"Once you label me you negate me."
How often do we label ourselves? “I am…a teacher, a lawyer, a mom, a???”
We label ourselves often hopefully with the understanding that we define ourselves over allowing whatever label we choose to do the defining. Sometimes it is easier to let the label define us though - we become victims of the label and the way society or others define it. We let that word or label provide the outline of who we are – taking the time to color within the lines.
What aspects of ourselves do we limit, deny, or smother when we label ourselves?
Labeling doesn’t hold much attraction for me. I like descriptors and have labeled a little, but the lines that define me are often more nuanced than structured. I am currently content with the idea that “I am” and letting the concept flow through me liberally!
This was often how I saw myself in the past, but over the last year finding that idea and making my way back to it have been challenging.
One of my challenges was the struggle of others labeling me – and my learning to let it be and accepting that this is being done over fighting against it in every way possible. I know that I am not going to do anything to change the minds of others. I know that this fight is banging my head against a fortified iron wall that is not going to budge. I know that the person suffering the most in this battle is...me.
And the person with the lessons to learn… me.
It is the most frustrating experience and the impact is not isolated.
It is the most negating experience in that it denies a person (me in this case) self expression. The labeling of others denies the person a voice, a presence, even legitimacy.
And it happens all the time.
How often do we walk down the streets, sit in buses or on airplanes, eat in restaurants and label others in our midst?
How often do we deny others a voice because of the label we have given them?
Despite the frustrations of this experience, it is, for me, a chance for me to remember that I define myself. That the choices on how I live and approach life, and work through adversity are mine. The labeling or denial of me is not about me as much as it is about those engaged in the activity.
I further that in accepting that their label is irrelevant – and that I will continue to look inward, to live in integrity, and to model the behavior that reflects the person that I am and the way I believe people are to be treated.
It isn’t easy.
I have been labeled throughout my life in different ways due to a disability, due to my travels, due to the way I live my life, but this experience is different. This experience is powerful as is the lesson being learned. This experience hits closer to home and my heart.
Yet, here I am.
I am exactly where I am supposed to be learning the lessons I need to learn.
I am now more aware of labels and their power.
And I have learned that there is a lot we miss when we label others. We not only negate them, but we miss out on the gifts they have to share and those we have to share with them.
Perhaps, just perhaps, when we label another and negate them, we negate ourselves…