Have you noticed that society has gotten more and more stuck on labels while crying out NOT to be labeled but to be free to just be?
These labels can range from deep issues regarding gender, race, sexual orientation, political party to learning challenges, disabilities, neurodiversity, behavior and mood for the moment.
I have a sticker on the bottom of my tennis racquet that has an angel and a devil emoji. I spin the racquet and ask my opponent to choose, devil or angel to decide who serves first. It really gives me insight into my opponent based on what they choose and if they put an, “I am a…” before it. Don’t we have both inside us all?
What labels do you find yourself using for yourself? What ones do you use for your kids, friends, co-workers and loved ones?
Why do we use labels and put people into categories so much?
This makes me think of a niche or target market in business. Why is it important for businesses to have a “target market” such as “high achieving women” or “stressed out moms”?
These labels are meant to provide insight and understanding about another. They are meant to group people into categories for two main reasons:
- To create awareness of who people are and what their needs are.
- To create a sense of belonging and connection within the labeled group or category.
So what is at the heart of labels is really to facilitate understanding, awareness and connection.
What if I told you these labels can sometimes be limiting and divisive?
I think of my son who had the stroke at birth. His neonatal stroke provided him a “label” of “brain injury” which allowed him to receive early intervention services and later, an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). These were the benefits to having a “label”.
But, the limitations of the labels came with peoples bias or expectations when they labeled my son as simply (X), be it brain damaged, learning disabled, neurodivergent or even, in his younger years, “behavior problem.” He, the individual, was NOT the label. The label was simply information to help people understand him as something beyond the surface… a complex, compassionate, loving, determined and resilient individual faced with a set of neurological challenges that can create frustration, judgment from others, processing issues and the need for others to be patient, kind and change the means of instructions a bit.
When my son was younger, I used the labels often as a way to try to get him the support and understanding I felt he needed. But, there were times people underestimated what he could do or denied him access to things as his label was a “limitation”. I found it to be a sort of crutch, or an excuse for WHY he was not able to meet others expectations. We now limit the use of any labels as he is way beyond the box it puts him in.
I think of my other son who had leukemia at 2.5 years old. He was my shy, introverted son who did not love being the center of attention. We had a Pan Mass Challenge team named after my son for over 12 years. As teammates wanted his picture taken, and fawned all over the “kid who had cancer”, my son hated it. He finally said around age 12, “Mom, I am sick of being the kid who had cancer. I don’t even remember it.”
We acknowledged this, respected it and let people on the team know we needed a new name. By rejecting this label, my son has found space to discover an interest in medicine as a high school junior. He is now recognizing a new label that is helping him find purpose and inspiration… survivor. He is doing a fundraiser for cancer research called “Attack Cancer” with the Headstrong foundation where he is collecting donations and pledging his lacrosse season to cancer research. You can donate here.
Recently, I watched an old BBC clip about young children being asked what was the difference between their friend and them and it really made me think of labels, comparisons and how these do not exist in young minds. They connect on a soul level and it is based on energy, joy and commonality of these deeper things while adults focus on commonality of labels and surface things. You can watch my reel about this on instagram here.
So, if we want a better, more peaceful and unified world, we must not attach to labels. Understand the intention behind a label, to create understanding and connection, but do not allow a label to define something or someone. Instead, take the time to connect and to understand and see the individual, the multitude of labels that create the big picture, the beautiful individual beneath the surface.
Labels are NOT to be used as an excuse, a free pass, or to create retributions or hierarchies.
Use them for good.
Use them to facilitate connection and a desire to truly see and understand without bias, judgment or condemnation.
This is the world I hope to see for my kids and grandchildren to come.
Who is with me?
Your Transformational Coach and Mind, Body and Spirit Connector
If you are struggling with comparisons, expectations and finding deeper connection and awareness, lets connect! Book a FREE Clarity Call with me here.