Sometimes, when we are really honest, we have to take on outsider labels. These are the labels tag us as being outside of a larger social group. Labels can can terribly helpful in connecting people, but outsider labels are divisive when we relate to that larger social group. Self-application of outsider labels can torture a person as they experience self-imposed isolation from a larger social group.
Why have labels at all? Societal labels allow like-minded people to be grouped together. The labels be self-applied or assigned by outside parties. I can call myself a contra dancer and a reader of my writing can say that I seem to be Liberal. I'm tucked into neat labeled boxes. These labels are pretty safe. I am still part of the larger group. People around me use labels to determine my place in the group.
Outsider labels have the same function as regular societal labels, but their impact on the individual can be dramatic. A label is characterized as the outsider type when the larger social group does not respond well to the label. The larger social group reacts with a range of emotions ranging from discomfort to extreme fear. An example of discomfort would be “cult member” for a person who belongs to a religious group outside of the larger social group. An example of extreme fear would be the reaction to the label of “murderer”.
Where am I taking this? I thought about this topic when a friend said that they did not feel comfortable labeling themselves with an outsider label. They acknowledged that using the label would align themselves with others that felt the same way. They also regretted that the label was of the outsider variety, and it felt like they were acknowledging being infected with a disease. Powerful stuff! The use of outsider labels is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways.
My friend offered a solution that I approve of! This solution works for me. I, like most people, have my share of outsider labels. I'd rather not share them with the larger group because these outsider labels would solicit negative responses. Am I wrong or deviant? No, but the larger group would not appreciate my differential. I am a member of the larger group, and my friend's solution works for the person with the outsider label and the larger social group.
My friend said that the individual should not assign outsider labels to themselves. They were going to skip self-assignment of outsider labels and just live their life. I was inspired by their words and want to share them. My friend said “I wear myself out thinking about it so I would just rather be me and not worry about what to call myself.” Does this stop others from putting outsider labels on my friend, or other people putting outsider labels on me? No, others will still label us. My friend's insight is that we can stop torturing ourselves with labels that do not directly help us.
What happens when we skip putting outsider labels on ourselves? We will live ourselves in a satisfying way and others may be no more the wise to our outsider ways. What can we do when others do move to slap us with an outsider label? That is another topic, and I will have to ponder that for a bit before answering!