The topic for Tell Me About this time is labels. Categorising and labelling in an essential part of our learning and understanding of what is going on around us. It helps us to link things and by understanding similarities and differences within and between these categories, to arrive more quickly at an interpretation of what we see. By doing this we can process information quite quickly and reach an understanding based on our past experience. We can then use prediction to hopefully make sense of it all and behave and interact in an way that is appropriate to the situation.
We need linguistic labelling
I actually worked with a pupil a few years ago who had not developed the ability to manage linguistic labelling. The result was quite a high level of anxiety in many situations where she was not familiar enough to be able to feel safe. The connections between words was often not there and so the world became a much more frightening and confusing place. We rely on language to enable us to label and categorise, otherwise your ‘language library’ becomes a jumbled mess where you cannot access the information that you need.
Apparently, due to the overuse of technology as ‘childcare’, this will become an increasing issue for some of the upcoming generation; some children are not always being corrected when they don’t categorise correctly, and are not always being given the explanation which would help them to learn the connections between words. A worrying thought! So although I am about to have another little rant about labels again, I do appreciate that people need to categorise in order to make sense of things in what can be an overwhelming and confusing world.
We need to understand who we are and where we fit
Being able to see similarities and differences is a key part to our understanding of how things work, however, when we attribute these labels to other people rather than objects and things, it can have an adverse effect. I am a person who does see the significance of having a ‘label’. Working in teaching, it is something that we have to manage and some young people who do not learn or behave in the more traditional way often benefit from being able to say “I am ………” as it can give them a reason and an explanation for the way they think or feel. Others find it a burden and it can make them feel more different or unusual and it is not a positive.
At the end of the day, it is about understanding, and knowing how or why only helps if you then know what to do with that information. So I am not against labels per se, I just think that they have to be used with care and caution and there has to be a value to using one. If identifying with a particular label is helpful as it allows you to navigate the world in a more positive way then it can be a real benefit. If it allows you to explain to others certain things about yourself and how you want to be treated, then it can be really helpful. I am aware that this is not always the case and so would exercise caution when applying a label to someone else.
Finding my own label
For quite a number of years, I had the feeling myself that I was somehow ‘different’ or ‘wrong’ and it was a relief to finally be able to put a name to what that was all about. Realising that I was sexually submissive was a huge thing for me as I was able to slap on my label and leap straight into my category, knowing that I was no longer alone and there were others. I used it to explain to my husband what I thought I was and what I thought I needed from him, and he kindly agreed to take his own label and join me in pursuing a our newly labelled lifestyle.
What I didn’t realise was that arriving at the conclusion that I was, or wanted to be, a submissive was really only the beginning. I quickly became entangled in other categories and labels – sexual submissive, lifestyle submissive, 24/7, slave, little, masochist, service submissive ……….. The community where I found my first ‘home’ was marketing the married submissive – I was submissive and married so yay! But although it seemed initially to be a good fit, it became clear that it was as limited in its acceptance of the different bits and pieces that might make up a relationship as any of the other labels.
Making things fit
I suppose to accept that there is not a clear definition leads to a dilution and therefore a confusion and so, for the most part, people try to make themselves part of the group.
Anyway, ultimately the confusion was all mine – if I didn’t fit there then I would need to find a new home, which really is what I have done here I suppose. During chat one time we were talking about this and a friend said, “We are not all square pegs here. We are squishy odd shaped pegs and balls and other stuff.” Sometimes I think we just know when we don’t fit and we find others who can relate to those feelings.
Living this dynamic has allowed me to grow a lot as a person and I am much less bothered these days about what others think. I have learnt to accept myself and have also found myself interacting with a group of people who have done the same. In the past if I didn’t fit neatly into a box, then I have been guilty of stepping back rather than reaching into the box, having a rummage around, and taking out the things that might be useful to me. However, from the comfort of my new position, I can see the various lids of the boxes that I had closed, slowly opening back up.
So while I may begin to embrace, or certainly consider some other labels in the months and years that come, I will proceed with caution. I will be careful to use the bits and pieces that are helpful to me and not beat myself up if I am not like everyone in that particular box. In trying to sort ourselves out so that we can more easily find others who share the same interests and ideas, we can end up creating a somewhat exclusive group. We somehow lose our differences in our desire to find others the same. I do not believe there is a right way or a wrong way and I think the need to squeeze people into highly defined groups can create as many issues as it helps.
When we split people up into categories, the large variety in each category seems to be reduced whereas the differences between the categories seems to be highlighted. I am not sure that either is a positive. At the end of the day, we are all different and we all have our own set of experiences and personality traits as well as having our own set of hopes and dreams. Unlike things and objects, people cannot be neatly defined and labelled in a precise way so I will try to stay away from defining myself in such terms. At the moment I am happy surrounded by boxes with open lids. I am content looking into those that seem to be of interest and am spending time thinking about those that don’t in an open-minded way.
I love reading about and talking to people who are different to me and then learning that actually we also have a lot in common. My life currently is about pushing boundaries and it feels good not to be boxed in and to be pushed to try new things and to be accepted for being who (and what) I am. So ultimately I am torn – while it would be nice not to have to use differentiators and for the world to be accepting and inclusive in a way which it is not, it is also important to recognise that we are all different and in embracing that we can learn and grow.
To see who else is writing about labels just hit the badge to go to the page or why not check out some more of my Tell Me About posts.
This post was originally written and published in August 2017 but has been updated for the current prompt.