Watch Out With Labels

This guest post was written by Carlos Miceli. Argentinian. Questioner of things. Carlos posts daily short posts at Owl Sparks and can also be found on twitter: @CarlosMiceli.

Labels are the downside about the “community” thing.

We as a culture feel the need to label everything: our clothing style, our musical preference, you name it. It’s worrying.

Sure, we do it to belong. To feel closer to one another. To separate ourselves from outsiders.

But here’s the problem:

Labels are limits.

We need to be part of something bigger, that’s ok.

The problem comes when our need for exclusion comes before our need for belonging.

People don’t realize how much they lose when they exclude those other labels as learning opportunities. How much they stop growing.

Don’t ever label yourself as anything that will limit you.

If there’s a label that’s worth the effort, is being open-minded.

{editors note: My question for Carlos, and you guys, is – where is the line between labeling yourself for the purpose of belonging versus excluding? I label myself as a 20-something because I enjoy conversing with other 20somethings about life. This is not the say I won’t have a great conversation with a 35 year old. What do you think?}

8 thoughts on “Watch Out With Labels

  1. Okay, so let’s think about how food is labeled (as a metaphor for people). The labeling is ALL wrong. You know the FDA doesn’t regulate the word “natural,” and it’s completely a marketing ploy? Cheetos could put “natural” on their bag and it it would be allowed.

    Just like with people, labels can be so false. Yet, food needs labels because we do need to know what we’re eating, buying, consuming and being part of. Just like with friends and people, sometimes it’s nice to know their M.O. what they’re about, etc. Of course, people have many more layers than food ;) but maybe we don’t need to rely on the label so much. I might dress one way, but act the exact opposite of what you expect. Putting a label on someone is like a blanket stereotype that makes it hard to go beyond or give someone a chance.

    Great guest post Carlos and good question Elysa :)

  2. I think there are definitely some doors that can be opened up by identifying yourself with a certain community. Yet if you promote yourself only as a member of that community then you most definitely could exclude some folks.

    When I first started to identify with Gen-Y I harassed Ryan Healy pretty well, cause Brazen Careerist would only accept writing from people under 30. I was like “Uh oh, looks like only 1 more year til I’m too old to be heard and cool anymore!” I’m the first year of Gen-Y (by most definitions) so I feel a lot like even if I *try* to label it isn’t ok.

  3. @Grace: I love your food analogy Grace! And you are so right the problem with labels is that there are so many layers to just being a person.

    @Elisa: I hadn’t really thought of the door opening aspect, but it’s very true. PS: here’s the research I found for when gen y starts

  4. Why do we need to be labeled to have the conversations we want? I feel that I can be part of most communities without labeling myself, without preventing myself to join others. I don't label myself as anything that will exclude other points of views. After all, those are the most interesting discussions.

  5. here's another question … do you think the labeling is a gender issue? Perhaps women are more likely to label themselves or others?

  6. here's another question … do you think the labeling is a gender issue? Perhaps women are more likely to label themselves or others?

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