How often do you notice yourself labeling others? How about when you label yourself? Why do we do it?
Our brains like predictability and continuously scan for patterns that indicate a collective group. Once we identify a category or group, we assign labels.
The problem, of course, is that we make an awful lot of assumptions and judgments based on our "intuitive" labeling. We might look at someone and think to ourselves "she's smart" or "he's funny" or "he's Type A" or "she's dramatic." Or we label according to race, career, income, etc. It seems we are always categorizing.
Moreover, what are some of the labels we assign to ourselves? How about "I'm stupid" or "I'm fat" or "I'm ineloquent." Too often the labels we attach to ourselves are negative. How often do you suppose self-labeling is accurate and honest?
One of the problems with labels is that the minute we do, we compare ourselves to a generalized definition we assign to that name. However, what if each of us has a unique definition? What happens if the definitions are incongruous?
What if we shift from noticing categories and labels to noticing strategies? The behaviors we present ourselves with, whether authentic or inauthentic, are strategies; strategies we use them to get through life. Perhaps that perfectionist is trying to get things "right" so everything runs smoothly; they're not just trying to make your life difficult. Maybe that person who is indecisive is seeking to keep the peace by letting you make the decision. And maybe that self-deprecating person is anticipating disapproval and avoiding rejection by beating you to the punch.
I find compassion in being curious about strategies. All I have to do is consider the strategies I use and the labels others might assign to me to appreciate our creativity and resilience. And so, what if we pay attention to the labels we assign to others, both good and bad (a label is a label is a judgment)?
What if we listen to the labels people use to describe us and consider the strategies behind our behaviors?
What if we've put ourselves in labeled boxes through patterned, predictable behaviors?
Maybe it's up to us to get ourselves out of the boxes we've strategized as comfortable.
Learner and sharer of all things healthy, active, esteem building, growth promoting, witty and Hawaiian