This I Believe

Laura - Gladstone, Oregon
Entered on November 15, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

Labels can be Liberating

I believe that contrary to what we’ve been taught to think, being judged by others can be strangely liberating. When we are labeled, we learn to act, speak and relate to others within the confines of our assigned stereotype in many situations. Our label gives us direction and even actually provides comfort and safety when we act according to its hallmarks. It’s ironic. Few people even admit they judge and yet, we only seem to know ourselves by our tags.

One tag no one should label me is a ‘perfectionist.’ Rather, I’m perfectly satisfied with second best if it means that I’m finished. I like to think of myself as a taskmaster, a “get-it-done-ist.” The elation I get from checking a chore off my list is immense and probably why I even make lists. Again, perfection is not my goal. This applies to cooking, errands, planning and even housework. Sure, some of my son’s Wheat Thins crumbs may still be on the living room rug, but I did vacuum, didn’t I? Vacuum Floor. Check.

So where do labels originate? Which comes first, traits or labels? Let’s try an experiment. Consider a situation that displays our personality traits but doesn’t currently have assigned stereotypes: the four-way stop intersection. Think about it. Which type are you?

First, there is the “Director.” She is the person who immediately drives up to the stop sign and waves each car on– first with her right hand and then with her left– then it is her turn. She is also the same person who micro-manages her daughter’s birthday party and is very frustrated when other kids don’t dress according to its theme. It was, after all, printed on the invitation.

Next, we have the “Dawdler.” He drives up, stops and waits to see what others are doing before he decides. He doesn’t want to be too hasty. He deliberately looks from corner to corner and monitors which vehicle is lurching forward and which is not in motion. He may seem indecisive, but he’s really just cautious. He dislikes fringe on notebook paper and his spice rack is alphabetized, as is his bookshelf.

Next is the “Charger.” She cares not whose turn it is but if no one else is going to go, darn it, she is. What’s wrong with those people? Do they have all day? She also despises the people who still pay for their groceries by writing a check.

Finally, we have the person who causes by far the most confusion at the four-way stop: the “Double Stopper.” He drives up, stops and then accelerates on his turn, but then abruptly changes his mind and suddenly stops again. This completely bamboozles the entire rotation process until ideally, a “Director” steps in and regroups the foursome. The “Double Stopper” is the same person who always orders the same deli sandwich because just choosing the cheese alone can be tough.

Think of your own actions and don’t be surprised if the next time you meet a four way stop, you aren’t strangely comforted by your label and even perhaps relieved when acting within its boundaries. I know that as a ‘get-it-done-ist,’ this is how I operate.

Okay… write “I Believe” statement. Check.