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CRAZY LABELS: What would your shirt say?

I'm Doing My Best Not To Slug You Right Now

A little over a decade ago, I was sitting in a college lecture hall flipping through the pages of a text that had just been introduced to the class. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a tool published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that serves as a universal authority for defining a full range of psychological conditions and providing treatment recommendations.

Admittedly, I began studying its contents with a rather strong bias of what “kind of people” would be featured within its chapters. I imagined the extremes. Confidentially, I expected to find a description, or maybe even a photo of a certain ex-relative under the bold label of a few disorders. Instead, I found a strange comfort in the shades of grey threaded throughout the definitions. In fact, I found me…on more than a few pages.

The more I read, the more it seemed the book reinforced something that I already knew – something that we all already know: we are quick to pass judgment and apply labels without a full understanding of their source, what they mean…or the potential impact of their application. Perhaps, more importantly, we spend too little time thinking about the collateral impact of our own peculiarities.

The truth is, we are all easy targets and could find a familiar home on one or more pages of the DSM, particularly during periods of stress. And, while the whole nature/nurture is a bit heavy for this discussion, our propensity for affixing labels on each other, particularly while wearing our uniform, may not.

It did get me thinking. Instead of a page buried somewhere between the covers of a book, imagine if we were all forced under some obscure law to wear a t-shirt that displayed an absolutely unbiased description who we are, and our innermost thoughts. Perhaps the subtext would even include our fears, aspirations, and core values. What might it say? Would we be proud of the description, or bothered by our inability to limit the audience to those of like-mind or attitude?

Consider these t-shirt options:

  • I am doing my best not to slug you right now
  • Good listener
  • Word sniper – you will never see it coming
  • Please leave so that I can share my opinion about what you just said
  • I’m angry, now what’s for dinner?
  • Your success is making me look bad
  • New recruit in the HOUSE
  • Look, listen, and feel…nothing
  • I take being a professional seriously
  • I’m overcompensating for my depression
  • Just shut up so that I can speak
  • Gossip is my hobby
  • How do I look?
  • Can’t we all just not get along?
  • They call me the spoon, because I like to stir things up
  • That call…she was the same age as my daughter
  • I really do care

Perhaps if such a shirt did exist, we would be more considerate, engage more in healthy dialogs, or just, as our parents used to say…keep it to ourselves if we don’t have something nice to say.

Just a thought.

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