What does label mean?
1 : a slip (as of paper or cloth) attached to something to identify or describe it. 2 : a word or phrase that describes or names something or someone a part-of-speech label. label. verb. labeled or labelled; labeling or labelling.
We mostly think of labels on items. Labels help us identify what an item is or what is inside. If we see a can with no label, we have no idea what it contains inside. When we see the label we know exactly what it holds. We make our judgments on the item based on the label on the outside of it.
The same is true with people, but these labels have the potential to be very dangerous or very powerful depending on the label. Unfortunately, we are often unaware of the power these labels hold.
Little Johnny may have been given a negative label in school. It could have started as fun with little truth behind it, but it stuck. At first, people may have known their wasn’t much truth behind it, but over time the label came to identify Johnny. This is bad, but the worst part is how Johnny views the label.
At first, Johnny may have brushed the label off, but over time he started to identify with it. Johnny started to believe that the label correctly identified who he was. Johnny began to think and act in accordance with the label. The label become an accurate description of who Johnny was. The contents on the inside changed in order to match the label on the outside.
Imagine if you put a Sprite label on a Dr. Pepper can and over time the Dr. Pepper turned in to Sprite. This is the power labels can have on people.
When we are given a false label, we will do one of two things. We will reject it as false because we know it doesn’t accurately describe what is on the inside or we will accept it and change what is on the inside to match the label.
The labels can come from others and even come from ourselves. Maybe a negative experience causes us to give ourselves a label with little meaning, but then we repeat it. And then we repeat it again. Before we know it, we have accepted it.
Labels are both dangerous and powerful. What labels do you need to change?