Do you want to be happy? Then stop putting labels on yourself and others. For example, we label ourselves by the color of our skin, our gender, our hair color, eye color, political affiliation, highest educational level achieved, our faith (or lack thereof), job title, zip code, as survivors of whatever trauma or disease we’ve experienced (like “cancer survivor,” “rape victim,”), and so on. The labels are the virtually countless variables with which we distinguish ourselves from others or align ourselves with others. The problem is that labels create separation, and separation diminishes relationships.
It can be convenient, or in some cases, necessary, to label ourselves. It can be helpful to provide medical professionals with identifiers they need to make recommendations about medications and treatment. We need identifiers on our driver’s licenses to prove our identities and to obtain professional licenses and the like. Beyond that, labels may do more harm than good. If you doubt that this is true, just walk into a room full of people you don’t know and announce that you are a conservative Republican. You will immediately see the division begin. One person will announce that he or she loves President Trump. Others will defiantly make statements like, “he stole the election from Hillary!” You may not have to say another word because the dividing lines will have been drawn, and the division takes on a life of it’s own.
Many labels aren’t as obviously divisive as politics, religion, or nationality but regardless of the labels, they all can have the effect of shutting down conversation and superimposing stereotypes. When we use labels, we are effectively announcing the filter through which we see the world, the consequence of which is that people who seethings differently, and who wish to avoid conflict, will keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves. When that happens, we miss opportunities to learn about and from each other.
When we talk to people who think, feel, and believe differently than we do, we learn who they are and why they think and feel the ways they do. Although we may not agree, we may have a better understanding of the other person. We can respect the opinions and beliefs of others without agreeing or trying to persuade them to share our views. Some of the most rewarding relationships can be found between people who disable their labels and just share honestly without fear of judgement or criticism. We’ll all be happier to the degree we can do that.
Value relationship over labels
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About the author: Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors , used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.