Have you ever had a moment that is embedded into your memory? When I was home for Thanksgiving my first year of college, my cousins and I were around the table talking. One cousin started saying “X cousin is the smart one, Liz is the pretty one, and X cousin is the athletic one.” This memory is stuck with me to do this day. I was labeled as pretty and that was it. That was the only value that I brought to the table. My older cousin was given the title of smartest but how could that make her feel knowing I was the “prettiest”? Families always have rivalries but at one point does our labeling of each other affect our future? How does your only attribute of “pretty” affect you when you’re in college and studying for finals? I think when we put a label on someone, we box them in and disqualify them for anything else. We take away the possibility that they could be good at anything and everything. Labels are used so often today in our society; they are considered the norm.
Labels are used by everyone — it seems normal to classify people, right? That is the girl who studies the hardest, that’s the girl who goes out too much. These labels create connotations which we associate with people. In my experience, being told that I am the “pretty one,” I was upset. I was working my butt off in university and had gotten a pretty great scholarship to be there. I felt defeated because I was seen as one particular attribute. I think that we need to be careful as to what we call people. Choosing our words wisely will allow us to support others around us. Labels are meant for jars of pasta sauce, not human beings. When other people identify us as one particular thing, it creates how we perceive ourselves. Sociologists call it the Labeling Theory: when people tell you that you encompass a certain idea, you begin to self-identify as such. The girl who you deem as “just pretty” may have the potential to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Human beings are complex individuals with different facets that make us who we are. If we were only one thing, the world would be a pretty boring place. It’s important that when we talk to others, we choose our words wisely so that we can allow people to be who they want to be.
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