“Labels hold us back and keep us small. Labels stop us from being authentic versions of ourselves. Dig deep, and examine your labels and those you’ve given others. Dare to remove the filters that distort the vision of who we are, who you are.”

Dear Neighbor, 

Have you ever noticed that when we label people by behavior, characteristics, or perceived political affiliation, we limit our curiosity about that person? When we think we know who a person is, based on their label, our interest immediately ends in exploring connections with them.

We find necessary labels on all sorts of things: clothing, food, garden chemicals… but people? We label people based on social and biological features: ethnicity, gender, age, and appearance. Adults label children unconsciously: “She’s a leader. He’s an artist. She is slow. He is challenged.” These labels carry weight with children, influencing how they view their growing, changing selves. Labels can hinder their endless potential. 

And neither should we hinder our adult selves with labels!

It’s human nature to categorize. However, labeling people can impact a person’s self-identity. 

Common negative labels include “Loser”, “Lazy”, “Fat”, …etc. When we define ourselves by our labels, we impose self-limiting beliefs and self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think you’re a loser, you won’t attempt new goals as you “prove” to yourself that you are, indeed, a loser. Self-labeling acts as handcuffs that limit our potential. 

Labeling shapes our perspective of people. When labeling people forms the basis of prejudice or hatred, it is not only problematic, it is downright dangerous. 

If we gathered 10,000 people across the earth, not one of them would share the exact skin tone. Yet, this does not stop some from labeling people in skin color categories: White, period.  Black, period.  These labels go on to determine economic and social well-being, with no basis in biology. Using labels, we construct a clouded filter through which we see the world.

Categorical labeling may be contributing to some of the deepest problems that we face. And race isn’t the only label that shapes perception.  Our political labels do the same!

Labels not only impact individuals but shape our society, shaping how we see ourselves and others, influencing our behavior and interactions, and contributing to stereotypes and bias. It’s important to be mindful of the labels we use and to recognize that people are complex and cannot be fully defined by any single label. Understanding the impact of labels can help us promote inclusivity, empathy, and understanding in our interactions with others.

Grouping people and giving them all the same label does not make them the same.

When he becomes less of a human and more of a felon – it’s an issue.

When you think of him as less of a human and more of his sexuality – it’s a problem.

When her political standing makes her less of a human to you – it’s immoral.

Labels become counterproductive. You dehumanize people when you simply think of them as a label, a statistic, a number, …a Democrat, a Republican.

We are more complicated than our labels. We are the sum of many different aspects of our personalities and experiences. Our identity is built on so many components ~ and not a label.

By becoming aware of labels, we can loosen their hold on us. We challenge them and test them against reality.  

Question your labels by asking important questions: 

  • Is this label harming or helping me?
  • Who would I be without this label?

Labels don’t have to run our lives. Labels put us in a box, but you can open that box and break free. Realizing your labels helps you move past them.

Labels take on an “all-or-nothing” meaning. Why do this to yourself and prevent growth in other areas? When you believe change cannot happen because of a label you’ve been ascribed or given yourself… or others, you cement the assumption that we can or cannot do certain things.

Labels hold us back and keep us small. 

Labels stop us from being authentic versions of ourselves. Dig deep, and examine your labels and those you’ve given others. Dare to remove the filters that distort the vision of who we are, who you are. Peeling back the layers that build up a label is crucial if you want to tear it down. When we stop living up to a label someone else has given us, we can truly invest in our personal potential, label-free. 

Dear Neighbor” authors are united in a belief that civility and passion can coexist. We believe curiosity and conversation make us a better community.