Whether it’s at a networking event, a party, a business event, a stock trading seminar, at a conference, the grocery store, the park, on vacation or anywhere else I find it interesting to meet someone new and to get to know them. It does not matter where you first meet someone, when you introduce yourself, of course, you state your name and in one way or another, you are being labeled and you are labeling. The more you communicate together, the more labels you have. This makes sense because we label everything. We label food, cars, clothing styles, homes, neighborhoods, stores, movies, music, schools, materials, chemicals, plants, animals, jars, drawers, weather, eras, wars, and so on. We have been doing this since we were toddlers. So, it’s seems only natural that we also label ourselves and others. We are trained to do so by society and the people closest to us.
Many people tend to understand each other based on these labels. From there, we decide whether or not we like them or not, want to be closer to them or not, and so on. We decide whether we can trust them or not, how we feel about them, we judge them, and put them into a little box in our mind. Here are some of those labels:
- Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Uncle, Friend, Enemy
- Skinny, Fat, Ugly, Beautiful, Pretty, Hideous
- Nice, Mean, Kind, Rude, Stingy
- Actress, Model, Singer, Paparazzi, Reporter
- Leader, Follower, Influencer, Hater, Authentic, Fake
- Criminal, Cop, Judge, Lawyer
- Banker, Accountant, Janitor, Engineer, President, Chef, Homemaker
- Emo, Prep, Goth, Valley Girl, Foreigner, Native
- Rich, Poor, Sleazy, Clean, Responsible, Irresponsible
- City Boy, Country Girl, Suburb Guy, Beach Girl
- Young, Old, Babyish, Mature, Immature
- Healthy, Sick, Healer, Carrier
- Hard-working, Lazy, Smart, Stupid
These labels are just a sample of what we label ourselves, label others, or others label us. We are so used to labeling each other and in many areas, it seems like an appropriate way to introduce ourselves, especially at work. For example in a hospital environment, if you are a Doctor, it is important you let your patient know this. Same thing goes for other hospital employees like a nurse, a technician, or a janitor. In addition, hospital visitors need to identify themselves with labels like mother, brother, friend, supplier, salesperson and so on.
Labels can have a positive effect in other areas as well. For example, when you are looking to connect with others like moms connecting with other moms, fitness enthusiasts with those looking for inspiration and responsible people looking to connect with other responsible people.
Unfortunately, some labels seem to have a positive effect at first, but then can lead to imbalances in life. For example, labeling a girl as pretty and never acknowledging that she is also smart can make her become so concerned with her appearance and using that to get her ahead in life. This puts a lot of pressure on a girl.
Other labels are simply outright discouraging, like ugly, poor, lazy, and stupid.
Sometimes labels put people into a box and create expectations from other people. For example, many people call me nice. But, I am not always perfectly nice. I make mistakes or may be nice in a way I think is nice — but not necessarily nice in a way someone else thinks is nice. When this happens, one may then label me a hypocrite — even though I did not label myself nice. Another example, is the label Mom. People put moms in a box thinking they are suppose to be a certain way and when they are not, people will be shocked and say something like, “Isn’t she a mom?”
These are just a few ways that labels impact our lives. I can not possibly give every example in this short blog article, but we can discuss this further on #InspireChat on twitter on Monday at 12pm EST on twitter. If you miss the chat, you can share your thoughts below and share some insights you have about labels and/or how they affected you.