Labels. They are both universally feared and selectively applied to people around the world, across and between cultures. Labels have the power to unite and divide friends, families, and social cliques.
While this may be a bit of a grandiose statement, it’s the only response I could muster to this CTVNews video on Canada’s “perfect” woman over 30 years of age. This lady, based out of Timmins, Ontario, successfully competed for top spot through a combination of physical appearance (i.e. fashion), personality (e.g. pageantry), and performance. She now carries the proud label of “perfect” in her day-to-day life, although she thinks of herself more as a representation or figurehead for women everywhere.
I certainly do not mean to suggest that this label has been incorrectly applied, or that perfection is encapsulated in virtues other than fashion, pageantry, and performance. I’m sure that Canada’s Most Perfect Woman is living in accordance with her passions and fulfilling goals that she’s striven for over the course of many years. Instead, I question the application of labels at all.
The dangers of applying labels to oneself are threefold; one, you come to define yourself and your values as separate from everyone else; two, you evaluate and respond to situations according to your self-defined value/label system; and three, you may come to believe that your label(s) is/are superior to others. Note here that individuals can associate more than one label with their lifestyle (“father”, “nerd”, “hipster”, “sister”, etc.). I also delineate labels (e.g. “religious, Christian”) from personal characteristics (e.g. “devout, humble”).
In contrast, labels can be useful when you are constantly questioning and evaluating your situation, experiences, values, and perspectives against everyone else. Why does that girl you just met think you’re a nerd? You may look and behave, superficially, like a nerd, but you resist that label and/or define it differently than she does. Consequently, her evaluation of you sparks off your own reflexive analysis of the things you value and perceive in the world.
Everybody wants to be seen in a certain light, and labels can often assist in this goal – hence why they are so universally powerful and consistently applied. Clara Vaz thoughtfully comments on this issue in her post on Fitness Competitions. She also highlights how labels can often define what you do and how you interact with the world at large; she regards herself as a feminist, a value system which conflicts with competitions based around physical appearance.
Personally, I argue against labels and looking out at the world through label-oriented glasses because it restricts your perspective and shuts you out of copious lifestyle combinations. If I were to propose an alternative to labels, I would suggest that every person consider him or herself to be on shaky self-identity ground all the time. Thinking deeply about life circumstances and your response to them is an important keystone to becoming an emotionally resilient individual (Waters, May 21st, 2013).
So in response to the label of “Perfect Woman” , I encourage everyone to follow the example of Pooh and Piglet from A.A. Wilne’s Winnie-the-Pooh series and simply live, as they are, in the present moment.