Finding Faith in Labels

Finding Faith in Labels

This is Part 2 of Sunday’s post: Stories from my Childhood

As promised, I am back to tell you what the Stories from my Childhood post has to do with this blog. In college I learned about the labeling theory.

Finding Faith in Labels by Life as a Convert

Our dear friends at Wikipedia have a great definition for this:

“Labeling theory is the theory of how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.”

Like a medical record, school records are kept. Notes are kept in students’ files. These things that happened to me in the Stories from my Childhood post were in my files. Every grade I went up, the teachers saw my records and how troublesome and untrustworthy I was. I have no doubt that these ideas lead my teachers to believe these things about me, so instead of seeing the truth, they saw the label. Whenever situations arose, they immediately jumped to conclusions based on what was fed to them by other people. They believed the labels instead of believing me.

Did I do bad things? Of course I did! I set off fireworks at school one day with a few friends. (Got suspended for that.) I skipped class. I missed assignments. But, I always owned up to those things. I was never a leader. I was always a follower. I can’t recall any big troublesome things I did where I was the mastermind. I was always suckered into peer pressure and trying to fit in.

I was never thought to succeed at much. After all, I didn’t do what I was told and I couldn’t be trusted. I was a trouble maker.

Labeling my Children

I know that my kids won’t always make the best decisions and they will get into trouble too. I don’t want them to think they are defined by any labels people might put on them. (I am constantly telling Losh he is NOT disabled) I was struck a few weeks ago when my children were all getting into trouble for something they had not all done. My oldest screamed “You never believe me!”. I knew exactly how he felt and had a nice little chat with him.

As a parent, I have tried so hard to “believe” my kids and not jump to conclusions. I give them the opportunity to talk about what they have done. I also avoid labeling them. I don’t tell them they are bad when they do something wrong. Sometimes they do bad things, but that doesn’t mean they are bad.

I wish somebody had told me the same thing when I was growing up.

I ended up going through life being shy and hardly sticking up for myself. To this day, I have a hard time with confession of any sort because I always feel like I will be shamed/embarrassed or doubted.

Finding Faith in Labels

I was recently reading a book not knowing that it would go perfectly with this post. The book is called The Empty Mirror. It’s a Tween Read about a boy who lost his reflection because some sort of being stole it. The following is a quote from him:

I hated the idea of anyone knowing I was strange. I had some hope that I could keep people from finding out…

But I knew.

Who wants to go around knowing there’s something strange about them?

Weird. It feels weird. It’s making me crazy. I’m beginning to lose track of who I am myself. Maybe it’s my punishment for being troublesome. I wish I hadn’t been troublesome. I wish I was more good. I wish I’d studied more instead of reading. I wish I’d gotten on the good side of (my teacher) like (they) did. They aren’t so hot. They don’t get caught is all. (Others) only think (they) are good.

Those last 3 sentences really struck me. I’ve known this my entire life. Everybody has their secrets. Everybody has their sins. Everybody has their troubling behaviors. BUT! Not everybody gets caught – or in my case falsely accused! For whatever reason, it never really sank in until I read it in that book. It isn’t that other people don’t do these things, it’s just that they have received other labels.

What a freeing thought! 

I am not strange. I am not different. The labels given to me have simply been different.

That leads me to the whole point of sharing this.. Why do we label people when we should be encouraging them instead? Nobody is perfect. The only perfect person in this life died on the cross for us. He knows the truth of all things. He knows what we are truly like inside. Instead of stereotyping and labeling people, how about we get to know the real person and not rumors that are spread. How about we encourage people with positive words and not labels, because let’s face it, even positive labels can become difficult to maintain. (Think of the star athlete or straight A student who feels the need to workout or study excessively in order to maintain that label).

Find something that your children aren’t very good at and compliment them on something related to it. Perhaps they aren’t very talented at drawing, but they keep trying. Compliment their persistency or hard work. These things matter, especially during the younger years. Build your children up instead of tearing them down. Open them up to communication and let them know they are trusted. Let them know their opinion matters. Mostly importantly, let them know they are good people.

Were you labeled growing up? What was your label? 

54 thoughts on “Finding Faith in Labels

  1. Robin Masshole mommy

    I hate labels, but unfortunately Society feels the need to put people into categories. I never understood that.

  2. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    Unfortunately, labels are a part of the human condition. We all want to categorize things to make them fit into our view of the world. I try to refrain from doing that, but I still have to check myself from time to time.

  3. lisa

    I hate labels but they are a part of society unfortunately. I try to teach my kids not to pay attention to negative things and to believe they are the best little people they can be.

  4. Jeanette

    I try hard not to label people. Sometimes it’s harder than other times. It really depends on the person and as much as I hate to say it my impression of them.

  5. Annemarie LeBlanc

    My parents did not encourage nor practice labeling, although I have always been chided as “Shorty” (being the smallest among my siblings). I hate being demanded to be “perfect.” I got so annoyed one time at work when someone from management told me that I had to be the perfect employee just like him. I said, “Excuse me. Nobody’s perfect. Only God is perfect and you are NOT God.” That kept his mouth shut for a few months. :)

    1. Miles L.

      I can definitely relate today. It is really annoying when imperfect people demand perfection. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

  6. Tina

    Labeling is part of human nature. I think it’s better than plopping everyone into a category or type. We are each individuals and as such entitled to be unique. If that means putting a label, then so be it. JMHO.

