The truth about labels
How would you complete this sentence “I am_______”?
When filling in that blank how would you describe yourself? It's not as easy as it sounds.
The truth is we are so much more than any blank, label, third word, or description. All of your nuances, complexities, contradictions of your life, self-perception, and your sense of identity, can never be filled in under a label.
And that's where a lot of us are wrapped up in labels, afraid of our feelings, fearful of being perceived as one identity.
We have labels, more labels then a grocery store. That’s part of the beauty of being human. We are not static beings. We aren't finished products. We aren't Jackson Pollock paintings to be analysed admired and praised. We are continually morphing, continually growing and reinventing ourselves.
There are a lot of books and people out there who attempt to classify and categorise the human race. They dissect our dispositions and parse our personalities. They look at how we think, how we lead, how we love. They try to quantify the murky influences of authenticity, culture, background, experience, education, brain chemistry, trauma, age, sexuality, and more.
While those attempts are very appreciated on a macro level, they give us insight to ourselves and those around us. They help us understand and relate to our children, spouses, co-workers, and friends. But they all eventually break down at some point, because humans are too complicated to fit into any label, to intricately designed to fit into any “I am ____” sentence or organisational scheme.
Nobody wants to be labelled and lumped together with millions of people just like them. Or even with only a handful of people just like them. There is something so special within each of us that tells us we are all so unique, special, original.
Each one of us is so complex we have more layers infinitely more intricately designed layers to us than Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
As parents, most of us are afraid to seek a diagnosis for our children, out of fear of receiving a label.
I have a friend whose son was diagnosed with autism and who exhibits a lot of the traits of the disorder, but his mother was concerned that other people might not be willing to look or be able to see past the label. “People are kinder to my son now that I can explain that he did this or that because of his autism and that's just how it is. I’m glad they are more accepting, but I wish people would be more accepting of uniqueness without requiring an explanation or label.” “Instead of standing there blankly listening to complete strangers in the mall lecture me about controlling my son while he was having a meltdown, I could finally just say, ‘he has autisim, and this is what children with autism do sometimes.’ I even started printing little business cards that have a short explanation on them.”
The honest truth is language is more important than the label. Defining a person by the diagnosis, “I am bipolar” Is highly stigmatising and limiting. It’s better to leave the door open to disability by using language that reflects the fact that the diagnosis is just one ingredient recipe for a particular person I have bipolar – just like I have brown eyes and black hair.”
What I hope you've gotten from this educational article, is that we are not defined by our labels, and our label is not our identity.
Another truth to labels/diagnoses is they can be useful! Being diagnosed, and having a label to call the diagnosis, makes it much easier to experience a diagnosis positively, it validates the suffering, issues and struggles and gives people and parents a platform from which to speak about distress and to access help/ find a book in the library.