Label. Not libel. Two completely different things and yet, as humans who communicate we seem to feel the need to slap a label on everything and anyone, perhaps even if it is libelous.
The desire to label things and people isn’t just something “everyone else does”, as individuals we label ourselves as well. Everyone wants to know who they are, what they are about and what makes them tick. In schools we take personality tests, assessment tests and career aptitude tests. I’ve talked about personality tests before on my blog, and allegedly I’m an INFJ. However, I could be an INTJ. I’m “labeled” as an introvert, but now I’m reading the latest buzzword “ambivert“, those people who don’t fall into a black and white category of introvert or extrovert. When I tell people I’m an introvert, they jump back aghast and declare that I am not an introvert because I talk to so many people and am engaging. What so many of these people don’t know is that I spend a majority of my waking hours alone – and I like it that way. A small dose of interaction goes a long way with me, and then I need to withdraw, be alone and think and process and decompress. Technically, I’m an Ambivert with Introverted tendencies because people, you all wear me out.
My introversion, my need to withdraw, be alone and think has led me to be labeled by others with less-than-pleasant monikers early on in life. I was, and am still, called “cold”, “frigid”, a “cold fish”, “haughty”, “arrogant”, “stuck-up”, “snooty” and the list goes on and on to the point of not being able to utter in polite company. Most of these labels were slapped onto me because I rarely ask questions of people. I like conversations to “happen”, the ebb and flow to occur naturally, not have them be forced. Asking questions of people makes me feel like I’m intruding and trying to get someone to say things to me that they would normally not share. It doesn’t feel natural and in my mind, if they want me to know something, they’ll tell me.
My friends, however, will argue that I will often ask questions of them. But they’re my friends and I’ve gotten to know them, and that usually involved spending many of the first meetings just listening to what they said and their mannerisms. I have another caveat when it comes to questions, when I’m in a group situations, be it work or otherwise, and the whole point of being there is to ask questions, I might do so. I might even ask probing questions of a complete stranger; but that’s a caveat and happens only rarely.
So, why the labels? Why do we feel the need to keep people “neat and tidy” and pigeon-holed into what we think they should be? Is this desire based off of need to know “exactly” what we’re dealing with, like how we know that the color red is Red? Do you think we’ll ever reach a point where we can drop the labels and just be ourselves?
What are your labels? Do you like them, hate them, are ambivalent to them?