Friday, December 30, 2011


I am a young woman. I am a Sikh. I am an Indian. I am an American. I am a student. I am a teacher. I am passionate. I am strong. I am weak. I am independent. I am confident. I am insecure. I am a believer. I am a dreamer. I am many things, but I am not one thing: definable.

It is human nature to organize everything around us into boxes, all tied up with neat, nice bows. After all, we are conditioned to do so.

As infants, our parents teach us to name things. They help us make sense of the chaos around us. “Mama.” “Bottle.” Each object is assigned a term.

As children, we are given pictures of objects to color and underneath each one, we are asked to name it. “Apple.” “Ball.”

In school, we are forced to swallow down books of vocabulary. Define these words. What do they mean?

By the time we reach adulthood, it’s not a surprise that our natural reflexes include assigning labels to everything we see, hear, or feel. See. Define.

After all, we are conditioned to do so.

When we are unable to assign something a label, we become frustrated. Is that person I see a man or a woman?

In the end, our seemingly innate ability, or rather need, to define everything around us incredibly limits our capacity to see the world for what it really is.

In reality, nothing fits into a nice, neat box.  Events, people, everything around us, is complex. And until we train ourselves to open up our minds, we will always be stuck in a place of limited thinking.

Limited thinking breeds negativity and stereotypes; it breeds hate. Tolerance is a product of understanding and we cannot understand what we do not consider. 

Let’s open our minds to the beautiful world with all its complexities.

Don’t label me.

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  1. I read this and thought to myself, "I thought labels were simply the way the human brain makes sense of the world" so I looked up some articles and found one that talks about the difference between categories and stereotypes (not sure if "labels" is in the middle somewhere). I haven't finished reading it yet but it's interesting:

    1. Thanks for reading & sharing your feedback; I really appreciate it :)
      I agree that labels are the way we make sense of the world; I feel like it becomes a problem when it becomes too much of an automatic response in situations where it shouldn't be. I guess I meant "labels" more in the stereotyping sense.

      Thanks for sharing this article; it's very interesting! I've actually heard a lot about some of this research, and how stereotypes are really just unconscious responses. This quote really resonated with me: "Connections made often enough in the conscious mind eventually become unconscious. Says Bargh: 'If conscious choice and decision making are not needed, they go away. Ideas recede from consciousness into the unconscious over time.'"
      I guess that's what I was trying to get at with this piece - about how labels turn into stereotypes through this transition from consciousness into unconsciousness.