As I’ve been connecting through blogs and Twitter with many new and wonderous people lately (yes, I’m talking about YOU!), I’ve been reading several lines regarding what each person says “About” himself or herself…and I’ve been delighted to feel a little better acquainted with each of you! Still, this experience of seeing what you write about yourselves (and pondering also what I have written about myself) has produced some thoughts upon which I would like to expound this lovely Thursday….
Who are you, really? (And what are the first thoughts that come to mind when that question is posed?) If you asked me that question, I might start by listing my roles in life (mother, daughter, sister, wife, friend, neighbor, etc.), or my interests (“I like to write, paint, cook, read to my kiddos…”), or I might even define myself by my appearance (“I am about six-feet-tall, caucasian, hazel-eyed and have long dark hair”)…but does that really answer the question?
Some of us define ourselves through our experiences (“I am a widower,” or “I am a cancer-survivor”), while some others of us use our religions (Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Hindu, Buddhist…) to describe ourselves. At times, (like during this last US election), people present political party platforms (how’s that for alliteration?) as part of their identities (though I would propose that quite a few Americans do not believe in the entire platform of a single party). Some define self through a list of achievements (“I’m a straight-A student” or “I’ve published seven best-sellers”), while others cite their origins of life (“I’m adopted” or “I was an accident”) as part of who they are. Some people define themselves by their sexuality (“I’m gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, hormonal, sex-addicted”). Some use their careers as a definition of self (“I’m an engineer, radiologist, writer, nurse, cashier, toll-booth attendant, farmer, manager…”). And let’s not forget the describing words regarding learning styles or brain capacity (such as I.Q., dyslexia, slow-learners, visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Each of these labels come complete with social connotations and repercussions, but do any of they define who we really are? I propose that they do not.
When my husband and I brought children into this world, I felt a desire to teach them to look at individuals in a holistic manner and not to piece them apart with labels. All people in this world have varied experiences and belief systems, but–on the basis that we all share this planet together–I wanted to help my children respect the diversity of each person’s experience and not pre-judge an individual on the basis of skin color, religion, achievement, family situation, or any other label.
And don’t get me started on the use of labels to excuse behavior. I know have been guilty of that in the past, but–in my current quest to live the best I can and live a life with no excuses–I am trying to do better. I have heard people say, “Oh, that person is [or was] ____________; he’s [or she’s] just like that.” When we accept a label to define our present circumstances, we often close the door on inviting ourselves or others to change for the better.
So, here’s a two-fold invitation I am willing to accept today (and I hope that we can be in this together): first, examine the labels with which I define myself, and, second, examine the labels I use for others. Am I projecting a negative or fear-filled belief from my past toward myself or this person?
For example, I have a wonderful, long-time friend who practices the religion of Islam. She and I have discussed religion since we were in grade school, and I find her to be one of the most peace-loving people I know. When the attacks on 9-11 (2001) came, several people spoke out against her religion while I defended it, knowing that true followers of Islam do not believe in violent behavior. But, I know that people have given her upsetting looks since that time, simply because of the fear-filled belief surrounding that event over eleven years ago. Are you hanging on to something like that which holds you back from being a better version of who you are? I’m ready for some self-reflection–and I’m ready for this post to be over now! 🙂
As always, I invite you to share your thoughts here in the comments or here on my Facebook page. Hugs!!!