Have you ever noticed that everything in life is divided into categories? You’re an introvert, or you’re an extrovert. You’re smart, or you’re dumb. You’re an athlete, or an academic. Our society has an excessive need to put things into a group and give it a label. It is human nature, after all. In this big, messy, confusing world, it helps us simplify life.
While this does help people, it also creates a terribly incomplete picture, and a perspective clouded with biased labels. It leads us to reduce each person to their most prominent trait. They’re quiet, they’re overweight, they’re stupid…that’s it? That quiet kid in the back of the class may be incredibly smart, loves to run track outside of the school, and is super nice. But most people would never know. When we have these pre-developed perceptions in our head, we don’t see people for who they really are. This also encourages people to group with those most like themselves. Of course, it makes sense that friends have similar interests and ideas; that’s what creates a bond. But it leads some to completely shut out people who differ from them. People see differences, and just look the other way.
I am not saying everyone needs to drop all labels, or stop categorizing others. It really is part of our biology, and something that will continue forever. We still need labels, we need to be able to sort out life so it doesn’t overwhelm us. But it is important to work on eliminating stereotypes, biases, and assumptions. In a world so divided, each individual needs to do their part. Next time you encounter a new person, it’s okay to notice that they’re really loud, or that they have super dark hair. But it is important to try not to make any judgments, and think about how each person has more to them than just what you see.