Labels – Putting Ourselves In Boxes

Recently I started thinking about the way in which people label things and why it is easier to simply put a tag on something than to consider it as something in its own right.

Right / wrong.
Thin / Fat.
Rich / Poor.
Gay / Straight.
Good / Bad.
Pretty / Ugly.

A lot of things we label subconsciously with little or no thought. It is part of a pre-programmed response mechanism, implanted thanks to an onslaught of mass media propaganda and the social conditions in which we are raised or schooled. Most of the time we don’t even realise we are doing it and you could argue that we have no control over it. Our minds make an instant snap decision which we have little or no power over.

Most recently the subject of single sex marriage sparked a lot of debate from supporters who were unhappy with the media coverage of it and their insistence on calling it “Gay Marriage”. If it was to be accepted as “normal” then why not just call it marriage? (That’s a whole other debate in itself).

Most of the time we seem willing to accept the labels and don’t question them unless we feel that those labels are somehow unfair to us.

But what happens when the boundaries of these labels begin to blur. When things don’t fit into their pre-defined boxes. When, we have to start thinking for ourselves and making our own decisions.

Well simple… we create new labels to replace those old ones. Find new ways of defining them. But still feel the need to attach labels and a form of identification to things in order for them to make sense to us.

I read an interesting article which was posted on Facebook about people who have an outgoing personality but are actually introverted and it struck a chord with me.

The article can be viewed here:

I recognised a lot of my own traits in this article and began to realise that actually what makes it difficult for us “socially awkward” people is the fact that people expect you to be one way or the other or you get classed as “weird”, because most people cannot deal with those who fall outside their “comfortable labelling system”. Put a bunch of us together and you’re in real awkward trouble…

So what can we do? Where does that leave us? Should we try and change who we are to fit into the comfortable labels of others? Try to conform to situations we aren’t particularly comfortable with? Every inch of my being is screaming “No, be true to yourself!” But the reality of it is that we do try and change who we are just to fit in. We become adept with chameleon like powers, changing the way we talk, our mannerisms, the way we sit to adapt to the situations that we are in. Why? Because it’s easier to blend into a crowd than to sit at the edge of it looking in. We all just want to be accepted and will do whatever it takes to be “normal”.

We are all actors at the end of the day and as Shakespeare rightly stated, “All of the world is a stage”. We try to become who others want us to be.

Over the last few years I’ve battled back against this. I have accepted the fact that I am me and not anybody else. Sounds simple enough but how many people can truly say they feel comfortable within their own skin? I have unashamedly become more outspoken and unafraid of airing my own thoughts and opinions on things. Sure I can still be awkward as hell in some situations, especially if you catch me on a bad day, or with a large group of people I don’t know. But I can now shrug it off and accept the fact that sometimes it’s okay not to fit in. It’s easy to make a swift exit if you need to. To the people who really matter it won’t bother them, to anyone new you just have to hope that they give you a chance and don’t label you too quickly.

It’s time for people to start thinking outside the box.

When you go to pre-judge something, stop and think about it for a second. Why are you labelling it that way? Could there be more to this thing than you previously thought? Is it worth holding off labelling it and trying to just accept it for what it is?

I think we are too quick to judge, too quick to stick to what we’re comfortable with. Labels become our personal defence mechanisms which are there to protect us from these mythical label monsters.

Perhaps sometimes it’s okay to embrace the unknown and be a little scared? Fear can remind us that we are all human and at the the same time unique in our own little ways.

Embrace individuality.
Embrace uniqueness.
And celebrate being different.

For if everyone were the same, things would be pretty boring…


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