Labelling and Stereotyping

Labels are names, terms and categories that we pin on other people when they behave in a manner that we consider unacceptable. Such as calling a person ‘lazy’ or ‘troublemaker’ or ‘F grader’. Hence we stereotype that person and believe that this person will always be this way.

Negative labels when accepted as the truth by an individual can become a self-fufilling prophecy, This means that if an individual believes in the label , they will subconsciously behave according to the label that have been pinned onto them. For example, if a person is labelled as ‘useless’ and believes it to be so, will stop trying hard to improve. As a result, this person will not become better in the desired activity.


Stigma happens when this negative labelling continues and becomes accepted by large groups of people in society. People with mental health conditions are often stigmatised by society and often are not given the same opportunities as everyone else.

Labels are not only bad for the person who is given the label but also those of us who subscribes to it. If we choose to believe the label about a person, we will limit ourselves to only seeing that aspect of that person. No one is perfect, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some people may be labelled because of a misunderstanding, or a false rumour, or one personal trait, or a one-time mistake. That doesn’t make them altogether bad. They may have many other positive qualities underneath and may be capable of being really good friends.


How to avoid labelling others and ourselves

Labelling is a result of distorted thinking as we generalize a person based on limited understanding of that person. So, if a person does not hand up work on time and is labelled as lazy, we view the entire person based on this label and assume that this person will always be irresponsible and not trustworthy because he is lazy. We make these assumptions without understanding the background and circumstances going on in this person’s life

Sometimes, we accept the labels that other people put on us. Maybe we may not be good in a certain subject and activity, and people have called us names or made fun of us when we failed. So we stop trying to work on that subject or activity because we believe that we are really useless in it.


How to challenge Labelling:
  • Why do we accept these labels? Who said that it’s true?
  • Are we applying the labels because of our own fears and insecurities?
  • Identify what’s causing this person to behave in this way and contributing to the label.
  • What other assumptions are attached to the one label? Are these assumptions tested and true?
  • What are the other strengths and positive qualities that this person has?
  • People can change so how can we help this person even if the label was true?

Save this as a quick reference to fight off those labels



Most importantly, if we have been victims of labelling and stigma, we need to:

Have a better self-awareness of who we are and what really matters to us

Learn to shut out the noise and not be distracted by people who don’t care about us

Learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are. 



Having problems with the names and labels that people pin on you? Get some help here

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