The first time Pamela called me about my invitation to speak on the topic; “labelling’ on a popular TV station, I was particularly excited about the topic. WHY? Over the years, I have had to deal with these issues both personally and at the other end of the table as a clinical psychologist helping clients.

While I was in primary and secondary school, I was called small rat by my colleagues. To them, it is a description of how small statured I was compared to themselves. That was my own label. I remember one young client who complained of her colleagues referring to her as snail. That was her label. It is important to note that Label does not always have to come in a negative form like the small rat and snail, it can also come in a positive form. I can as well remember some colleagues later in life call me; “charming smile“, “akerekoro“(a Yoruba word meaning a small person doing extraordinary).

Either ways, whether small rat, snail, charming smile or akerekoro, it is our interpretation of the label people use on us that determines its impact on us. I remember my daughter saying she is being called laughing gas by her classmates. She could see it as either a good one and allow it build her self-esteem or she sees it as a bad one and feel demeaned.

True to it, there are good and bad labels but how you see and interpret them will determine their impact on you.

Can you remember a label you were given at any point in your life? Was it good or bad? How did you see the bad ones?

While there are different labels folks give to us at different points in our lives. Labels remains what it is; label. It is not the content! It is not the product!! It is not a perfect definition of you. Manufacturers try their best to give the details of a product on its label but NO LABEL HAS EVER BEEN ABLE TO HELP US EXPERIENCE THE EXACT TASTE OR NATURE OF THE CONTENT so why get depressed about an imperfect definition of you.
As I type, I remember how battered that client who was called snail walked up to me. ‘Am I really slow?’ she asked. Then she went on and on to talk about her ordeal with people around her.

How did I not get defined by being called a small rat?

  1. Talk is cheap. People can say whatever they like. It does not define me. I get contented with who I am and do not let anyone’s opinion become my reality. If they think I am small, it is their thought. I can choose my own thought and believe that I am perfect for whatever reason I am made and I feel cool about it. Your own thought of yourself is what matters.
  2. Labels can be true or false. Your own interpretation is what matters not theirs. Somethings are within your control and others are not. I can’t control my height and if it also takes me time to process somethings; a bit slower than others, i am perfect for who i am, I choose to be me. If I can improve on my nature- fine. If not, let no one be me! Be the indispensable you in your life or others will make you feel less of who you really are.
    If I had allowed my colleagues define me, I would have been down and feel incapacitated to achieve some feats in life. Today, I solve problems for those that are much taller than I am. That young client called snail is a doing great feats today. Let no label stop you.
    NOW, anyone of us can be perpetrators of labelling act too. You may joke with certain labels on people not knowing how much it affects them, impedes their joy and self-esteem. Everyone has different capacity to cope with adversities. Not everyone as a buffer against negative labels.
    So as a student, a parent, a colleague, a Boss, a Pastor, an Imam, a Teacher, a Friend; let us make the world a better place by not being quick to label thereby increasing the frustration of others through negative labelling.
    Do good labels if at all you must!
    If you see these aforementioned signs and symptoms in a loved one or suspect that a friend or loved one is going through above, DON’T KEEP QUIET, help them seek psychological help immediately. Don’t wait and hope for improvement. Contact us 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084.

Motolani Akintayo MSc, BSc
Reviewed by Olugbemi Olukolade