The libel of labels

From the moment we are born, there are labels. Good baby. Easy baby. Difficult baby. Fussy baby.

It seems we are destined to a life of words meant to define us — if we let them. In my life, I’ve struggled with labels. Ugly. Fat. Uncoordinated. Stubborn. I admit that some of these labels I inflicted upon myself (guess which ones), but others were given to me either directly (my nickname in high school was Clum-bo – as in clumsy), or indirectly.

The bad thing about labels is that once they are spoken, whether true or not, they are hard to shake. They crawl into our minds and make a home. Sometimes they stay in the attic until dusted off by some trigger, and sometimes we wear them so blatantly, others begin to accept them as truth as much as we do.

Society does a damn good job of forcing labels upon us in the guise of advertising. And because the ads are so glossy and perfect, we gladly step into the trap.

My son has to deal with labels that have the potential to destroy his self-worth. Weirdo. Freak. Loser. These labels could do damage if he didn’t have such a strong sense of who he is, but he does.

Tourette Syndrome makes him stand out, but not in the way you might think. Yes, he tics. Yes, he can look different. But his differences go far deeper than that.

He is tolerant and accepting. Jacob makes a concerted effort not to label others. He knows how one label can ruin someone. Jacob is kind. He considers the fact that what you see isn’t always what’s real.

I wonder what would happen if we simply saw one another as beings who are flawed as a result of circumstance. All of us. And in accepting this find a truth free of labels. We are all light and love at our core. One. The same. Unified. And that is beautiful. Maybe if we operate from that perspective the world will be a kinder place.

Kind. Compassionate. Loving. Soulful. Now those are labels I can live with.


  1. Very nicely said. Our differences actually make us the same, in a way. We are perfectly imperfect. My sixteen year old son, as well, is very accepting of people. He has taught me patience. He is dependable and hard working. I can not find the words to express how proud I am of him. I struggled, in the beginning, to not fall into the habit of thinking of him as my son with Tourette’s and other issues…not to fall into the act of labeling him myself. Today I think of him as my TS child. But these days, TS stands for “terrific son”!

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