Friday, September 16, 2011

I'll Tell You Where You Can Stick Your Labels

I've got a question for you all. (Aren't ya'll proud I didn't say ya'll?) Why do you think people are so quick to label one another? Especially in a negative light. I can remember being labeled going all the way back to early childhood. My mother used to tell people "My oldest daughter is the smart one, my middle daughter is the artistic one and my youngest (me) is the funny one." See, I understand why she said it but looking is really interesting how I was convinced, early on, that being 'the funny one' in her eyes somehow disqualified me from being smart or artistic. I was labeled and that was that. I believed what she believed was true about me. I'm not picking on her...but now that I am a parent, I have a new perspective and I realize how important it is to be careful not to label my kids. Especially in their presence. They are who they are. They are complex little human beings and to label them is to confine them. I don't want to do that.

I was watching CNN the other day (I try not to make it a habit) and it was so wild to me how the various talking heads were telling all of us mush-brained zombies out in TV Land what to think and feel about this person and that person just because (now follow along closely here...) they said so. And I was going right along with it at first because that's what we mush-brained zombies do, occurred to me that I really had no earthly idea if they were right or wrong about the targets of their verbal slings and arrows. I never actually did any of my own fact finding about these individuals, I just 'read the labels' the media had slapped on them and didn't even think twice. Why do we do that? I don't know about you, but I'm going to make the effort to do more of my own research from now on.

It made me think: How many times a day do we make snap judgments according to the label someone has put on someone else? "She's a snob." "He's a cheater." "They are poor." " She's bossy and demanding." "Their kids are spoiled brats." "That kid has ADHD." "She's totally Schizo." And so on. All of these characterizations may be spot on. Or maybe they are not. But how often do we hear these things and just go along with it without allowing the person the courtesy of drawing our own conclusions and giving them the benefit of the doubt?  Probably too often. Have you ever gotten to know someone and thought to yourself "this person is nothing like I thought they would be. How did I misjudge them? " It is most likely because of blindly accepting the label someone else had stamped on them without giving yourself an opportunity to get to know them first. Preconceived notions can really get in the way of our relationships sometimes, can't they?

Not long ago, I was talking with someone close to me about this blog. She actually said this: "Why are you spending so much of your time doing that? You're not even a writer. You're a mom. Doesn't being a mom keep you busy enough?" I was floored. Yes, I'm a mom. I'm also a wife. I'm a writer. I'm a singer. I'm a decorator. I'm a school volunteer. I'm a pretty fair (completely unqualified) counselor when someone asks for my help. I'm a child of God. These things are not mutually exclusive. These are just some truths about me. Of course there are other truths about me that aren't as flattering. I'm a person with talents and flaws just like everyone else. I don't need labels. Neither do you. Neither does anyone else.

A famous person once said 'labels are for jars...not for people. Those are my sentiments exactly. In fact, I'll tell you where you can stick your label: how about on a can of Spam or any place else as long as it isn't on me. I'll try to return the favor and keep the labels off you, too. :o)

I'll leave you with this quote by one of my favorites:

“Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let man label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country- hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.”  ~Mark Twain

Yeah. What he said.



  1. Well written! Labels drive me crazy. That's why I like to steer clear of them in my writing. The quiet scholar rides the Harley. The tatooed and pierced tough guy listens to Mozart and reads poetry. Because what we look like doesn't make us who we are. :) Have a great weekend, Cat!

  2. Loved this one too, Cat. I work with kids who get labeled all the time - even by some teachers who should know better. Thanks for writing this.


  3. Brings the old "Don't judge a book by its cover" to my mind. I love this very much! Great job.

  4. Labels certainly do confine people. Great post. I have an article about judging people in a negative light in my book Notes For The Goats.

  5. Hi guys...thanks for taking the time to let me know you were here! I wrote this because I wish we would all take the time to value one another and respect each other no matter who we are or where we come from. You may say I'm a dreamer but apparently I'm not the only one! :0)



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