Why do we try to stick labels?

Yesterday, while I was hanging out on Facebook, I came across an article shared by a psychologist that I follow. The article denounced the excesses of self-tests on the Internet to know if one had a high emotional potential (HPE). This very interesting article, written by a certain “Un Odieux Connard” dealt with the famous Barnum effect which I have already told you about in an old column.

The Barnum effect is the fact of recognizing oneself in a vague and universal description in which everyone can identify.

This "Odious Asshole" was therefore indignant to see so many people finding extraordinary characteristics (while he obviously did not think that the people they were talking about were so extraordinary (ah, well, he is aptly named )) through completely bogus tests.

High potentials represent only a tiny part of the population and yet we see them everywhere... Paradoxical and illogical, isn't it? Could it be because most of them really aren't? Certainly ! Over the years, the high potential has become a marketing target. Derivative products (books, articles, coaching sessions, etc.) are selling like hotcakes. Having a niche of 2% of the population is cool, but 30% is better. Many charlatans would therefore like everyone to think they are. Self-diagnoses or diagnoses of complacency therefore abound on the web or in offices, and create lots of small false high potentials.

So, you are going to tell me: where is the problem? Well yes, the mediums also tell you potentially false things but if it is good for the client concerned, and it also suits the "charlatan" who sells him his services, well, well, everyone is happy, Nope ? When you go to see a coach and not a shrink (it also works with: when you go to read Konbini rather than Mediapart) you know very well that they are not experts, huh (and if you don't know, well, so much worse for you). In truth, does it bother anyone that the victim is consenting, apart from the victim? (But who is consenting, so, what the hell am I getting into!? We didn't ask you anything, did we?) Well, I'll tell you: it pisses off psychologists specializing in the detection of high potentials, who see part of their clientele leaving, BUT, ALSO, the real high potentials who were very happy to feel superior. And how do you feel superior when everyone is at your level? Well, that's the problem, if you want my opinion...

You guess, therefore, that I really wanted to respond to the sharing of this specialized psychologist HPI and the author of this article who must certainly have been detected in his childhood (well, that's what I have concluded).

What the fuck do you care if people think they're smart or empathetic when they're not? They are in error, of course, but it does them good and harms no one. So hey, where is the problem? It seems that cognitive biases when they are positive, well they are positive and it is better not to wake the guy up from his denial (I heard that in a podcast made by 2 shrinks. Example: idealizing the other to fall in love, it's wrong, but it's cool (and even necessary) so you have to let it happen.)

Do these shrinks and other rebellious journalists want to save the world by preventing these consenting victims from being so out of pure altruism? Do they have such empathy for them and such a superior intelligence that they can't help but intervene by spreading the only truth to spread, ie that of expertise? Or what bothers them is elsewhere? (Nah, because like for the Covid, the experts don't agree among themselves, so who knows the truth? Ah well, we don't know! (And do you agree a little because it's even worse for non-experts, thank you in advance).

But hey, I changed my mind. Because writing a comment that does not go in the direction of the person to whom you are responding often only attracts hours of justification and other arguments that, personally, now, tire me in advance.

But I went all the same to see if anyone thought like me in the comments (because it reassures you see), and that's when I came across the intervention of another psychologist wondering about the the need to denounce these false diagnoses rather than the need to ask why people needed so much to recognize themselves in particularities that did not correspond to them.

Ah, well, here it is! Thank you Madam ! I thus remembered why I continued to follow the first psychologist. I follow it because its subscribers always have something interesting to say and I can learn from them. (Good and because by her posts (often) motivated by jealousy she launches the debate, and in truth, the debate, when it is more / not me who participates in it, it always interests me greatly.

For me, there it was, the real question: why do we need to know what we are so much? Why do we absolutely seek to put words to our neuroses, pathologies, shortcomings and other character traits? But why, then, do we try to stick labels?

What is a label?

A label is a stereotype, a label that we impose on ourselves or on others, a judgment that we make of someone or something.

When it is to catalog a human being, we speak of social etiquette. We are HPE, HPI, hypersensitive, nice, stupid, mean, violent, trustworthy, drug addict, bipolar, temperamental, generous, seductive, crazy etc... there are as many (or even more) than there are humans on earth.

The usefulness of the label.

Putting labels allows us to get an idea of a situation, a thing or a person. Labels allow us to categorize things, people, put our idea into words and organize our thoughts and judgments. We all mentally make groups of things, which then allows us to associate common characteristics with them and we can therefore react to them more quickly.

When you identify yourself as hyperactive, for example, just type the word (label) on Google (or go see a shrink) to find all the documentation (and therefore the answers) you want. We can then target our research to try to better understand how it works. The hyperactive are overexcited, impatient, do not know how to manage their emotions, need to exert themselves etc...

When we say it (or when we say it to ourselves) it allows us to expect very specific behaviors, to be more tolerant, or, on the contrary, to run away, but at least we see (roughly ) What are we talking about.

Labeling is therefore a very practical tool in many situations.

The limits of the label.

If it is practical to categorize behaviors to better study and understand them, remaining confined to them prevents us from seeing further.

Putting labels means putting things, situations, but especially people, in boxes. At the risk of locking them in. Whether positive or negative, it is simply not necessarily the reality. And even if it is at the moment T, it can evolve. We have all had more or less glorious periods and behaviors in our lives and we have been able to catalog ourselves (or be) at this precise moment, without it necessarily defining us, entirely and ad vitam æternam. It is a judgment, and a judgment is never the same depending on the moment, the situation or the person who makes it.

Who has never heard their parents say: you are a bored basket, you are too withdrawn, you are too sensitive etc... and who has never identified with it by dint of hearing it? And who, past his thirties, after many therapies and other "search for his true self" ended up realizing that, in reality, the labels with which he was decked out was only the very personal vision (and therefore distorted ) of the one who gave it? No offense to shrinks (or my mother), even the experts can be wrong. And yes.

If you want my opinion, the only label we should wear is the one we have made of our own identity by trying to really know ourselves (and again).


Social labeling is a tool. Like all tools, it's not the object itself that is the problem, but what you do with it.

Social labeling can therefore be useful as it can backfire.

It's all about finding the balance. While it may be reassuring to finally understand how it works and to feel like we belong to a community, being limited to one and the same label and not understanding that we are all unique can prevent us from opening our eyes to many things. other things that define us. If applying labels is a good tool for categorizing and understanding certain types of behavior common to several people, be careful not to lock yourself in at the risk of only seeing through this prism and then wanting at all costs to correspond to this what is expected of you.

Whether it's you, a parent or a psychologist (who remains human, let's remember) who tells you that you are "this" or "that", do not forget to doubt, to question, to inquire, to go to experts (who suit you) and learn, always learn. Nothing is immutable and the truth is unique to everyone.

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