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TO BE OR NOT TO BE, INSTEAD TO BECOME!


Living entities, ranging from unicellular to complex multicellular organisms, are all defined by the unit of life, the cell, which in many of the creatures works in totality with the interconnected cells giving rise to an organ. The activity of an individual cell, however crucial a role it may play, does not give us the whole essence of the organ- functioning.

Similarly, labels or the concrete tags used as a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing, provide information on the same. While a label may help us to categorize and assemble our thoughts constructively, it restricts our ability to perceive it any further from its definition. Our neurological wiring contributes to our tendency to organize information through the concepts of languages and has been this way for centuries. Aristotle, for instance, is known to introduce us to the concept of labelling in the biological context to help us identify the distinguishable features of organisms. Ever since, we have seen the emergence of labels that have helped us navigate through our lives, expressing ourselves better.

This makes me ponder whether the concept that has given us a purpose to bring structure within our thoughts could backfire by narrowing down our individualistic experiences into a mere definition?


The positives labelling as a concept has offered us

  1. serves as a necessity in the organization of knowledge- scientific terms, diagnosable diseases, basic terms in understanding a subject

  2. positive labelling for children has proved to be beneficial in pushing their limits, appreciation supports positive development, children feel identified

  3. In association with the specially-abled, labelling helps identify the section of the society requiring Individualized Education Plans (IEP), Individualized Recruiting Plans (IRP) to provide all with equal opportunities suited with their abilities.

  4. It also provides the instructors, be it medically, educationally or professionally, with the necessary knowledge on how to have them achieve their highest potential keeping their differences in mind & approaching them accordingly (Specialized Instruction)

  5. Self-encouragement/ positive labels associated with oneself could have you live up to them

Eg: being labelled as a winner, hard-working individual time and again could keep you motivated to achieve great heights to do justice to the label associated with your identity.

Tags, as distinguishing parameters create an image in our cognition and perceive the concept or entity as defined, and categorized into different groups or umbrellas, helping us associate ourselves through ‘umbrella thinking’. Labels may allow us to organize and constrict our knowledge in the form of digestible forms however, it involves prejudice. Let’s explore this by diving into the negatives of labelling.


Negative aspects of labelling

  1. Abiding by labels leaves no space for creativity as the brain perceives the definition associated with it to be all that is there to explore, hence narrowing one’s individuality.

  2. When labelled by society, it creates a pressure to always keep up to the expectations, hence neglecting areas for error and exploration of self.

  3. Labelling a child affects the manner in which they are perceived which can have its repercussions when the child is trying to identify with itself better, hampering their self-esteem.

  4. Every individual who may be specially-abled, diagnosed with a mental or physical impairment must be known as an individual with a set of experiences, and not by their disease, labelling can create stereotypes.

  5. A label may have you box yourself or another to a ‘type’ which then does not allow room for understanding variations better.


As much as labelling has helped us create a basis of our understanding, it urges us to act in accordance to the label associated with us. A label is a quick response that makes us feel that we have control, even if it is only an illusory perception. Words matter, because they can shape expectation. We can start to live up or down to that label, especially if it's been stuck onto us by some source of authority.


In order to break through the confinement, we must understand the negatives and positives are two sides to the same coin. It’s about giving yourself to grey amidst the black and white. While labels provide us with a conceptual basis, it could limit our potential. In order to reap the benefits of the classification the concept has provided us with it is essential to not let labels define us and the ones around us.


  1. Labels may provide you with a basic understanding in relation with a concept or personality, however to avoid stereotyping, we must create our own understanding of the same instead of conforming to the associated definition.

  2. Labels you are associated with, may be deep rooted within your conscious, however recall incidents that may have proved otherwise, to remind yourself you are more than a label.

  3. Keep exploring your options with a positive mindset to know yourself better and help your-self grow

  4. Rather than trying to prove yourself to achieve the desired expectations kept by others, remember, progress over perfection.

Bring it to your notice that labels contribute to assort ourselves and our thoughts for the better, however, we as humans can be contradictory and we must allow space for growth. We are more than a person diagnosed with anorexia or one who is diagnosed with depression, extroverted or introverted, disabled, differently abled or gifted. We as a human race can make way for ourselves only when we learn to bend our boundaries as and when required.


Author: Sanskriti Seth Content Writer, Limelighting Life Collective


References


Garand, L., Lingler, J. H., Conner, K. O., & Dew, M. A. (2009, April). Diagnostic labels, stigma, and participation in research related to dementia and mild cognitive impairment. Research in gerontological nursing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864081/

Mcpherson, K. (2015, July 3). Labelling in Special Education. (Advantages and Disadvantages). Medium. https://medium.com/@22Committed/labelling-in-special-education-advantages-and-disadvantages-55f7c6201170

Déanta in Eirinn - Sheology www.sheologydigital.com. The effects of labelling children. MummyPages® is Ireland's biggest and best website for mums and mums-to-be! https://www.mummypages.ie/the-effects-of-labelling-children

The World Counts. https://www.theworldcounts.com/happiness/what-is-labeling-theory-psychology

Stuart, A. (2020, January 6). Labelling Theory. Medium. https://medium.com/predict/labelling-theory-8f671e0fe3a