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Labels


Labels are so important in life, they give us so much information: if I am a vegan, I'll go to a food label and I'll check that there are no animal products in the food I want to buy; if I'm buying a dress, I want to know what size it is, and maybe what it's made of, because that can tell me how I look after it. And just as I know how to look after something, or to choose it by its ingredients from its label, humans are given labels all the time as well. Do they always tell ourselves and others how to look after us though?

We learn our personal labels from outside and we often get them from when we're really young. They could be really what society would call positive or ‘good’ labels and also there are negative ones. So you know, positive ones might be those of being hard working, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, active, ambitious. Equally they can be the negative ones that perhaps people don't want so much like selfish, unkind, fascist, criminal, unthoughtful. Criminology has taught us that often those negative labels play out and the result is repeat offenders and self-fulfilling prophecies because, ‘you're going to see me as a bad egg, I'm going to be a bad egg and I'm going to perpetuate what I've been doing’. Equally, the more positive labels we give ourselves are played out. So yeah, ‘I'm hard working at things. I better be hard working because that’s ju


st who I am’.

Why do we play them out? Because change is incredibly difficult not only for yourself, but also for those people around you. And not wanting to upset the applecart or rock the boat by keeping the status quo and keeping yourself as other people expect you to be can cause friction in your life. Sometimes, I don't want to be hardworking, I want to just be lazy. Thus, an internal conflict is produced and I chastise myself because ‘I'm not a lazy person’.

So even though you see certain labels as being quite helpful, quite good, quite positive, just the very fact of labelling can be detrimental. What would be an alternative then, even to the good labels? Let’s look instead at that every person’s uniqueness. And I wonder for you, what are the labels that you have that, even though ostensibly positive, sometimes might not be so helpful?