As an individual with a background in marketing and advertising, I am very aware of labels. Labels are your one communication touch point you have with the consumer of your product. The way in which a product is labeled says a lot about a product and often tells a consumer whether or not he would like to buy the product.
As people, we also carry labels. Hipster, Goth, Christian, feminist, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican. We are constantly asked to take on labels that describe a certain trait about our personality or how we live our life. While this is a normal tendency, it also can be harmful because labels often come with stereotypes. Labels allow other people to have preconceived notions of what we are like as human beings.
As I'm writing this, I am volunteering at a rehabilitative summer camp for stroke survivors. For many of these campers, they have been labeled as broken or hopeless. Many have lost control of limbs or can no longer form a complete sentence. However, these campers are some of the most hopeful, motivated and inspirational people I have ever met. It's so easy to look at a person and decide that there is something wrong with him, or something that makes him “not normal.” Looking past labels and preconceived notions of what these labels mean can open us up to an amazing world of people that we might normally write off. A lot of people think of stroke survivors as brain dead, slow, or even sometimes scary. A simple conversation with a stroke survivor will tell you that this huge life experience has informed a wealth of knowledge and a depth of experiences that the rest of us simply do not have.
At the end of the day, we are all people. This year has done so much to divide us as a nation and as people groups. Labels encourage us to self-segment the population and only talk to like-minded individuals. It can be incredibly rewarding to talk to someone with the opposite opinion on any given topic and experience a different viewpoint every now and then. Getting outside of your label and experiencing people without biases can help to make you a more well-rounded individual.