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I look around my office/craft room and see boxes with labels on them telling me what is inside. Papers, notebooks, craft supplies and of course, the inevitable junk box. These labels are a necessity and keep me from searching frantically for what I need. It's a shame not all labels work that way. When used to locate an item or as a direction, they are most helpful, when we label people, however, the idea and use of these word's changes and are all too often used against us.
Kids begin this at an early age. We now refer to it as bullying. They use names and labels to make fun of others, telling someone they are fat, ugly or useless or simply annoying can have damaging effect in many ways. Those who are using the words think they are being funny and are in someway looking for attention for themselves. In turn they receive the label of a bully and may themselves be cast aside because of their self-imposed label.
As we grow older, we continue this trend, not in the same words necessarily, but in the idea. Enter the work place and there are new labels. Executives are seen as stuck up and unapproachable, giving them the level of snobby. Those with menial jobs are called worthless, when they are actually willing do the jobs no one else wants. The secretary who dresses modestly is teased for being an old maid because she does not flaunt her body to the public.
Those in the general public are not exempt. The mother living in the homeless shelter with three young children is seen as lazy and looking for a hand out, when she has just saved herself and her children from her abusive husband and is trying to start over to create a safe place for her children to grow up. We fear those of a different color or nationality because they are labeled as dangerous and untrustworthy, the media has fed into this fear by reporting the bad and not focusing on the good that does happen.
One of the greatest uses of degrading labels is the stigma of mental illness. Does anyone truly understand the complexity of the brain and its capabilities? It is that misunderstanding and fear of the unknown that brings the label of crazy, ignorant, freak and loner, when like anyone else they are looking for acceptance and understanding. Many people would be surprised to learn how many individuals they interact with each day who have some sort of mental illness. The reason they remain secretive about it is because of the label that would come with going public. Their life would change, who they were before the admission would no longer matter and would now only be seen as mentally ill, unapproachable and an outcast. Two words that can change a life in a second.
Labels have their place, make sure you use them in the right one.