Musings on… The need to Label.

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?

About The Amusing Muse

Deep thinker whose mind operates at warped speed. Philosopher pondering the big (and little) things in life. Storyteller. Office Ninja. Model. Teller of bad jokes. User of big words.
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9 Responses to Musings on… The need to Label.

  1. I HATE labels! I just spent over 3 years seeing a therapist to strip my “good one”, “quiet one”, “dependable one” labels off. Not that these labels are bad labels to have, however when you put them all together they form a pushover, which is not good. Let’s just say when the quiet, dependable good person started speaking her mind, her world became brighter.

    • Amen, Sister! I like to think of myself as “Every Woman”… I’m not just “one thing”. Of course I’m good, quiet and dependable most of the time, but I’m not that way all of the time. I prefer to be consistently inconsistent.

      A former supervisor was chatting with me one day and said, “Sarah, you’re always quiet during staff meetings, and when I look at you I can see the wheels turning. Others think you don’t care or aren’t interested but I know you’re taking everything in because when you do speak you point out all the flaws of everyone else’s plans. You have that ‘well, now that all those stupid ideas are on the table… lets tell them why they won’t work’ look. You think things through and even if what will work best isn’t pleasant, you make it make sense.” That’s me… the Realist – Debbie Downer. 😉

  2. Great post. Had a boss that made the entire department take the Meyers-Brigg. I literally scored borderline in all 4 areas but ended with INTJ. During a 1-1 (we often butted heads BTW) he said to me, “Dave you’re an INTJ. You’re an asshole and can’t help it.” Oy.

    • LOL I’ve been called an Asshole before, too! Along with “Bitch”, “C**t” and “Bossy Whore”. I tend to be very blunt; if you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, think Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Tact and subtlety aren’t things that come to me immediately – I can only grasp them when I’m allowed to sit and think my responses over and edit them to something that says exactly what I know needs to be said but will be “soft and fluffy” and make the other person “feel good” in the end. *rolls my eyes*

      Life isn’t soft & fluffy – spades are spades and the world would work a lot more smoothly if people just called them by name.

  3. In Deepak Chopra’s book; The Way of the Wizard, he tells a story of two knights meeting in the forest, neither one bearing a standard telling the other where he was from. The two knights were unsure how to behave.
    I must be an ambivalent introvert with ambivert tendencies. Mwahaha!
    Good post friend. I love those meetings you speak about in your reply to Life With The Top Down’s comment. I could offer something really good but I’ll wait until the rest of you are done kissing the bosses ass.

    • LOL Thank you 😀 BTW, That supervisor and I got along great from day one because one of the first conversations we had was me asking him if he was “Black or African-American… because it’s going to come up at some point.” He LAUGHED and said, “I’m Black. I’ve never been to Africa.” We haven’t worked together for years, but we still get along wonderfully. There is an “understanding” – he knows I don’t say what I say to offend (usually) – just to make sure everything is clear and we’re all on the same page.

      • Good for you. Too often people cringe when honest questions or statements arise. I had a co-worker once say to me in a hushed voice, “People aren’t ready for you.” Well……they should.

        • I wish I knew why people DID cringe… after my “Black or African-American” question was asked, I DID have opportunity to use the answer when a parent was trying to refer to my supervisor and kept hesitating at “that man” when he was in a group of men, so I nonchalantly said, “The black man?” They turned bright red in embarrassment… like it was taboo to say he was black. I had an internal giggle.

          I’ve found that people aren’t ready to be accepted at face value either, and I don’t care if people are black, white or blue with pink spots… they are who they are, makes no never mind to me. I only care if they are a good person.

  4. Pingback: Fancy Coffee Friday: Overstimulated | musingsoftheamusingmuse

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