The Limitations of Labels (SSN)

What labels do you apply to yourself? Or others?

Business Person/Cop/Janitor/Artist

When you hear these terms, you naturally get a sense for who or what that person is all about, don’t you?… or do you?

Labels bring up paradigms about what you think a person is all about. But labeling immediately limits your understanding of who or what is before you. Once you label something or someone, you lose the complexities, and it is in the complexities where we find the true self with all it’s uniqueness.

Are all mothers loving and caring? No.
Are all fathers going to roughhouse with their kids? No.
Are all business people serious and wear suits? No.
Are all cops control freaks? No.
Are all janitors uneducated? No.
Are all artists airy-fairy and have no sense of practicality? No.
Does the color of someone’s skin or their ethnicity tell you anything about their personality? No.
Does a person’s faith really tell you what they believe? No.

There is a wonderful quote in a movie, where one of the characters asks the other if she likes kids. She answers, rightfully so, that “It depends on the kid. We don’t go around asking people if they like adults, do we?” The label tells us nothing!

Labeling others can actually limit what you see in them. We need to look beyond labels to find the true self.

“Every label is a limitation.”
Deepak Chopra, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”

Labeling yourself is just as limiting as labeling others. Did you know people often make decisions, not based on what they think, but rather based on the thought, “What would someone like me do/think” instead?

Once you declare, “I am ___,” or “____ is ____” you lose the truth of the individual. Inevitably, the thought that follows starts with “so…”

I am ___, so I ____.
They are ____, so they _____.

Any words you use to fill in the statements above cannot be taken as facts unless you talk to the individual. And even if they seem true, the minute you declare them as true, you (again) limit your understanding.

“When you say of someone, ‘He’s a communist,’ understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on him. ‘She’s a capitalist.’ Understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on her, and if the label carries undertones of approval or disapproval, so much the worse! How are you going to understand what you disapprove of, or what you approve of, for that matter?…”
Anthony deMillo, “Awareness”

We are unique beings and we need to strip ourselves of the labels (even the ones that seem to fit), because the label will limit our understanding of both others and ourselves. We need to be our unique selves and see others as their unique selves too.

Takeaway: To truly understand anyone (including yourself), resist the urge to label them.


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