Last week I found out that someone assigned a label to me, and it ruffled my feathers more than just a tad. If there is one thing I don’t like, its labels. I don’t want the vastness of who I am to be reduced down to a mere label. Neither do I want to do that to anyone else.
When I was informed about the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate event, I was taken aback. Although the information had come to me third hand, I didn’t see myself the way they apparently did. In fact, I was shocked to hear how I was being viewed. To be honest, it hurt.
At first, I used humor to deal with it. For several days, I called myself what they had called me. I had fun working it into as many conversations as I could, saying things like…
“Of course I want to, I’m a _______ !”
“There’s no way I would ever agree with you, since I’m such a _______ !”
“Well, you shouldn’t be surprised. You know what a big _______ I am!”
It made my friend laugh, and it eased the sting a bit. Yet, after the initial shock wore off, I began to wonder how it was that they had arrived at that label in the first place. I was curious enough that I asked my informant to see if they might casually investigate the matter on the sly. Yet, before they had the opportunity to engage in any covert inquiries, I decided it didn’t matter.
I called the whole clandestine operation off when I realized that being labeled could be viewed not as an insult, but as valuable feedback. To be sure, everyone forms impressions of others through their own biased filters, so it’s not as if one person’s labeling of me meant that everyone on the planet thought I was a _______ . All it meant is that someone, somewhere, had formed that impression of me.
I know who I am, but everyone else who is not me is free to see me however they see me. This is America, after all, the land of the free-to-think-whatever-you-want-to-think and the home of the I’ve-been-labeled-and-am-trying-to-be-brave. And, as much as I don’t like being labeled, it suddenly donned on me that I freely label myself!
I call myself a neat freak, because I am highly organized. I call myself a health nut, because I am committed to caring for my body. I even call myself a biker chic – not the Harley Davidson kind, but the commutes-to-work-on-a-bicycle kind. I realized, then, that not all labels are meant to be insults.
Even so, I am still going to reserve the act of labeling only to myself, where I am less apt to offend. (Hey, wait a minute, Salina! What exactly did you mean by freak, nut and chic?)