!
Really my word for today is labels. As in the way we label the people in the world around us.
I think most humans can’t help but label and that it likely goes all the way back to the earliest hominids. One of the most important things you need to determine when seeing someone is if they are family or stranger, friend or foe. And then it builds out from there, based primarily on physical attributes — tall/short, fat/thin, male/female, adult/child, etc.
As most of us are visually oriented, we really can’t help it. Plus, most of us have a deep-seated need to organize the world around us. And there is nothing wrong with that, until those labels are used to create and/or support prejudices, biases, discrimination, etc.
My basic labels are:
- animal lover
You get the idea. But only a few of my internal labels are ever going to be known to those around me, at least not until they’ve spent some time getting to know me. Most people are going to note only my physical attributes and never learn about my creative streak, my quirkiness, etc. And let’s face it, some of my physical attributes are going to be labeled in such negative ways that some people won’t even try to get beyond them.
This is where labeling becomes a problem. When you use it to limit your interactions with others because of your personal perceptions, personal ideas of what is good and what is bad, you are not only potentially harming yourself but also possibly those around you. What if you don’t like fat people, or women, or blondes so you’re rude to every one you meet who you label these ways, but then you need a doctor and that doctor is a fat, blonde woman who has previously been treated poorly by you? I imagine that you are really going to hope that she can overcome your rudeness and treat you with all her professional abilities.
I am not perfect. I often find myself labeling others, initially based on physical appearance. But I also am pretty good at catching myself when that labeling starts to veer over into the negative and the mean, even if it’s all in my head. And then, if possible, if circumstances warrant it, I take the time to get to know someone, to make a connection with them, to find out that they are some much more than their outward labels. Sometimes I may still not like them, it’s not possible to like every person you will ever come in contact with, but at least I will have made an honest effort to get past the societal and cultural messages about looks and their positive and negative labels.
In summary — labels are not inherently bad, it’s how we use them.