Turner Syndrome (TS) and other chronic conditions can become a large part of one’s identity, but the Turner Syndrome Foundation (TSF wants) individuals with TS to know that they are so much more than their diagnosis!
How Labels Work
Labels reflect how people think about others and themselves. They not only influence how a personal identity is created but also allow for recognition that others have different qualities. They aid people in understanding differences in needs, culture, and personalities. Labels can also reflect positive characteristics, set useful expectations, and provide meaningful goals. At the same time, labeling can create misunderstandings and stereotypes. Whether good or bad, labeling has an important influence on identity and society.
Despite their usual negative reputation, labels are not always a bad thing. There are many positive effects of labeling. Labels can allow people to find a sense of belonging and power with people with whom they relate. By taking a label that was once viewed as negative and reclaiming it, these groups are able to reestablish their power.
Support for people with specific labels can be found more easily. By accepting the label as a person with TS, the individual can find a community that understands the challenges they are facing. They can find others who can offer moral support or advice on dealing with symptoms and challenges.
While there are positive effects to labels, there are also negative effects. Labels can shape expectations that are set for other people, creating stereotypes. These stereotypes can result in unrealistic expectations or expecting less from someone despite what they are capable of. For example, someone could expect a person who is Asian to be good at math, even if they aren’t. This could also lead someone to think that a person who is disabled can’t have a job.
Research has shown labeling someone with a mental disorder can lead to a negative outcome, including feelings of rejection and discrimination. All of this can lead to the worsening of the mental disorder and the person’s overall mental health.
One of the long-term effects of labeling is that the label becomes the source of identification. According to the paper The Impact of Labeling in Childhood on the Sense of Self of Young Adults, by Rosemary Solomon, “stigma associated with the label [results] in isolation/rejection from society, lowered expectations, self-blame/guilt and emotional distress.” Solomon also explained that, as a result of a negative label given to a person by a family member or friend, they developed strained relationships.
How To Shake a Label or Stereotype
Shaking a label or stereotype is not an easy process, but it is quite fulfilling. Start by trying some of the strategies below.
- Be yourself!
- Increase your self-confidence with affirmations and other exercises.
- Use breathing techniques like the one shown in one of our previous webinars. You can also try visualization or other calming techniques if you catch yourself feeling down because someone else made you feel bad about your label or if you get upset while trying to shake your label.
- Notice the labels you give to yourself and others.
- Remember to be kind to yourself and others.
- Build a support network of people who care about who you are, not your label, to boost your self-confidence. TSF’s private Facebook group, Star Sisters, is a great example of this. Star Sisters supports women and girls with TS by creating a support network full of people with similar experiences and who understand each other’s challenges.
- Build your own sense of identity beyond a single adjective or diagnosis.
- If you believe that techniques like these are not helping you, don’t be scared to go to a therapist or psychiatrist. They can offer different perspectives on your experiences related to your labels that will help you understand yourself better.
Takeaway: What You Can Do Now
While labels have both good and bad effects, it is important to understand that you are more than the words that describe you. As author Collin Wright wrote in his book Act Accordingly: “Labels help define you, but they are not you.”
You are more than just a religion, a race, a gender, or a medical diagnosis. You are a person with a collection of many unique and amazing characteristics and qualities!
Written by Skylar Starnes, volunteer TSF blog writer. Edited by Liz Donner, volunteer TSF blog editor, and Susan Herman, volunteer TSF lead blog editor.
©Turner Syndrome Foundation 2021