“Don’t label people!”
“I decide for myself how others see me.”
This is not a discussion of gender/sex labels or self-identification in that respect. It’s a discussion of the labels we use to classify people other than those.
Labels are helpful. They give simple and clear classification to things as well as people: brown hair, introverted, funny, short, cute, talkative, creative, green eyes, obsessed, loud, expressive, etc. These are all about what someone looks like, how they act, what their character is. The labels I mentioned are not exactly negative although anything can be seen as negative if shared in the right (or wrong) tone/context. These more positive labels are almost never disputed. In fact, I would say they’re rarely even seen as labeling at all.
So what about the not-so-nice labels? Fat, rude, annoying, boring, ugly, etc. In some ways, these labels are still helpful. Before you get up in arms, let me explain. I’m a Christian, which is a self-identification. No one else can really say whether it’s absolutely true or not. It’s all between me and God. But what does the Bible, a Christian’s handbook if you will, say that a Christian should do?
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. Jesus said to honor your father and mother. The Bible says to keep your promises.
Now what if I learned that many of those around me had been labeling me impatient, impulsive, willing to hold a grudge, untrustworthy? These things are not what Christ has called me be. So is there something wrong with the perception of those around me or is there a problem with me? If I examine my own character and find these flaws then the fault lies with me. My self-identification of Christian doesn’t mean anything without the evidence in my life to back it up.
You can’t choose how others see you. You don’t get to decide how others label you. That can be bad, obviously, when labels are filled with hate and negativity. But it can be good when you really look at yourself.
I’m naturally very introspective. When I hear something about myself, I immediately file it away and consider it. Am I like the description they gave? Is that how I portray myself? If I don’t like what they said I consider if I did something that would make them think that. Was it how I spoke? Was it a mannerism I wasn’t before aware of? Sometimes that results in me changing my behavior, sometimes that results in me changing nothing. I have to just as equally consider that the person who spoke negatively (or positively but about something I don’t want to be associated with) is simply speaking out because of their own character flaws.
Someone who spews negativity about others can’t exactly be trusted to put realistic labels on others. So I’m not saying to take everything that anyone says about you to heart. I’m saying to listen (to some extent. Shut out those who have done nothing but spew negativity) and consider their words before throwing comments away. I’ve heard many people complain about someone saying something negative about them but what the person said holds some kernel of truth about their character. It’s a possible flaw and whether presented negatively or positively, it should at least be considered.
I feel like I talk a lot about balance in my posts. This topic is no different. You should listen to others but you also need to have a level of confidence in yourself regardless of what others say about you. It’s about those people who do nothing but spew negativity.
You don’t always get to choose how other people see you. It’s a balance of societal ques, personal history, and their own self-identifications. People are making a million tiny judgments about each person they come into contact with and that’s their right. You do the same things. Reasons range from assessing safety to seeking compatibility to a host of other descriptors.
The problem comes when stereotypes or previous bias becomes the only way those judgments are made. But I’m going to leave this post here, though. Watch others, watch yourself, pay attention to how others perceive you, pay attention to how you perceive others, and don’t forget that you’re a human being who deserves a level of respect. Be confident in yourself but don’t forget that there’s always room for improvement.