Labels, Order and Control


Pretty. Short. Thin. Fat. Tall. Stupid. Freak. Smart. Ugly. Nerd. Geek.

Humans are obsessed with labels. We want to put everything under a category, trapping them in a tiny box with the label tattooed across the top. An obsession for the order we wish to achieve, forgetting we came into the world raw, messy and striving for chaotic perfection.

Labels are the words of people who think with their eyes; those who believe that complex humans can be defined by an adjective. We’re not adjectives, nor nouns, we are humans. Labels are a confinement to a single, one-dimensional description of who we supposedly are. We are not our labels. We are breathtaking, hauntingly complex creatures who are meant to soar freely without the confinement of the standards of others. We’ve created so many different standards of what a human should and should not be that we have forgotten that our diversity makes us who we are; that the labels we create stir human emotions. People now struggle to live up to these labels, to live toward society’s identification of beauty or intelligence or success. People are willing to give up their own money and time to reach what others told them what they should be. During the process of fitting into the tiny box of labels, they lose themselves and what makes them who they are.

To hastily give an accusing stamp has become human nature, almost as natural as breathing. If a new human were to come into a room, within five seconds, we will have created an entire life story for the stranger. When asked to defend ourselves, we will state that “we were only trying to figure them out” and that we meant no harm. However, by then, the harm has been done, even if our intention was otherwise. So, why do we judge others although we hate being judged ourselves? I believe it is because we crave control. Our fear of the unknown has controlled us and has fed our love for control.

People claim they know better than to judge a book by its cover. They claim that what they have heard about someone will ‘never’ affect the way that they think about that person. However, those who claim this are misjudging the power of words. Once an individual has been identified in a certain manner; they will always carry around the images and prejudices which are associated with that label.

We all hate labels, yet we label others ourselves. So why do we, as a society, feel the need to constantly slap a label on everything living thing in this world? It’s ridiculous and most of the time we don’t even notice we’re doing it. We label all that breathes and then say that labels are irrelevant. Why? Because humans are flawed. We are imperfectly perfect and we underestimate the power of words we so proudly claim to understand.

Illustration by Annabel Amin.

Norah Abdul is a Saudi medical student, with coffee, words, and sarcasm running through her veins. If you don't find her studying for her million and one exams, she's probably lost somewhere in Hogwarts. You can follow her on twitter.

LiteratureSamar Ziadat