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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Labels, Can they define me?

Recently, there has been some good discussions about labels. Not the labels on posts, nor the label of products, but labels on human beings. I have many labels, all of given to me. Some not so nice and some I love. Some of these labels we earn, like the label of "Father." Some of the label I have been given that I like are, My last name, "Marine", "Husband", "rock jock", "Leader", "energetic", just to name a few. But any label only carries the weight(sanction) we allow it to. We often give a label more sanction when it is handed out by some one we feel is higher in the food chain than us. A parent, teacher, or anyone with authority over us can have a tremendous affect on how we few ourselves just by assigning us a label. We will do everything we can to live up to that label.

Here lays the problem. If we give sanction to a label there is this human tendency to live up to that label. Up or down, good or bad, positive or negative, we will pursue the fulfillment of that label. We need to understand this process of human development. We need to be aware of the impact labels have on us and those around us. You have the ability to change the course of someone's life by what we call them. You want better, label better. This applies to ourselves, we tend to give ourselves the worse labels of all. STOP IT! Call your self something better. When you make a mistake, say to your self, "that's not like me, I am better than that because I am a winner." Sounds stupid, goofy, weak? Just try it. Bosses, parents, leaders, and good friends all should be using this everyday. The only difference between failure and success, winning and losing, happiness and sadness, is what we label it to be.

We all to often use labels as a way to bring another person down to us, instead of doing what we should and re-label ourselves to bring ourselves up to them. I have posted on numerous occasions: I believe in you - Power of Discovery - Power of pants - Power of Feedback - Being the Difference - The Fear Tree Just to name a few posts that are related in one way or another to this labeling that we do to ourselves and others. You want better, label better. We are not going to get way from labeling, so lets use it smartly to get where we want, when we want, in a positive manner.



Em said...

Talking Bear,

You bring up a very going point about labeling. Labels should be banned. They do place sanctions upon a person that could be both positive and negative. Your example of being labeled a father calls you up to being a strong manly figure in the life of your child. You want to provide and love them and it is a label that you are proud to carry. Your label of being a Marine is one to take pride in. You were not given that title, but you earned.

Secondary deviance can lead to a deviant identity. When a habitual offender is labeled as a criminal or a thief or a wife beater they start to believe the profile or label that they have gotten. They start to believe that they can't do any better and that it is all that is expected of them. They may adopt a low self esteem feeling as if they are inadequate or not good enough for society.

Labels are not going anywhere and no matter anyone does they are going to be labeled. Those labels could be a positive or a negative thing but either way it is still a label. Since there is no way to completely abolish labels it is important to not be controlled by labels. Labels should never be determining someone's actions.

Linda C. said...

Talking Bear, I’m not sold on the idea that labels are bad “only” if we give sanction to them. This is the old “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” theory; but, they do hurt us! The discussion does not adequately address the labels placed on individuals or groups by others which are intended to exclude. These exclusionary labels can be outlandish, sensationalistic, directed toward individuals or groups. Example, You can’t be a member of my group/pack/club/click, etc. because you are a ___ (you look ___, you are a ___, you were born a(in) ___ etc). Those are some of the labels that have the most ability to hurt individuals and society. We do not even have to go into the past, but look at the world today. I believe that our society thrives on multiculturalism and it is this that has made the United States (our United States culture) the world power that it is today, and keeps us there.

Talking Bear wrote, “If we give sanction to a label there is this human tendency to live up to that label. Up or down, good or bad, positive or negative, we will pursue the fulfillment of that label.”

Talking Bear’s discussion is good, and I would like to add a missing point that a label can hurt an individual. Talking Bear is right regarding what damage an individual will allow himself or herself to incur. My discussion now leads me to bad labels, not nom de plume, nom de guerre, and certainly not the good ones such as those mentioned by Talking Bear. As an example, a name like “Dad” is not a label, but a title bestowed on us by little smiling faces. Father is the good title we are given by society. The title Father is not earned or flung at us to endure. It is a title given to us by the actions we take good, bad, or indifferent. My discussion is about bad labels. They can hurt an individual, even if the individual to whom the label has been directed never hears or reads the label. Of course I am not so na├»ve as to believe that there are Utopian cures for people acting in a rude, foulmouthed, or belligerent manner. I know that we are not going to eliminate labels; but, intellectually I do try not to let another persons label affect me; both those directed at me or directed toward others.

It is difficult however, for those labels directed at me not to hurt. An individual has to hear the label, cognitively process it (mentally acknowledge it), internally respond to it with his or her feelings and emotions think about it, evaluate it, and then after the initial pain has been suffered (cognitively and physiologically), summon all their internal power, and intellectually fight the harmful words. The internal repair sometimes is not done overnight, but may take time.

We all categorize; we all profile people and events. There is no stopping this. Profiling and discrimination is a survival tactic that humans have. It is what we do with the information that we have after the data is evaluated. Then that survival tactic fails us if we act without processing of the information properly.

