Our culture labels. We are the masters of it; slapping a name on anything and everything we can characterize. But too often, we take it a step further, using those labels as identities, seeing people through that lens instead of seeing the human behind the word.
I’ve been given many a label throughout my life. Some I welcome and some not and some have had more of a critical impact on me than others. I am a daughter, sister, friend, female, dog owner, rock climber; the list goes on and on. But, what about the labels that have more meaning, more weight and more depth? What happens when people see me as just a label?
You’re adopted. I’ve been introduced to others as the “adopted one,” which automatically blinds the people I’m introduced to. They begin to ask questions about my story, intrusive and personal, with an unintentional disregard of my emotions and sensitivities surrounding it.
You’re mentally unstable. I’ve struggled with anxiety for the majority of my life, it’s been around for so long that I don’t even recall the onset of it. It doesn’t make me incapable, it makes me a complex human and a deep thinker. But, some have seen me through the lease of the label, treating me as a fragile ticking time bomb or someone that they must completely avoid.
You’re gay. I’m a girl dating a girl and I have lost friends and support from friends and family who have used my relationship status to define who I am. Instead of seeing a relationship that is healthy, loving and supportive, I’ve been seen as someone who has lost their way in life.
These labels do describe parts of me but they do not define who I am. They have affected how I walk through life, but they aren’t the only factors in what makes me, me. We need to continue to focus on the human behind the label instead of defining people by them. Hear stories and listen to what makes each person their individual selves instead of placing them into a box.
Be good to one another. Be kind and open, and be a human to a human.
After all, a label is just a label.