The critics slap labels on you and then expect you to talk inside their terms. Doris Lessing - Author
So, what’ this page about?
The power of words.
The use of labels – for good and bad.
An exhortation to you to realise you are not your label whether self-imposed or one given you by others.
Years ago I had one colleague (of many) who had a beard. He and I
didn’t get along. For some reason, I disliked how, when he was
planning his next verbal assault on any of my ideas, he would sit
and stare at me and stroke his beard like some latter day Rasputin.
Over time I realised I had grown to dislike all men with beards.
(Okay you may think this is crazy but you will be judging, doing
the same – maybe just not with beards!) I avoided bearded men
like the plague. Until these days – it seems almost every man has
a beard, or some sort of facial growth, and now I can more easily
and simply like some and not like others, it doesn’t bother me.
I am enlightened enough to see the person and not their beard.
Sometimes we look at young people and just because they have pink hair, peircings in their nose and eyebrows, and talk in text speak, we dismiss them, we label them as purposeless idiots, people who shouldn’t get the vote, they’re not responsible, and so on. But if we were to look beyond their appearance, strip away the external gear they choose at this point to wear this lifetime, and see the truth of who they really are, which is Love, just like the rest of us, then what? What would happen if we and our media and our medical staff and legal people etc were to stop the use of putting labels upon people such as oldie, black, white, gay, straight, male, female, liberal, conservative, mental, con-merchant, a bug, idiot, “the bed in number 2” and so on. Better still, what if we were to stop giving ourselves labels – I’m no good, I’m a loser, I can’t, I don’t deserve, I don’t deserve, I’m the victim here, and on and on?
If we believe we don’t deserve (label – a non-deserver) we will behave as if we don’t. We will reject kindnesses, compliments and offers of help. We won’t aspire to achieve our potential for inside we will be saying, “Who me? Who am I to get such a promoted position?” We are likely to dress dowdy and plain because we don’t deserve good clothes and to look good. And health wise we are probably to indulge, if at all, in low levels of self-care because “I don’t matter.”
Our belief about our self, especially a negative one, limits and defines us. It puts us in a box out of which it can be difficult to climb and inside which it can become too comfortable to stay.
Labeling confines you and gives the illusion you have an identity, but when you limit and restrict yourself with a label, based on a very narrow definition, then you risk losing your soul’s uniqueness and being seen for the beautiful person you are.
Stop for a moment and think of the labels you put on yourself or others put on you.
As a kid (there's a label) I heard people say about me, “He’s a swot” “He’s a nice boy” “He’s very shy and doesn’t talk a lot” “He’s a bit, you know, he talks to people he imagines he sees in the forest.” Imagine how those labels played out in my life.
And what of you? What if you were told you’re a control freak, you’re a know-it-all, you’re an angel!
Think how those labels would play out in your life –
Control freak – always trying to control everything and in the end controlling nothing, probably ill as controlling is stressful and stress leads to illness, no room for fun and flexibility, inappropriately demanding of others
You’re a know-it-all – people likely find you insufferable as you always have an answer for everything, your need to feel right or superior means others feel put down, you can become snobby and superior (yes I know more labels – but I am trying to get a point across here – I’m also trier, and that’s hard so I don’t do it often!)
You’re an angel – you probably think “that’s nice” – but it can also mean you give too much, which means you have little left for yourself. You probably say “yes” when you should be saying “no.”
One of the goals of the human ego, your human mind personality, is to repress, limit, impede, and hold you down. Labels limit. And they only, if at all, describe a tiny facet of your being. Yes, I was shy and nice, but I was running on commands from my parents who taught me to be kind to others, to be the Good Samaritan, to speak when I was spoken to and not just blurt things out but to think carefully about what to say and whether to say it at all. But you are not the labels you use to describe yourself.
As an adult, more recently, I had an occasion with my GP – I was going through great grief following the death of my sister, I was coping with the increase in medical conditions myself, I was angry, depressed, and many others things besides and one day my GP turned to me and said all my medical situations were down to, “it’s your personality!” My response was to point out my behaviours were triggered by many things, including a response to his attitude and approach, and dare I say Mr GP YOUR personality, and that he was not witnessing my basic personality!
So, I am a great believer in reminding people that you most certainly are not the labels others use to describe you; those labels more likely describe them, as they are projecting on to you. You always have a choice whether to accept the label or not. I strongly advise you NOT to accept it, even if there is the slightest grain of truth in it. You are far more than a limiting label.
The not-so-nice intention of labels is to divide and create separation. I’m better than you are. Now there’s a label! Labels compartmentalise others into divisions and traits not aligned with their soul’s purpose, hence why you must not believe any labels said about you. You lose authentic identity with a label since brands simultaneously give the illusion of a special uniqueness, but you don’t need a label to be exceptional because everyone’s light shines when stripped of the outdated labels that ultimately break down and destroy who your soul is in truth. That means – at heart, you are not lazy, arrogant, evil, careless, unthinking – that is what you have learned to display on occasions, as your reaction to others and to life, but it is not who you are and cannot be summed up by a label, especially a negative one.
