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Labels

Posted by on January 19, 2015

In Honor of Martin Luther King Junior and what he stood for.

 

handprint quote MLKjr

This has been on my mind a lot and thought it fitting to share it today.

***

Labels
Are they holding you back?

We love to label everything, don’t we? Labels on foods, cars, books, movies, people…

In Secrets Kept, Ayianna risks being labeled a whore for not wearing her head covering. Something that once meant respect has deteriorated into a heavy-handed rule to dominate the women of the plains. But that’s not the only name-calling.

And it’s all throughout literature, movies, and comics. Mudbloods. Peck. Skinjobs. Mutie.

Fiction stories are merely a reflection of the world around us.

Why do we do this?

To know what to expect from a box of cereal or a book? That makes sense. But what about a person? So we can feel safe? To find our crowd. Or maybe because we think we are better than them?

Goody two-shoes, goth, nerd, geek, jock, cheerleader, slut, crunchy, cowboy, redneck, preppie, gangster, emu, gay, straight, black, white, Christian, atheist…the list is endless.

I bet right now y’all have had some images flash through your mind connected to feelings. Maybe friend, maybe not. Maybe animosity toward those who are different than you. Maybe we think it gives us license to bully.

labels

Growing up, I don’t know what group I belonged to. I’m sure I’ve worn some labels over the years. Nobody escapes childhood without a few. Maybe loser if that meant why I was bullied. A lot. Who knows. I never really fit under one single one. Maybe as a wearer of labels, we don’t really see ourselves in such distinct clarity? Maybe I’m wrong. Probably the only label I did fit under was goody two-shoes because I had and have such a prickly conscience. I mean, I couldn’t even jury-rig a scrabble game with a co-conspirator without confessing–as an adult! I had a hard time pushing the boundaries. And that’s a bad thing? Apparently in middle school it is.

I wasn’t geek enough to fit in with the geek crowd yet I was just weird enough to not fit in with other “normal” people. I LOVE costumes, but I’ve never done cosplay outside of Halloween. Yet! A friend guy told me those were my people…okay. But I’ve never played D&D nor have I read LOTR. I started to…I’ll finish eventually. But I did read the Hobbit. That’s got to count for something, right?

I LOVE horses. I’ve milked cows, picked rocks, bailed hay, and fixed things with twine and duct tape, but I didn’t fit in with the cowboy or redneck crowd. I loved school, but I wasn’t rich or smart enough to fit in with the preppies. I wasn’t athletic enough to fit the jock/cheerleader label, but I loved playing a good game of basketball, volleyball, broomball…name it, I’m there. Except maybe golf. Ha!

I’ve seen people embrace their labels. “I’m a redneck woman, I ain’t no high class broad…” Some people proudly flaunt their labels and refuse to move beyond them. School isn’t cool, so you choose not to apply yourself, because it’s a whole lot cooler to get bad grades and risk messing up the rest of your life. Some despise others or use their label as an excuse for poor behavior or choices. I have an African American friend who loves to read books, her peers called her a white girl. Ouch. As if reading books is bad for you…

So we limit ourselves in the name of acceptance?

This isn’t something that’s limited to childhood. No, labels don’t go away when we grow up. We’re just better at hiding it, sometimes. But we know who we click with and who we don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing the people behind the labels, but I am challenging us to look beyond the label to see the person we are judging. Labels hurt. It limits us, isolates us one from another, so why do we do it?

As an adult, sometimes not having a label bugs me. It means I don’t fit in with a certain crowd or any crowd for that matter. I don’t have that perceived affirmation of looking like others who look like me. Instead I stick out like a sore thumb. Ha! That might be because I’ve got multiple worlds and characters pulsing through my brain.

Yet I find it freeing. I have friends from all walks of life. Sure, I don’t “fit” in with their “crowd”. My identity is not in the clothes I wear, the music I listen to, or the people I hang with. Does this make me an outlier? An outcast? Or a human trying to see past the labels? Or maybe I’m a chameleon…bring on the costumes!

Don’t let labels define you. Or others.

So what say you? Do you agree, disagree? Do you wear your labels proudly? Or do you despise them?

8 Responses to Labels

  1. Kessie

    I guess this is where having zero social circle outside of the Internet comes in handy. I don’t deal with that much, myself–but I’m not around other people much. I guess we’d be considered a geek family–we do computer and board games together, and rhapsodize endlessly about Minecraft mods. I never fit with any groups aside from my family, growing up. I had to go online and carve out a niche for myself where I fit in–because I was the one running the place. 😀

    • J.L. Mbewe

      Hi Kessie! I am sure there are a lot more people feeling the same way, especially writers. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rebekah Clark

    Wow! This was seriously the best thing I have read in awhile! Thank you for writing this! I love your heart and wisdom the Lord has given you! I can 110% relate! I felt like my thoughts were on paper as I wrote this! I too never have fit a label really, and was bullied and has/had a super sensitive conscience!!! I’ve even read the hobbit but not the others yet!!!
    You are amazing! I feel so honored to have found you and to be getting to know you!!!
    Shine on sister!
    I know one label we can wear… Or a couple…
    We are princesses of the KING
    WE ARE LOVED
    We are valued
    We are priceless in His eyes
    We are beautiful
    We are… One of a kind!!!! ☺️

    • J.L. Mbewe

      Thank you for your kind words Rebekah! And I am honored to have found you too. Thanks! And I suppose we can’t escape this life without labels, but some are better than other, eh? Thanks for reminding me and for stopping by. 🙂

  3. Bethany A. Jennings

    Good words, Jennette! I enjoyed this post. 🙂

  4. robertmullin

    This is a great post. As someone who found himself not fitting in easily in social settings (or indeed in life), “labels” in the form of diagnoses were one of the most comforting things I ever experienced. As a youth, they were generally epithets hurled by those who knew how little I conformed. But as an adult learning retroactively about personality types, things like the autism spectrum/Aspergers, etc., it was a great comfort to know that regardless of the pain of a maladjusted youth, I was not alone. To see commonality meant friendship, and friendship meant normality, even if it was a different shade of normal.

    I think a great deal of how one accepts the “labels” in life depends upon whether they are bestowed upon you (lovingly or not-so-lovingly), or whether you discover them yourself. As it is, there is nothing wrong with being difficult to define, or even rejecting the notion of being pigeonholed in any fashion. But as long as the labels I wear help me to understand myself and the outside world better, I will wear them with acceptance, and even with pride.

    • J.L. Mbewe

      Excellent point, Robert! I agree! As I have learned more about myself, being an introvert and highly sensitive, I realize I can take better care of myself to be able to take better care of my family and friends. I think we yearn to be accepted, to find commonality among others, to be understood. Perhaps it is a fine line between allowing the labels to define us, enable us, ultimately defeat us, or they can empower us. It isn’t so much as it is bad or good, but our thoughts and actions that make them limiting or not, eh? Thanks for sharing!

I love hearing from you!

J.L Mbewe - Author