Love Out Loud: Labels

Hey, Leticia again! In my previous post, I posed the question, “Who are you?” and while this question may be easy to answer on the spot, it’s also likely that in answering it some of you many be putting yourselves in little categories and boxes of stereotypes. For example, the typical popular kid or the bookworm in the library. But this isn’t exactly the idea I was driving towards. So in this post, I want to talk about how we shouldn’t just label ourselves, and even other people for that matter.

And now, I have a new question for this post.

How often have you labelled someone? And by labelling I mean looked at someone and just automatically judged them on their appearance or what you’ve heard about them.

I know, I know, it can be unconscious sometimes. But I want to know why we have to judge and categorize ourselves. We look at someone, and do not even know their name or what experiences they’ve been through. We hear things about them and then we automatically believe what we’ve heard. We group people into different crowds and assume everyone in that group are all the same. We label just to make it easier for us. But we don’t look within, do we?

I’m not here to berate you for doing this, because we’ve all labelled someone. I’m just here to tell you about labels and why they don’t have the ability to completely define a person.

We all have different characteristics that define us. I personally think that it’s unfair that you can automatically assume something about a person without really knowing who they are. But I get it, we do it just because our brains automatically assume certain things based on previous encounters or what we have heard from other people. Our brains do this to satisfy our curiosity, but these assumptions aren’t always true. How much can we know about someone just based on their outside appearance and what we hear from others? We don’t have the firsthand experience and understanding of who that person really is until we meet them and get to know them.

So why exactly did I decide to write about labels? Last month, I went to UCSF’s Young Women’s Health and Leadership Summit. (Quick side note, the summit is a field trip for all young women in SF to attend and just serve as an overall safe space where girls support and empower each other. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me.) And one speaker in particular at this event, named Jennifer, really inspired me to make this post.

During her talk, she brought up the question of why girls are so mean to each other. Some of us look at other girls and immediately begin commenting on their appearance. It just doesn’t make sense for women or anyone in general to start finding things we dislike about one another just with a glance. And if you do think this way, who exactly hurt you? She told us that only people who are hurt themselves project this negativity onto other people, so in order to heal and not hurt others with our own words, we should start with kind words. She then instructed us to do an activity where instead of discussing the things we didn’t like about others or about ourselves, we talked about all the things we love about ourselves. We shared them with the other girls at the event and it felt so heartwarming.

What I took away from Jennifer’s talk was that using labels isn’t enough to tell us about another person. And the labels that other people put on you are not true, unless you believe they are. To those of you who label and believe what these labels say about you, and yes that includes me, let’s try and think more about ourselves first. Human beings are so complex and we all live our own unique lives, so how much can a label, a single word, define us?

So let’s get to know someone before we form our own opinions about them. Let’s be more positive and not label people, because we are so much more than words can even describe. Let’s define our own selves and be happy with who we are.

With that being said, I hope your takeaway from this post is to try to be more open-minded and not label others, because they are definitely not enough to interpret someone completely.

(Also, as a last minute side note, I would definitely recommend all young women reading this sign up and go to the UCSF Young Women’s Health and Leadership Summit! You have to be part of a school in the SFUSD though, so be aware of that! So don’t forget to sign up in your Wellness Center at school. The event is usually held in mid March so be on the lookout for sign-ups in late January-mid February.)