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How Labels Disable

There are a lot of self-improvement books and blogs out there that provide a lot of tips on how to be successful in life.  I’ve done the same on this blog, and will continue to do so. I will even recommend that you take a course, if that will help you reach your goal of living in greater freedom more quickly.

But I’ll admit: all the success information out there can be overwhelming. Do you really need to get a life coach, or have a set network of people, or go out running three days a week, to be able to achieve your goals?

I’m telling you right now, if one of the requirements of success is to read at least one self-help book every week, I’m bound for failure!

Why do we do this to ourselves, create rules and principles that “you’d better follow, or else”?

We do it because we learn to do it when we are very young. To be successful in school, we need to follow the rules. To get into the right college, we need to follow the rules. In order for God to like us and bless us, we need to live according to certain principles. (If I see ONE MORE parent telling their four-year-old that God is mad at her because she acted like a typical four-year-old…!!!)

Some people, unfortunately, are taught that they cannot have their parents’ love unless they tow the line they have drawn. No mistakes allowed.

All this leads to labeling

I need to proceed with caution here. I know that there are people who truly need certain interventions in order to be able to cope with life. And I know defining these different groups of people by their behaviors or symptoms helps the different specialists to, well, help those people.

In other words, labeling can be helpful in some circumstances.

But many times, it is not.

Why does the five-year-old boy who can’t sit still for five seconds in a row (I’ve had them in my class!) and who won’t be ready to learn to read for three more years need to be labeled as “hyperactive”? Why can’t he just be a normal little boy?

Why does everyone on your street call the elderly lady who lives on the corner “eccentric” because of the way she dresses and because of all the birdfeeders she has in her yard? Why can’t she just be the elderly grandmother who happens to enjoy wearing bright, multi-colored dresses and who loves birds?

Does our son really “suffer” from the condition known as ADHD, or has God just given him a temperament and brain that function differently from the “average” child, causing him to behave differently than the “average” child (what the BLANK does “average” mean, anyway?)? Maybe most parents struggle with their children who have been thus bestowed with the label mainly because we were brainwashed with a particular definition of “normal”, and we are frustrated because we can’t make our child fit within that definition!

There’s something wrong if you have a ten-year-old who can’t read. A seven-year-old who doesn’t know how to write her name. A twelve-year-old who is a genius chess player, but who still can’t figure out how to tie his shoes.

It doesn’t matter if all of those skills are eventually learned, and learned well, by the time the child actually needs to know them. It doesn’t matter that there have been many homeschooled children who didn’t learn to read until they were in their mid-teens – and then caught up with their peers within a year or two of starting.

It doesn’t matter that some people struggle with academic subjects their whole lives, but end up living happy, fulfilling lives despite that.

Nope. None of that matters. If someone seems like they are functioning outside of what mainstream culture has decided is “normal”, the person must be given a label.

Bringing it home

We label because we compare people to other people based on the rules we think they should be following.

Is that right? Is it helping you? If you read my blog posts and think, “Oh, my gosh, I have so far to go. Look at Emily’s life!”, I can guarantee the whole comparison thing is not helping you. In your mind, you have labeled me as a “success”, and yourself as a “failure.”

That’s as bad as calling one kid a genius because he learned to read when he was three, and another “learning disabled” because his development timeline does not fit in with the conventional education system.

Stop doing that to yourself.

Stop comparing and labeling. And, while you’re at it, may I suggest that you stop doing it to other people.

Let’s change the way we look at people. Let’s let them be where they are right now, and grow as they may. That will save everyone a whole lot of stress, and put a whole lot more people in the “successful” category.LINKTOACCEPTYREALITYPOST

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