Leave Labels on the Shelf

The words are mighty: “Labels. Not just for food.”

Does anyone else wish people came with labels tatted on their arms? I mean, in terms of dating it could come in handy. Imagine how cool it would be to lift a sleeve up and pre-check what type of “baggage” someone has, as easy as it is to identify if something is gluten free.

“Narcissistic tendency-free, will inspire you to burn calories because they're awesome in bed, respects all beings. Other ingredients: Red 40, irresponsible, smoker, player”

I would say that this would make it way easier to avoid heartbreak or certain hardships you know you couldn't stomach, but we should be glad the world we live in is not that way. The fact is, the labels we do put on each other needs to stop.

Are you the same person you were when you were 5?

I hope not and highly doubt it. Would you still want to be dating your kindergarten crush now if you knew how irresponsible or mean-spirited they grew to become at the age they are now? Probably not. Unless they somehow did turn into that “knight in shining armor” who we all fantasize about being perfectly compatible just for us. But for the sake of argument let’s just go with, no.

Our lives are not linear and just because someone is thin one day doesn't mean they still will be thin at the end of their journey. Things change, people change, and our bodies change, which I’d say is really a good thing. I know I don't want to still be stuck in an 80's groundhog day.

It's too often that we lose sight of our lives being a journey that progresses, and an evolution that is our lifetime with the day-to-day grinds and responsibilities. By labeling others we begin to dehumanize each other even when we might be thinking it's just a description. Some labels are unavoidable because it's so woven into our society's fabric.

Let's take celebrities for instance. How would you describe Lady Gaga?

“Pop artist,” maybe. “Performer” as another. Some might say “singer.” Not one of those labels is necessarily bad; we view it a description the same way we would describe the “runt” of a litter. It just is what it is.

Now let's talk about what connotations each description implies and how much stress that may begin to inflict:

“Pop artist” might imply that they don't make “real music” in some opinions, or that they have a “rockin’ body” to be envied. You might expect a “performer” to be “entertaining,” and as a “singer” you expect them to “sing well,” not to mention be “easy on the eyes” and “physically fit.”

That's a lot of pressure as is. But then what happens when they don't live up to these expectations? Often times it ends in ridicule and some form of shaming.

Since I've already been talking about Lady Gaga, for example, her recent performance during the Super Bowl halftime ended with a slew of critical people body-shaming her for being in the flux of something as a human being.  So she has a “tum tum.” Don't most of us? I would wager many of her shamers do, a lil’ “pot calling the kettle black,” hypocritical if you ask me.

I believe she handled the criticism well and responded in a classy manner, but I still can't help but feel for her or anyone who has ever been put down or has been made to feel bad about themselves, because I too know that feeling all too well. The worst part is that every single person involved in shaming or having a negative opinion of her body probably knows what it feels like. They probably know how much damage or potential harm it could do to a person's psyche, which could lead to a person’s health taking a declining turn in one form or another. 

Labels tend to do more damage than good.

If you're labeled as “thin,” you're expected to remain thin. If you're labeled as “overweight,” then you may experience some sort of shaming at some point. These types of pressure put a lot of stress on the mind which in turn will affect your thoughts and internal dialogue. How your body responds could potentially lead to serious health issues if ignored or not addressed, not to mention the impact is can have on your self-esteem

Now let's talk about the labels we use in politics since this is a hot topic right now and should be addressed.  “Republicans” versus “Democrats.” “Liberals” versus “Conservatives.” “Rock-throwers” versus “Non-Destructive partisans.”

Every “Republican” I know is actually not racist and every “Democrat” that I know is not a bleeding heart for various causes. I would actually wager now more than ever that very few people fall completely on either end of the spectrum. You can be pro-life and still want the glass ceiling to be broken, in the same way that others may be for a woman's right to choose and also be fiscally conservative and want their hard-earned tax contributions to be used responsibly.

Based on my observations from friends, family, coworkers, and others that I know (and yes, regardless of religious beliefs) most people really actually want the same types of things. Yet, we allow labels to divide us and drive two sides of an argument that might not be there at all. On a subconscious level, it might make us not hear anything the other side is saying because you've already decided that what they want is not the same outcome that you want. This may simply be based on the assumptions implied by the labels that we've already settled on for them, thus limiting how open the communication between each other is.

If we could all be more mindful of this, then maybe we'd be able to see past the distortions and start having more compassion and general understanding of each other's unique perspectives. If we didn't initially go into any topic with preconceived notions of one another, we could more easily discuss topics so that a mutual compromise could be reached. Ultimately, this would lead to a healthier society for everyone, as well as allow for more overall peace, while reaching more inclusive outcomes.

Participating in the labeling of others fuels the division of others. These thoughts ultimately entrap us and perpetuate the destructive cycles that continue to cause turmoil. If anything, labeling others should be thought and used in the sense that each of us are made from unique versions of the same fabric.

Help me to start leaving labels on the shelf where they belong. I know this may be yet another aspect of our beings to add on the personal "Work On" lists, but I hope it has raised some sort of awareness. Thank you for reading.