People normally feel proud of the achievements and characteristics that make them stand out as a person. Usually, these factors are what helps people distinguish one person from another. For instance, a student who excels in class is known as “the intelligent one”; a tall, beautiful lady is seen as “pageant worthy/a beauty queen”; an athlete who always wins in sports competitions is known as “a champion”; a TV show host is seen as “ overly exuberant”; and so on.
Surely, most of us have been accustomed to “putting a label” on someone to “identify” them, even with the use of just a single or few descriptor/s. However, these labels, whether affirmative or not, can greatly affect the individual – both positively AND negatively.
For this article, let’s focus on the positive ‘labels’.
The optimistic side of positive labels
Being called “smart”, “beautiful”, “popular”, “courageous”, “ethical”, and so on definitely boosts an individual’s ego and self-esteem. At times, people are unaware that they possess such characteristics or are seen as “this or that” because of how they are and/or what they have achieved. Once these people realize that the “descriptor” given to them is what makes them admirable, they do their best to uphold this “title”. They want others to see how “intelligent”, “attractive”, “righteous”, etc. they are before and up to the present, hence, doing whatever it takes to keep the reputation that people have established for them.
The pessimistic side of positive labels
As uplifting as it is to be recognized as someone exceptional because of the unique attribute people see within each person, individuals eventually become too self-conscious once they are given a positive label that has always “identified” them. Since these individuals have gotten used to being known for as “a singular adjective”, they become somewhat pretentious. Instead of showing a different side of themselves, they conceal the other qualities they have just so people would continue to see them as they have always been. For instance, if a person has always been known to be “diligent”, people may find it odd to see this person turn into “a party animal” or “the life of the party” because it opposes to the individual’s well-known responsible trait. If a person is seen as “sophisticated”, people may find it degrading for this person act “silly” or “fun”. Because of these labels that people keep associating to individuals, society has turned deceitful and fraudulent.
The definition of label, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a word or phrase that describes or identifies something or someone”; “a descriptive or identifying word or phrase”.
Labels, as simple and innocent as they may be, are actually harmful; it is a disguised form of judgement. Even if the label bestowed to each individual is a positive one, they are vulnerable to criticism once they commit a wrong doing or something contradicting to what they have always been known for. Dreadfully enough, individuals will still be judged by their actions whether they are aware or not of the deeds they do.
Up to this day, people intensely try to live up to others’ expectations of them. They try to retain the positive reputation people have always seen them hold. They hide away the different aspects they possess and only show what they have been known for. They would rather be recognized as someone they have always been than be judged on a characteristic or act that may be deemed as “conflicting to the status quo”.
This “labeling” should stop. People should not be hindered and afraid from exhibiting who they really are. Besides, it’s the people who categorize our characteristics and deeds either as “positive” or “negative”. So why bother pretending to be someone you’re entirely not?
It’s up to you to choose whether you want to be known by others as “a single adjective” or someone who is MORE than just a word.