Have you ever noticed that, as a species, we love to label ourselves and others? We may call them definitions, categories or a variety of different names but they…are..still…labels. Labels have been around for a very long time and date back to ancient times. Why do we label ourselves and do we all those labels to make us who we are?
Dictionary.com gives the following definition of label as it relates to this post:
a short word or phrase descriptive of a person, group,intellectual movement, etc.
Think about how labels work. She’s from the South. He’s from the North. He’s a liberal. She’s a conservative. She’s a feminist. He’s a bigot. They’re not like us. I’m not as good as them. She’s tall. He’s short. I’m….
This post isn’t to say we shouldn’t have labels. Some of them have power in a positive manner such as:
It is how we use – are allow others to use – labels that must be considered.
The Name of the Doctor
Again, it is all in how you use your label – how you choose your label. An example of this can be found in The Doctor himself. Many people who are not Whovians – the label for the fans of the television programme, Doctor Who – think the characters name is Doctor Who, Dr. Who or the Doctor Who. It isn’t. He has always been known as “The Doctor.”
Whovians were anxiously enraged when the season finale title was released – The Name of the Doctor. I read that fans in the United Kingdom even took to the streets in protest of the potential revelation of the true name of the Doctor. We didn’t know it for 49+ years and did not want to know one episode before the 50th Anniversary special.
In The Name of the Doctor, The Doctor said:
My name, my real name, that is not the point. The name I chose is the Doctor. The name you choose, it’s like, it’s like a promise you make.
Maybe what The Doctor said is true? Maybe it isn’t important in how we are able lead but in how we choose to be seen. Maybe that is what is important.
The Negative Side of Labels
How often do we let labels control us? For me, I know of one that stayed with me for a long time. I was in the second grade and I remember being placed in Group Two. I don’t know what made me be placed in Group 2. Was it my grades? (I had all As.) Where there too many in Group One? What was it?
I know that it made me feel not quite as good. It made me feel a little less and I am sure there were those in Group 3 or 4 that felt even more inferior. This school labeling system wasn’t designed to harm but it made me feel less than. I could only imagine if it made me feel that way then it most likely made others feel that way.
If emotion is added to the mix – the labels take on a different meaning and become tools of retaliation, subjugation, incrimination, degradation and much more. I acknowledge the presence of these types of labels and yearn for a world where they – and their power – no longer exist.
Titles are sometimes more important to some employees than is money. I am sure there is a reason for that fact. It may be generational. It may be regional. It may be personal. There are as many reasons as there are people.It is always a wise decision for any HR department to periodically review employee titles to ensure that those titles are accurate. Ineffective, underscored, overblown or non-existent (yes, non-existent) titles serve only to potentially hinder the work environment.
How have labels made an impact on your life – personal or professional? Do you embrace your own labels or keep the labels given to you by society?