About myself, if I did not discard and ignore the labels about me and about others the world would be a very small place; a small place that has trapped some people; both geographically and mentally; those people have no clue what they are missing.

Talking Bear said...

Linda, Thanks for the comment. I think we said the same thing?? I was lightly touching on the internal effects of labels. I do think label can DESTROY someone if the are taken as truth by a person.

The process you mention is what I was referring to as "giving sanction". Great points, and I like you zeal. TB

Talking Bear said...

EM, thanks for your comments as well....;)

Anthony Stevens said...

Talking Bear, I found that you have a blog too, and that you have an article about labels (http://sleepybearhollow.blogspot.com/2007/11/labels-can-they-define-me.html#links). I like what Linda C. said regarding "Dad" and want to make that kind of comparison to the terms that you used above. Those terms are applied by others in a positive aspect so I want to consider them at titles won and earned. I will save the term "label" for darker issues. Doctors label us as ADD or ADHD in a negative manner. I can be "titled" Dad, Doctor, Sailor, Marine, Soldier, Airman, Engineer, Winner, Hero, Tiger, Champ (don't forget to capitalize, it is important here, these are titles). I am not being a stickler for grammar, but not using a capital is making the term a label, not a title.

Soaring Eagle states, “I work with youth and at times they are referred to as “nasties” and that “By the end of the class all or part of the students will most likely consider themselves to be “nasties”, whatever that happens to be.” (https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7618279706018915559&postID=7794415386436734634 ) It is unfortunate the Soaring Eagle has to work with a school system that allows calling students names when attending their classes. Is this not psychological abuse? Soaring Eagle should have the guts to find a safe way to provide this information to the appropriate staff personnel and stop this dehumanizing conduct by the teaching staff. I understand what you are talking about Soaring Eagle and hope you the best countering such negative teaching skills.

Fuchsia Girl said, “It is a sad reminder that there are many children and young people out there who have suffered unnecessarily at the hands of abusive parents and other adults.” (https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7618279706018915559&postID=7794415386436734634) Yes it is and it appears that in our teaching systems it is used too often; refer to Soaring Eagle.

PJ said, “I totally agree with your comments HGF. Much of the problems Society faces today can be directly attributed to a lack of respect, whether that be for people or property. This respect must be taught within the home by parents. This is not, as many think, a school based responsibility.” (https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7618279706018915559&postID=7794415386436734634) I believe your are right PJ, but look at what the teachers are doing; refer to Soaring Eagle’s comments.

Talking Bear, I am going to also post this on your blog regarding labels. I see that you have taken up this discussion on your blog too.

Talking Bear said...

Anthony Thanks for the comment. I like that you have brought several blogs together with your posting. I love a good discussion.

I see labeling as a form of feedback. As individuals, we choose behaviors based on our needs and our beliefs. We are in constant search of measuring our choice based on the feedback we get from our environment. We evaluate the feedback, make changes and choose again. This is a constant cycle. We do this whether we are conscious of it or not. I feel that we do have to personally accept any label for it to internally affect us. I have been hated and loved for the same label. I do not take lightly this topic, nor do I speak about it without feeling it’s bitter sting. As Linda said, groups are given labels as well. But I think no label hurts as the one given to us and we brand it into our hearts as if we do not have a choice to reject it.

I think the truth is that we all have been given a label at some point that we did not like. Some chose to believe it and some don’t. We can come up with different titles for good labels and bad labels if we want, but in the end they are simply labels. Someone who chooses to believe that they a great because of a simple label will some day be shattered when they find out that they label means nothing without substance behind it. The same kind of defining moment occurs when a person realizes that they are not a piece of junk as they label they have carried around for years describes them as. My point of the post is/was, you choose your own label in the end. Or you can chose not to have any label, as I have started to do. I find any label, good or bad, limiting to my potential. There is not any one label that describes who I am inside, nor can any label define what I am capable of.

We have the ability to live a life bigger than any label or title. This is our choice. Do I accept the feedback from this or that source? Is the feedback definitive of who I am? Yes any authority figure should no better than to belittle another. But positions of authority do not give anyone the wisdom to see all, know all, and judge all. It is just simply a position to get a job done or meet a need in society. We give these positions why to much authority over who we become, or who we could become. I am in the business of trying to get others to become that which they want but do not believe they can. The void between the two is most commonly due to some stupid label they were given years ago and they believed it. Rewriting that belief takes a tremendous amount of affirmation and opportunity to grow past. Label me what you want, but I will show you behaviors that overwrite that label. My views of this topic come from the work done at Stanford by Dr. Bandura, who has become know for his outstanding work in cognitive behavior. Our minds are wonderfully powerful, but we only use about 10% of our potential. Why? Because we tend to believe we in our labels, even when we hate them, more than we believe in our ability.

Thoughts ?

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