What’s in a Label?


Who are we really? Are we unique individuals each with a story to tell? Or are we part of something more, something that stretches way beyond our ability to comprehend?

Do we live in a world where familiarity and the expected are satisfactory to living or are we part of a chaotic, unpredictable yet stunningly beautiful and perfect existence that is meant for feeling not categorising?

We look for answers to our being here outside of our self rather than taking a moment to consider what or why or how we came to be. In the grander considerations of life, us humans are renowned for a need to order and make sense of everything around us.

Some things are not meant for understanding.

When it comes to one another, we have in place an almost insatiable endeavour to ensure that everyone we meet can be neatly placed into a category that ensures a sense of safety and security as we are able to effectively identify and label each person we encounter. But what about those that are incongruous to our inbuilt image of certain stereotypes or categories? And does this process allow us to grow with each new experience?

We reach these conclusions about one another, consciously or otherwise, based on how a person looks, how they dress, what they eat, their education, what they do for a living, where they grew up, where they live now, what car they drive, what music they like, what name they are known by, their sexual orientation, whether they are single/married/have children – a single parent? The list could go on……..

Needless to say, in the blink of an eye we can all be placed conveniently into little boxes that define us, and in these boxes we begin to believe that this must truly be who we are!

Indeed there are times when we CHOOSE certain attributes that lend themselves to being labelled, categorised and stowed away in an orderly fashion but there are some aspects of each our lives that are beyond our control. Like the universe, we are infinite beings capable of profound moments of creative design, profound acts of love and profound acts of jealousy and anger. We can be chaotic and inextricably complicated and yet we are simple; canvases awash with colour and vigour, metamorphosing with each new experience.

What is it that drives us to label each and everything we experience? Is it a need to understand our place in the cosmos that we are but one insignificantly small part of? The vastness that surrounds us is terrifyingly huge, perhaps beyond our ability to ever truly understand. So too are we as human beings. One minute we think we know someone and then they surprise us! Order is out the door and we have to begin again.

Think of the tin in the supermarket in the section where baked beans may normally be found. There it sits. Waiting to be put into your basket. Yes, its a metal tin, like what you’d expect a tin of beans to look like. In the space where you’d expect to find beans. But it looks different to all the others without its label. Without a label or a tin opener, do you purchase it? It’s a risk……it may be just what you were expecting, after all, it ticks some of the boxes of what you have come to expect of a tin of beans, but you can’t be sure. What if you take the risk, spend your hard earned money, get it home only to be disappointed when you open it and find an unexpected surprise………

It can be frightening when we do not understand. It can be alarming when we cannot make sense of what is going on around us. By controlling our environment, our little world that we each individually exist in, life seems much less disordered or scary.

When we label one another it also helps us to find our own place in the society of which we are a part. By doing this are we then likely to form groups of sympathetic participants who also place themselves or have been placed into a given category or stereotype. But are we truly fixed? Does this behaviour lend itself to kindness and compassion towards all we meet or does it ultimately insight violence, suspicion, distrust, aggression to those that are not a part of the same category?

And what about those that cannot be place into any one box? What label do we give them? And how do they feel – isolated, alone or free and content?

I find it fascinating the labels we are given and give to each other. The box that I am placed in does not surprise me. I have not consciously chosen to fit any particular category but, following recent conversations with folk it seems that my wearing my hair in dreadlocks along with a few piercings and tattoos, a fine growth of underarm hair, an absurdly insatiable desire to encourage kindness, an occasional pentacle worn about my neck are all characteristics that lend themselves to my being categorised neatly and safely.

Throughout my brief years here, I have moved from one category to another to yet another. Sometimes I have deliberately tried to emulate certain traits or characteristics that would enable me to be viewed as part of a given label, at others I have simply ticked all the boxes and been placed there externally.

In retrospect I can see why the labelling and categorising that has been given to me on the bases of how I present my self outwardly has been achieved but it is not a deliberate action on my part. But, once given does it mean that I am tied to it? Do I become fixed, no longer able to metamorphose and transform? The only person who will keep me there is me. If I choose to accept the label. And does it really matter what label I am given? It is only an opinion after all.

In another light, I fit a middle class background (although I am from a working class upbringing), I can speak proper when I choose it, I have an “ahem” small collection of books of various non fictional topics ranging from conservation, theosophy, philosophy, I have a science degree…..would these traits place me in the same category that the above description with my hairy pits and dreadlocks sees me labelled as? I am not fixed by design.

We will always judge one another, it’s part of being human. The trick is not to ostracise ourselves or others just because we do not understand a person. We also need to remember that we are multi-faceted beings with many layers that unfold and shine as our life experiences uncover them. If we did not or could not learn from life because we remained static in our box labelled x, y or z then what point would there be to our existence?

By seeking to embrace each person, not on the basis of the label we may place upon them but simply because they are a person, just like us, may we begin to break down the barriers of society that have bred fear, hatred, anguish and replace them with tolerance, acceptance, oneness and compassion.

Do not label me. My ego does not define me. My heart is a radiant jewel of infinite design. Neither place a label upon yourself. For you are so much more than the little description given you by external opinion or internal dialogue.

We are each a series of contradictions that can never truly be labelled so throw labels to the wind and embrace the contradictions of living and being human.




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