Fast Facts: Labels

Labels are based on perceptions and assumptions, and carry implied positive or negative judgments that can be limiting and hurtful. They carry the stigma of stereotype and cannot capture each individual’s unique complexity; they limit who people are and who they can become. Rejecting labels challenges people to open their hearts and minds, truly understand who others really are and then form more meaningful relationships.

Labels – The Good And the Bad… soup can label

There are advantages to labels, including:

  • Enabling individuals to easily identify others – a “verbal shorthand.” This can be beneficial when seeking others to share in a group
  • Offering opportunities to identify needs, seek treatment and improve challenging situations through diagnoses and shared experiences
  • Reinforcing security and self-esteem through so-called ‘positive’ labels

But there are so many disadvantages, including:

  • Limiting personal development and beliefs by encouraging self-fulfilling prophesy
  • Compromising beliefs and values in an effort to fit in
  • Justifying or excusing poor choices and destructive behavior
  • Reinforcing or misunderstanding difficult patterns of behavior
  • Frustrating people as they struggle to fulfill or reject expectations
  • Affecting mental and physical health, mood and outlook by destabilizing personal security and well-being, and encouraging shame and internal criticism

Labels aren’t Just on Soup Cans… 

Labels are descriptive terms used on an everyday basis, and while they seem harmless, labels sometimes create ‘boxes’ people get stuck in. Labels about appearance, personality traits, work style or general behavior can be repeated so often they become perceived as truth.

Often, people accept labels to avoid “rocking the boat,“ or they feel powerless to challenge them. When accepted, they become limiting, even when someone wants to change.

Labels Impact All of Us…

Christina Hendricks (Actor) – “I was a bit of a goth with purple hair…my friends and I were all weird theatre people and everyone just hated us.”

Steven Spielberg (Director) – “I was a nerd…an outsider, like the kid that played the clarinet in the band and in orchestra, which I did.”

Cameron Diaz (Actor) – “I’m a dork! When I was high school, I was a total goon! All the kids used to make fun of me.”

Joe Mangiello (Actor) – “I never fit in… I was a jock who was good at math and chess…”

Zac Efron (Actor) – “I was a geek. I was into musical theater, which isn’t perceived as the coolest thing. Growing up was hell.”

Jennifer Garner (Actor) – “I was a real nerd. I wasn’t the popular one…I had a kind of natural geekiness. I was in the school band and I think that has a bit of a stigma.”

Adam Levine (Musician) – “I was very uncool…I desperately wanted to be Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam really badly, and I was just a nerdy, awkward kid.”

Will Ferrell (Comedian) – “I was a jock, (but) I could also make people laugh,”

Tina Fey (Comedian) – “(We were) AP-class brainiac nerds.”

Shaquille O’Neal (Athlete) – “I was a class clown.”

Sarah Michelle Geller (Actor) – “I’ve always been the nerdy, geekish outsider.”

Food For Thought…

 “Once you label me, you negate me.” Soren Kierkegaard

Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.

Future Spotlight Topics:

October 2014 – Labels

November 2014 – Gender Identity

December 2014 – HIV/AIDS

January 2015 – Race

February 2015 – Depression

March 2015 – Self-Injury

April 2015 – Sexual Assault

May 2015 – Food Restrictions

June 2015 – Skin Conditions

November 2015 – PTSD

December 2015 – Pay it Forward

January 2016 – Socio-Economic Status

February 2016 – Eating Disorders

March 2016 – Learning Disabilities

April 2016 – Substance Abuse

May 2016 – Older People