19 June 2009

Persistent Negative Labelling Can Destroy Lives

‘If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.’
Bruce Barton

Why do we insist on giving people labels? You are so stupid, too fat, you will never achieve anything and so the list goes on. Are these comments adding value or simply festering in the minds of the recipient to embrace and live out the label? Tragically most will embrace the label and lead that life. For a determined minority, the words will harness the power within to prove their labellers wrong and lead incredibly successful lives.

I know of one case where a father continually labelled his son as useless and would not amount to anything. As this was drilled into the son from a young age, his son accepted the words of his father as the absolute truth. The son unlike his siblings was not an academic genius but had the ability to work magic with his hands. This obviously went unnoticed by his father.

Subsequently, Andre (not his real name) for 10 years happily sponged off his family and friends, refused to seek employment and blissfully received welfare payments. However, realization hit Andre in his 20’s that he had been labelled by his father and would prove him wrong. Andre went onto to work for a successful communications giant working in the field, using what he was always great at – his hands. He was a genius at what he did and highly regarded by his management and peers.

Viewing the situation from the outside it was heartbreaking to see Andre waste 10 incredible years of his life due to a label. Andre’s view of himself was that he was a waste of time and incapable of achieving. Hindsight is always a great thing but simply because an individual has a specific opinion about you does not necessarily make it true or a fact. For many we may accept what is said about us as the truth particularly if it was persistently said to us as a child. Realization to challenge those labels may come to some in their later life, regrettably for others it may never happen.

Therefore, it is worth noting the persistent comments you make to people – will it enhance or jeopardize the life they will eventually lead.

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