Just my Thoughts

Labels! UGH!

I use to wonder about the use of the word UGH but now it fits.  Labels!!!!!  UGH!!!

I have spent a little time this week reading about labels.  Belinda, over at The Halfway Point, wrote about labels this week.  Jane, at They Call Me Jane’s Blog, also wrote about labels this week.  Both got me thinking, as I have for some time, how labels affect us.  I also had drinks with a dear friend this week who threw some thoughts into my mind about labels, too.

Belinda talks about growing into labels as in the first time an adult called her and classmates women.  She also talks about some labels that do not bother me such as “human,” the one label that connects us all.

Jane talks about labels overshadowing accomplishments.  She sets this post in the historic winning of the Best Director Oscar by Kathryn Bigelow.  I have to admit I was long asleep by the time this Oscar was given out, even if I did catch a little of the show.  And, I am with Jane when she says, can we get over the fact that Bigelow has a vagina and focus on her accomplishment?  Shouldn’t the accomplishment be the focus of post-award shoe interviews, not her being female?

My own experience with labels frustrates me to no end.  I have been labeled because I am no longer married.  I have been labeled because I attend public meetings and speak my peace.  I have been labeled by those not in my relationships as to what those relationships are.  All of these labels have, whether I accepted them or not, influenced the growth of me as a person or the relationship as a living thing.

Labels put constraints on people, on relationships, on life.  If you are labeled, just as an example, as ADD while a child, you carry this label and the expected behaviours with you all your life.  Sometimes, the label is just that but other times, people will figure why bother to get the behaviours in check when that is what is expected.

When you are in a relationship, others always want to know what that relationship is.  Seldom will anyone live with the answer “we’re friends” for long when a relationship is between a male and a female.  Other people expect a different type of relationship between the sexes, especially adults.  And, at times, it is these expectations that push and change and ultimately mold a relationship.  These expectations put pressure on those in the relationship, whether they admit it or not.  The pressure then, also, molds where the relationship goes.  It is impossible to stay out of this type of a trap unless the relationship is totally hidden.

So what do you think of labels?  Have you had good or bad experiences with them?  Have you ever had someone label you something you are not or do not want to be?

18 thoughts on “Labels! UGH!

  1. Such good points Nicki – I hate labels – and all they do to us.

    My oldest was labelled at the very beginning of his school life – by the school, and by me – the young, naive single mom. His very first teacher stuck an ADD label on him and told me that he needed Ritalin. This was news to me – he never had trouble focusing on stuff he was interested in. The girl I was decided the teacher must be right and so I put him on it. Suddenly, my happy, creative boy was a walking zombie. It took a couple months for me to get the courage to stand up and say “NO” – this is not my child. To this day, I still feel guilty about that.

    Thanks for discussing this – we all have to say “NO!” to these labels!

    1. Thanks for stopping by today, Shawna. This has been a post that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.

  2. Another great thought-provoking post, Nicki. Thank you for bringing this up again. (And I totally agree about Kathryn Bigelow and how her accomplishment is being downplayed because of the first woman talk.)

    I remember a phase in grade school when the label “best friend” was really important. It wasn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of close, deep friendship. It was more a badge of honor, a pact between two girls who wanted something to feel proud of. And it got twisted into something it wasn’t. I felt bad because I didn’t have a “best friend” just a lot of normal friends. Strange how we use words to define things.

  3. Well said! I struggle with labels. They have their purpose. But as you pointed out – when they overshadow a person’s essence a label can restrict our opinion.

    1. I sometimes – other than food labels – have a problem with the purpose of labels. I know they are sometimes good, sometimes bad but still I struggle.

  4. Like Jane said, labels have their purpose. For instance, my brother has Aspergers. When people meet him, they often think he is weird. But, when we point out his Aspergers, they usually see him in a different light.

    Yet, their are many harmful labels–drunk, druggie, etc. I am sure you have been placed in the irresponsible category because you have 6 children. A label that does not describe you at all.

    Great questions and post.

    1. Amber – here is a good laugh for you. My sister dated a man who believed in zero population growth. He would not stop foot in my house when they visited. Weird, huh?

  5. On the one hand, I think labels can be useful. On the other, I think that they can be limiting and frustrating. The current label that I wear – stay-at-home-mom – doesn’t begin to describe the diversity of women who share it.

  6. I swear I’ve done all the labeling of myself – Jewish, asthmatic, etc. But I’m sure people around me have labeled me as well. At times people have labeled me as “funny” and then it’s amazing how much they don’t want you to ever be serious, even if you’ve got serious things on your mind. Labels can work both ways, I think. Positive labels can be limiting as well as negative ones.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  7. I see labels as purely functional. They stand in for the real description of something or someone and therefore is not meant to capture the nuances. For a long time, I focused on its limitations but I found I needed to really own at least one that I’ll always be: woman. I do a lot of women’s advocacy work and have encountered a lot of mixed feelings (defensiveness, anger, victim mindset, etc.) surrounding this word and so I’ve had to go through a process of personalizing this word. So for me, there are labels that I love and others that I reject. I focus on those that I love.

    Great post! Many thanks for the link.

    1. I will have to think about labels as purely functional. I think I still have a problem with them but maybe not. That will take some contemplating.

  8. Yes! We must’ve been channeling each other early this morning!

    Labels are helpful in certain ways (they do serve us in marketing, in the sciences, in the grocery store, the pharmacy). Labels serve us little when it comes to people – except perhaps as a bridge, or an entry point, to allow someone access to something (a personality type or situation) they wouldn’t otherwise know how to broach.

    In that way, even our own labels are helpful without being constricting.

    Terrific post!

    1. I couldn’t believe, when I popped over to your site, that you also had something similar up today, BLW. Thanks!

  9. Hi Nicki – I like labels if we give them to ourselves. It’s a way we name ourselves in the world, like for you, “I am a runner.” It’s a powerful thing to do, transformational actually. But when someone gives us a label we don’t like or doesn’t fit, I agree that’s a problem. It’s a way other people misname us and make us feel less than. But I think one reason that gets us so upset is because we don’t set them straight often enough, we simmer with the label we’ve been given rather than step up and say, “Hey, you’re wrong. This is who I am.” I know it takes energy to do that, and sometimes courage, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.

    1. I guess I didn’t think about labels we give ourselves, Patty. Valid points on those. Although, it has taken me a long time to work into that label of runner. I still sometimes cringe when I say it.

      My problem has been more in relationships. Others always want to know what type of relationship. Others want a label and are not necessarily – regardless of how many times the answer is the same label – willing to accept that label that those in the relationship put on it.

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