Classifying others and assigning them into boxes creates unhealthy competition to feel superior over them and prove you or your group is the exceptional one. But once you play that game, it will rebound in time; you’ve handed the steering wheel to the ego and it just likes to fool you that you are in control when all the time a car crash is waiting to happen because no one has control f the steering wheel. Your role is to Love without conditions, not slap labels on people, and when you call people names, there can be no synchronisation when you are out of alignment of your most indisputable, loving self.
In the world of spirit, where your soul resides, all souls live in harmony regardless of being distinctive from one another. It’s not in their make-up to name-call, label, and point out differences. But here on Earth, where egos abound, and dissimilarities are shunned or feared because it makes the ego uncomfortable preferring that everyone be a clone. Stand out without hiding behind limitations and imperfections. Who are you without any of these outdated fads and labels you use to describe yourself?
Perhaps it is in the field of mental health that labelling still is most to be found – though not exclusively there. But let’s use it as an example, although I suspect by now you have the message – do not judge others.
Addict, Alcoholic, Borderline mental, Manic depressive ,Schizophrenic.... PubMed Central® (PMC) a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM) has come up with 250 labels used to stigmatise people with mental illness.
I worked for many years in the field of HIIV and AIDS and sexual health – and in that line of work, labels abounded.
Every single time I hear someone refer to someone else, or even themselves, by any label, I cringe. How can one person, filled with so many complexities, differences,, interests and aspirations ever be summed up by one word? I once heard doctors on their morning round in hospital, as they were approaching my ward, refer to me as “the body in four!” Now it is true I was indeed a body – but that attitude says it all, it is how I am seen, not as a human being with multiple issues, numerous body parts, and a whole range of emotions and questions.
Perhaps because it bothers me so, I tend to notice it more than your average person. It happens all the time in the mental health field. Professionals are not excluded either. In my daily dealings in the world of mental health, addiction, HIV and AIDS, I often heard people referred to by the name of their particular illness or worse still, their present behaviour. “He’s a druggie” “She’s a bit mental!” “He’s sexually irresponsible.” Etc Young men would approach my sexual health clinic in anger, shame, and embarrassment; they had gone to the local genito urinary medicine clinic to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases only to be met by two elderly, rather prim religious nurses who took a dim view of patients if they happened to also be homosexual. These young men were then treated to bible-thumping lectures of totally inappropriate proportions.
The Power of Words
It bothers me on a personal level because I used to despise being labelled when I was going through my own battles. It also bothers me because I was often falsely labelled. At present, I know for a fact that my local NHS health authority see me, and I gather it is on my notes, in red, a trouble maker.
The first psychologist I ever saw told me, within twenty minutes of our first meeting, that “your values are all wrong” and she said she would use CBT to change them. I did not go back.
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, and concerned, my then diabetes nurse told me I was a “rejecter” – someone who refused to accept the diagnosis (which was totally untrue – accepting the diagnosis made it difficult for me to manage because the medical people gave me no information on what diabetes was, about diet or lifestyle. If I deserved a label it would have been “worrier.” But see the danger of labels – they are so often limiting and downright wrong.
My point is that wherever I turned personally, or saw through the experiences of my clients in the addiction, mental health, and HIV/AIDS fields, no one ever thought to refer to me or my clients as a person, a human being battling a series of complex psychological, behavioural, emotional., and situational problems and coping with the chaos often of a series of bad choices, and certainly bad outcomes.
No one person can be described in one word. Neither do they deserve to be labelled. And, I repeat, no one should label themselves…unless it takes you positively forward in life – I am awesome, I choose to be compassionate and kind, I am successful etc
Try On a New Self-Descripting Coat
Next time you are tempted to introduce yourself as someone with HIV, as an addict, a loser, a failure, a schizophrenic, or whatever, instead think of the myriad other outstanding qualities and characteristics that you have that have nothing to do with your particular illness.
I am awesome
I am a fantastic father, mother (brother, sister, etc)
I am a trusted and loyal friend
I am an achiever
I am a healer
I love life and life loves me
I am healthy, wealthy, healed, whole, wise, and complete – that’s a Joseph coat, it’s multi-coloured
So next time you consider labelling yourself as your illness, ask yourself why seemingly ‘healthy’ people, and I use the term loosely, don’t label themselves in the same way?
Stigma and ill-health thrives through self and other’s descriptors, limiting beliefs, that hold us back and prevent us being healed and whole. But take away the power of these stigmatic words and stop summing up an entire person into a few letters which together usually combine to create a negative label.
You cannot sum someone up in one word; it isn’t right, reasonable, or fair, and if we are truly going to fight stigma, and help people to be cared for and healed, it shouldn’t be acceptable.
Shame on anyone, especially in the medical profession, who still works with labels about patients.