Labels Are Prisons

We have labels for everything. We have all these witty labels about smart people, athletic people, pretty people, dumb people and so on. You live in the city, wear skinny jeans and sips lattes all day, then a hipster you are. You waste money on avocado toast, have tattoos and have a boatload of student debt, then welcome to being a millennial. You happen to be Asian, female, love expensive things and clubbing, then you are labeled the infamous ABG. The list goes on and on. We have also turned identifiers such as race, gender, age and other physical characteristics into labels as well. If you're black, tall and male, well society sees you as some possible athletic freak whose only path to success is sports. If you're white, male and old, then many people will assume that you may be a conservative, god fearing capitalist. If you're Asian and female, society still sees you as a passive uber feminine potential wife. All these assumptions are blatantly discriminatory and should have no place in society but they exist. By pretending they don't exist, keeps us in the ignorant. Yes labels are natural heuristic tools that help us think less and figure out people quickly. We all love shortcuts and labels are short cuts for people. Some of them are accepted. Some of them are funny and humorous. Some of them are flat out insulting and discriminatory. In the end, by believing in labels and accepting them blindly, we imprison our views and our opportunities. 

Labels limits our sense of empathy and perspective. We not just making assumptions about who the person is but also how the person acts. We assume values and views. If we subscribe that a NFL football players best talent is athletics than we will overlook NFL players that can become neurosurgeons. Or that Ashton Kutcher a.k.a. Michael Kelso is a top tech venture capitalist. Or how we used to believe that women could not possibly run a marathon until one did. Labels are mental shortcuts that save us time. They speed up our thought process and provide us a template for treating people and interacting with the environment. The only problem is that it is limiting to our relationships. We miss out in the possibilities of the impact of people because we may write certain people off. Wealthy intelligent people dress like slobs. Well dressed clean cut nice people are sometimes con artist and crooks. Street attire wearing tough looking people may be saints and philanthropist. Letting labels cloud our views will also limit how we view the world and interact with it. 

Labels limit us from living beyond our metal barriers. When we subscribe to label, we live within the boundaries of that label. Things that are not congruent to that label we avoid to maintain the label. We do not wear certain clothes. We do not go certain places. We do not associate with certain people. For example, in parts of Asia trying to fulfill the role of a beautiful Asian woman would entail acting a certain way but characteristically having very pale skin. People go to extremes of avoiding the sun and even wearing mask to the beach. The problem with living within that label means you avoid anything outdoorsy or in nature because of the sun. You will avoid many outdoor sports; no soccer or running. You will avoid the beach; no surfing or beach volleyball. You will avoid doing certain activities; no hiking or outdoor restaurants. But all these activities limits you from becoming or trying other things just so that you can maintain a certain label. The imprisonment of that label lowers your quality of life and your options. 

Labels are prisons. Until we unshackle ourselves from labels, we will never be free.