Do we really need all these labels? All those boxes that we’re asked to tick on every form we fill in…. Do they really help? Or are they all just a hindrance?
Normally I would be of the opinion that we would be better off without any of the labels. Male, female, gay, bi, straight, creative, academic, introvert, extrovert, etc, etc…. the list is ever-growing. However, it was on this last topic that I realised the usefulness of labels.
I will give a personal example. I consider myself an introvert. I get my energy from being alone and am quickly drained when in a large group or party situation. In the past, I have been labelled as shy and encouraged to come out of my shell, which made me feel as if there was something a bit wrong with who I was. It turns out being described as shy was incorrect and very different to the reality:
Shy meaning: not at ease in company; timid; cautious or wary
Introvert meaning: person concerned more with his or her thoughts and feelings than with external reality.
Collins Gem English Dictionary
See below a great quote from Susan Cain, author of ‘Quiet’:
“Bill Gates is quiet and bookish, but apparently unfazed by others’ opinions of him: he’s an introvert, but not shy. Barbra Streisand has an outgoing, larger than life personality, who also battles with a paralyzing case of stage fright: she’s a shy extrovert. Shyness and introversion are not the same things.”
Understanding & Acceptance
Personally, I am not scared of people, I’m just choosy about how I spend my time. Considering that my energy source is lowered when I am in a large group, it is important for me to choose my encounters carefully. So I do. And It is much easier to do so when I have the label ‘introvert’ to understand and explain myself. To know that I am not scared of social situations, merely more sensitive to the stimulation that comes with them. Knowing this means I can be understanding towards myself and my needs, and to allocate plenty of alone time. It also helps to be able to explain this to others, so that they don’t jump to a conclusion that I am rude, snooty or embarrassed and that I just need my quiet time alone to recharge.
Labels & a Dream…
Labels can be helpful when we are in a society that doesn’t always fully embrace all the different ways human beings can be. It can help to explain why some of us behave differently, as well as help to even out the balance of representation in workplaces for example. But in the end I love the idea of a world where we won’t need to describe our labels to others, nor will we need to tick boxes on forms about our ancestry. I dream of these labels falling away into the history books, only to be mentioned as a lesson to highlight how far we have come as an open-minded and accepting human race. For the time being, however, these labels can serve a good purpose.