  7. Elizabeth O.

    Labels are mean. It’s tough to grow up in a world where you can’t do anything about people labeling you. So instead, just ignore and go on with your life either that or find a positive label that you will give to yourself.

  8. travel blogger

    This is very interesting and something I have thought about a lot with my own son. My husband was labeled a trouble maker early on and often found himself taking the blame for things he hadn’t done. My son is a very active little boy, and I fear others might think he is aggressive or a trouble maker but he really just needs to be challenged and kept busy. This post has really helped me find some focus and new feelings on the whole situation.

    1. Liz Mays

      I saw that happen in school with kids all the time. Naturally the one labeled as the troublemaker got called out when anything happened. It’s not fair.

  9. ricci

    I too hate labels. I feel like sometimes people are “labeled” and/or “categorized” and then feel like they can never escape that feeling like they have to live up to that. Ugh. It is so frustrating!!

  10. Rebecca Swenor

    This is indeed a great post and such an important topic. Labels are something that can really affect how a child develops and grows into an adult. I was labeled a being shy and not that smart because of my ADD or that is how I felt anyway. It is so important for parents to encourage everything their children are interested in or struggling with as well.

  11. Maddie

    I don’t like labels either. Sometimes it’s hard to break out of labels you’ve been given or giving labels to someone else.

  12. Chubskulit Rose

    I used to be very bashful growing up but my father used to tell me that I am better what other people might tell me. It is a great tool if parents are there for their kids.

  13. Amber

    I think it’s really important to move past assumptions and labels that are place on others as well as ourselves. We often hold onto these things and let them take over our lives instead of trying to overcome them and prove others wrong.

  14. Lois Alter Mark

    Labels can be so dangerous and can stay with people their whole lives. I love your Tweet about building your kids up rather than tearing them down. That’s probably the most important parenting advice.

  15. Lynndee

    I don’t think I was labeled growing up. Labeling is not nice at all and I certainly don’t label people. Unfortunately, there are people who loves to do it because they think they are far greater than others.

  16. michelle

    i didn’t deal with labeling too much growing up but i have seen how labels have affected some people in my life. i have even worked on some tv shows where we filmed episodes on labeling which was an interesting experience

  17. Chelsea

    Labels are a mixed bag. On one hand, a label puts you in a box, it can cause discrimination, and create a “Ceiling” on the other hand., answers can be liberating. It can help to know what to expect. I am grateful for the diagnosis my daughter has, and with there was a better label to help people understand her.

  18. Ashley Whipple

    It’s a tough balance between being encouraging and giving a false sense of accomplishment. My daughter does do better when I can find gentle ways to correct her though.

  19. Sicorra@NotNowMomsBusy

    My mother and her sister did that to me a lot. They would always point out the things I did that they felt were done wrong. It was pretty simple stuff, like I didn’t know how to color in the lines, I didn’t know how to ride my bike in a straight line. I guess it wasn’t so much labels, as you describe, but as you said in the last paragraph, instead of criticizing, why not find something that is done well and emphasize that instead. Criticizing certainly does not inspire anyone to do better.

  20. Bonnie @wemake7

    Yeah, I was labeled quite a few different things growing up and even now. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  21. Up Run for Life

    I remember a time in 4th grade where I got in trouble for something that I didn’t do. I wasn’t given the opportunity to voice what I did. We were in the lunch room and I was sitting with my friends. The lights got turned off because the room monitor thought the room was too noisy. A friend took my wallet and I was holding my hand out to ask for it back. I lipped for my friend to give it back. Here comes room monitor over to us and then sends us to the principals office. He swatted us with a paddle. No warning, no chance to explain. I was so ashamed that I didn’t tell my parents. Looking back I wish I did. I’m kinda glad spanking is unheard of in public schools for reasons like this. Looking back I wish I said something to my parents, since I technically didn’t do anything majorly wrong.

    1. LifeAsAConvert Post author

      I know spanking was very common when I was in school, but the parents had to sign a slip stating that it was ok. My parents always denied. If I was going to get in trouble, then they wanted to be the one to punish me.

  22. Patty

    Sometimes the labeling is done to classify and they end up causing lifelong harm. I was always the “good girl” the “smart girl.” In some ways it helped in others it was impossibly hard to live up to

    1. LifeAsAConvert Post author

      Exactly! Even the good sounding or nice labels can end up harming an individual. I was always the “skinny one” and felt pressure to keep that up too.

  23. Jeanine

    Labels drive me nuts. Its something that is so common though, so its hard to get away from. Finding faith in them is something I’ve never really thought of before.

  24. Lisa Rios

    I think labels have become an important part of our life & we all set to categorize everything on our own idea, so whether you like or not, you need to go with it. If you take some extra care, I am sure you can avoid getting hurt or hurting others.

  25. becka

    We try not to label people around here . That was one thing I have really tried not to do because I see how it affect people and sometimes creates self fulfilling attitudes and behaviors. Children are also not one label. I have found that my kids are ever changing and surprise me daily if I let them. I couldn’t label them because one label doesn’t always fit.

  26. Ashleigh

    I had every label under the sun. I never really fit in anywhere, I guess with the “freaks” but I was eccentric and loved trying out different styles.

  27. Krystal

    Everyone always tries to put people in boxes or label them to understand them, but I think it does the total opposite. THanks for the insightful post

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