Pigeonholed, Tearing Off Some Labels


Thinking back on a recent social skills lesson from Why Try? (www.whytry.org), I talked with a group of students about “tearing off your labels”. We all are identified by others by how they view us, their perceptions of who we are. For many reasons, be they right or wrong, those perceptions also indicate to them how they think we should behave and interact with others, basically what we can and cannot do. Basically you can end up being pigeonholed into serving only function in the opinion of others. People then treat you in accordance the label they associate with you. During our lesson we created posters of ourselves, artistically writing down the labels people use to identify us. We then wrote how we want people to learn more about us so they might then identify us with new labels. This was one of my ways, to blog about it. Hopefully this would clarify one, what I do and can do, and two, to show I’m more than what I do as a professional.

For many years now, most people at work have referred to me as a “behavior guy”, as if all I can and am able to do is work with behavior. But what exactly does that mean? According to my training, everything we do is behavior. Think about it, outside of death, is there a time that our bodies are not doing anything? (But that is really a topic for another blog post)

Most people associate the word behavior with misbehavior. I don’t usually get contacted if things are going well, I get contacted when things aren’t going well at all. Yet, I see myself as a person who can use behavior analytic principles to not just work with treating misbehavior, but as someone who can use the same principles to make improvements in all aspects of life. It’s not just about making the bad good, but also about making the good even better, and easier, sort of like an efficiency specialist. That being said, although that is much of what I do, it isn’t ALL that I do.

So although much of what I end up discussing on this blog is behavior, there is so much more to me than the ABC’s of behavior. I also enjoy spending time with my family, running trails, brewing beer, admiring art, reading history articles and shows, endlessly pursuing my perfect backyard, blogging, tweeting, drawing, graphic design, meditating, watching movies, composting, playing mindless games on my phone or iPad, getting hooked into a game of tennis ball fetch with my Matilda (my Yorkie), training my fish to do stupid tricks (okay, bad example), providing silly third party commentary during old Star Trek Next Generation episodes just to name a few.

What are some labels people use to refer to you? Do you like your labels? Do you feel pigeonholed by them? What have you done to overcome those labels?

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