Labels Don’t Make Us
When people expect us to behave in a certain way, when they label us, we lose our identity. We lose a sense of originality and get lost amongst a crowd of copies. Labels don’t make us, they break us.
Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined – Toni Morrison
I started to think about labels and how they break us, when I saw someone who we normally tend to refer to as disabled, on the bus. (This story explains this topic visually)
My initial way of thinking changed. For this moment in time the thoughts I would usually have, seized to enter my mind. These were the thoughts of sorrow and pity. Putting myself on a pedestal just because of someone’s label. Comparing how I felt, and thinking that I was having a better day than someone labeled disabled. All of these thoughts seized to exist and a new perspective was formed.
How could I possibly think, that just by looking at someone whom I did not know, that my life was better than there’s? Who was I to judge? And I realised that I had never thought of this type of behaviour as judgement because of how it was accepted in society. Adding a label to someone and treating them in a certain way was deemed normal. But this is a label, that was not given to them by choice, is it fair to treat them by their label? Without knowing it I was reacting to a label.
Let’s say that I was having an exceptionally bad day, and using my initial way of thinking, I think of myself as being in a greater position in life, than someone who has a ‘disability’. How is this conceivable? Why should judging them and perceiving that I have a better life than them, help me overcome my bad day? How do I know that they aren’t having a tremendous day themselves? These are the questions that never occurred to me. I understand gratitude is important, but in the context which I had previously been practicing, unconsciously, it wasn’t healthy. There should be no sorrow or pity, as we do not know what emotions or feelings someone is going through, only love and an attitude to help others.
How hard must it be to live a certain way, just because a label has been given to you?
If I were to be categorised into a certain group, which would then dictate how others saw me and treated me, how hard would it be to get out of that label? And never mind everyone else, what about the impact it would have on me. I would limit myself and potential which would be reinforced by others. And for what purpose? Because I’ve tried and tested overcoming obstacles and failed? No, this would all be the cause of one silly label, of being categorised. This is where I believe that labels don’t make us, they break us.
I’ve made a vow to look at each other as human beings, and not putting a label to anyone. I believe that we are all capable of great things and that we should not limit what we think someone can do, especially due to an appearance or disadvantage of some sort. I want to approach each human with love and integrity. And if there is one label that I would use, it would be the label of humanity.