Healthy Mind

Why we need to stop using labels

There’s a saying that goes, ‘label jars not people’, and while it’s a bit old, and possibly overused, it’s sentiments ring truer than ever. We label a jar of raspberry jam, ‘raspberry jam’ because it’s a jar that contains raspberry jam. We label a can of tomato soup ‘tomato soup’ because that’s what it is; tomato soup.

We call her a D4 because she has big backcombed hair, wears UGG boots and makeup and talks in a “posh” way. We call him a knacker because he has a thick Dublin accent. She’s a nerd because she does well in school and spends time studying. We call them ‘a bunch of emos’ because they wear heavy eyeliner and lots of black. We call her innocent because she isn’t sexually experienced. We call her slutty because she is. We call them posh because they went to a private fee paying school or a prestigious college. We call her a dry-shite because she doesn’t come out much. We call him a bailer because he decided not to come out last minute. We call him an alcoholic because he drinks loads on a night out, we call her lame if she doesn’t.

We call him camp or gay if he’s in any way flamboyant. She’s butch because she cuts her hair short and wear checked shirts. She’s a fag-hag because she hangs out with gay people. If she’s skinny, she’s anorexic, if she has a tummy than she’s fat, sometimes we’ll call her other names, fatty, pudgy, depends on our mood. It goes on.

I could go on there are probably lots I’ve left out. Which ones do you use? What is your personal preference? Did you ever stop to think that behind the labels, there are actual people, human beings. Labels are unwanted, unrequited and needless. The only thing we should ever be called is our name.

It’s a common fixture amongst the young, but one that radically needs to be eliminated. Labels hurt. No-one forgets what they were branded especially when friends do it, be intentionally or often as the case may be, unintentionally.

Other labels amongst the mix are terms like ‘crazy’ ‘weird’ ‘freaky’ and terms that deem to make the person feel different and insecure. They’re insulting.

These days, being different still isn’t really the done thing. Conforming is the easiest way, following the crowd. Easier than getting branded, I see the appeal. It takes a brave one to stand up, and not follow the flock. Just because everyone is getting drunk does not mean you have to. Just because everyone wears layers of makeup doesn’t mean it’s a written law.

It is so difficult to be young and even more so to find your feet and find your place amongst your group of friends. Labels can destroy us, whether we realise it or not. After being told something enough, you start to believe it. When you’re young, sometimes you don’t know any better. Calling someone an ‘emo’ or a ‘D4’ is essentially classing them, and saying that’s what they are because of superficial rubbish. I had black hair and wore eyeliner when I was in sixth year, but I was a very happy little ‘emo’ who listened to pop music. When I was a ‘posh D4’ I shopped in Pennies, and had fake UGGS. Labels are only skin deep, if even, but sometimes skin deep is enough to do the damage.

Labels also encompass the mental illnesses themselves. People throwing around terms they thought they knew about, when in fact they were mistaken. Calling someone schizophrenic when that wasn’t the case at all, or saying someone’s ‘bipolar’ or ‘depressed’ when they don’t truly know. A trained medical professional has the degree and the authority to use these terms on someone, but again, going back to my previous point, they aren’t all the person is. There is much more to someone than the supposed label they have been given.

It’s time to put down the label maker. Time to start seeing the whole person, and if you can’t, appreciate that there are reasons for certain things.

Everyone has a story, but no one needs a label.