It's a social norm.
It provides an easy frame of reference for other people to stereotype you.
Let’s think through two examples. What stereotypes spring to the forefront of your mind when you consider the following two introductions?
'I am an electrical engineer in underground coal'
'I own a real estate agency'
You know – I’m still the same person. I still like the same things. I still have the same values, beliefs and inner drivers. Yet, I guarantee – from personal experience - the response from other people AND the level of instant respect varies wildly between the two labels! I HATED the stereotypes and instant judgments.
When I closed the real estate agency, one of the parents I know said:
“Oh Beth, I’m so glad you’re not in real estate anymore because I hate real estate agents, so I can be friends with you now.”
I have not changed!!!
My other issue with labels is that if you have integrated the label into yourself – if it is a part of who you are – when you lose the label, you lose a part of your identity. Rebuilding your identity again, is a tough road to travel.
I tried not using any labels at all. That just confused people!
I created some vague elevator speech about helping people. People just looked at me funny. More confusion!
Everybody else is expecting a label for the simple reason that it gives them a frame of reference. You have given them something to anchor onto, that they understand.
I use labels. Short, sharp and sweet. It’s not about me and my opinion of labels. It’s about helping other people understand how I can help them.
The key is to NOT create an attachment to the label. Don't derive your sense of self from it.
You are who you ARE, not what you do with your time.