- Nancy Urbach
Are you Tired of Labels?
It's happened to all of us. You walk into a store, a restaurant, a bar, and you're immediately labeled by someone. It could be because of the way you look, what you're wearing, your age, your skin color, the place you're at, who you're with, or even something as innocuous as a political sticker on your shirt. We're all guilty of labeling people. It's human nature. We see someone who doesn't fit our definition of "normal" and we instantly judge them. Some notice it right away and try to get to know the person first before making assumptions, but those individuals are few. If no one is in immediate danger or is causing you direct harm, why are they any of your business? How do we break free from assumptions from labels that are not our identity? How do you make efforts to understand instead of passing judgement? How do we not waste our time on those whose minds will not be changed by our truth?
Labels are not your identity!
Labels are like book titles; they give you a basic idea of what the book may be about, but they don't reveal the whole story. For instance, when someone asks you what you do for a living and you say "lawyer," they automatically start labeling you from what society thinks of lawyers.
Once the label of "lawyer" is shared, most new acquaintances stop there, but what they don't know is that you volunteer at a shelter twice a month and have a passion for helping those who can't help themselves. Labels are too limiting to reflect the real you. Keep that in mind the next time you meet someone new. Try sharing your favorite things to do at work or share the values you focus on at your job and how they spread over to your personal interests, when the question of what you do for a living comes up again. As people our identity has more depth including our interests, passions, beliefs, and more that can not be summed up in the label of what we do for a living.
Learn more instead of judging!
If you are not going to ask questions to learn more, then mind your own business. If someone is not directly involving you or you don’t see anyone in immediate danger, walk on. If I enjoy dancing down the aisles of Target while looking for my favorite bag of chips, it doesn’t mean I am crazy or a rule breaker. Maybe I just need to be silly for a moment to cheer myself up from 10 hours of stressful work. People are complex and have more layers to them than what you see in 5 seconds passing a target aisle with a dancing lady. If you want to ask the person, “hey why are you dancing”, that’s the first step in trying to learn more. Walt Whitman said it best, “Be curious, not judgmental.” When you take the time, you may just learn something interesting about a person instead of instantly missing out by jumping to immediate conviction.
Don’t waste your time!
If someone is so eager to label you that they get up in your face and seem hostile, sometimes it is best to just walk away. As much as you want to correct them and explain yourself, they already made up their mind about you, enough to get in your face. If they are not trying to have a civil conversation with you, then they are not worth your time or risk. It's better to just let them think what they want and move on. There are plenty of other people in the world who would love to have a conversation with you, and those are the ones worth your time. So don't let the haters get you down, just shake it off and move on.
Take a moment to think about all the labels you've ever been given in your life. Chances are, you can think of at least a few. Now, think about how it felt to be given those labels. Labels can be damaging, both to our self-esteem and our relationships with others. We all have unique perspectives and experiences that make up our identity. Embracing our differences is what makes life interesting. Don’t waste your time with judgmental people. We all need to learn to open our minds, actually talk to one another. You might just be surprised by what you find.