April 24, 2012

Labeled


Blind/Visually Impaired
Disabled
Diabetic
Sick
Stay-at-home mom
ADD
Overweight
Impulsive
Needy
Prude
Loud
Poor
Fragile
Little
Dork

The above are all words/terms that one could use to describe me or my family. There may be more than I'm unaware of.

Some might call them labels.

I suppose they are. Because no single one can adequately represent a whole person.

I guess people need to compartmentalize things in order to make sense of them. I know I do for some things. Honestly, it probably helps keep our heads from exploding due to all the information being thrown at us from so many directions.

The thing about labels is that they can pigeonhole people. Pigeonholing leads to a lack of respect for the whole person. People don't mean to do this. It's just easier. We have to make a concerted effort not to.

Labels come from what we see on the surface. Someone who knows you well doesn't label you. But I bet they did when they first met you.

Labels can also be considered judgments. Being judged sucks. For example, the label of ADD on my daughter. Many parents fight having labels like this placed upon their kids because they fear their child will be dismissed or overlooked, or judged as a "problem child".

Yes, it's a label, but in this instance, I feel it also serves to help describe my daughter's personality. It helps us understand her better knowing she has ADD and isn't some crazy, random person. We can better understand her style of learning and make accommodations therein because she doesn't fit inside the typical kid box.

So I think labels can be double-edged swords. Judgement vs. understanding.

I have been judged labeled as a prude before. Why? Perhaps because I tend to be kind of quiet in group settings. However, I have a great sense of humor and am not a virgin....so why a prude exactly?

Lately I seem to be being labeled as fragile. I have heard more than once things like "I didn't wanna bother you" or "you have enough on your plate, you don't need me adding to it". Also, "How are you, Jen?" and "Are you sure you're OK?".

On the surface it seems nice that people are trying to be thoughtful of my feelings and stress level. It is nice. But what it also makes me feel is "handled" or "coddled". And that's frustrating. I don't want to be treated differently because of what I'm going through, and I still want the opportunity to decide for myself what I can or can't handle. One of the things I wonder about most when thinking about my life as a widow someday is, will people become awkward around me? Will the label of widow be all that people see?

Being visually impaired has never been a huge label to overcome simply because I'm not totally blind. My loved ones often forget I can't see very well and walk away from me in the middle of a dark parking lot! Strangers see that I wear thick glasses, but they have no idea they don't correct me to 20/20 unless I make it obvious, and then they still aren't sure. Being totally blind is a huge label that comes with a myriad of preconceived notions one has to hurdle.

Now, that's not to say my eyes don't cause me any issues. Oh they do, don't you worry! But they're personal anxiety, self-conscious sorts of issues. And really, the least of my worries.

My body. Not something I enjoy discussing. I've blogged about how I feel about my body only one other time. The reason is, just like Ashley Judd so eloquently expressed at The Daily Beast two weeks ago, it doesn't freaking matter. Or it shouldn't. She said, "We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others." And I say, all that matters when it comes to a person's body is how they feel about it, and perhaps how their doctor feels about it. I mean, talk about the ultimate surfacy aspect of a person and judging a book by its cover.

I am more than a SAHM. Mark is more than a sick person. Camyn is more than a kid with ADD. AJ is more than a loud little boy.

I AM a dork.

We are ALL more than any one thing. Any one label.

I would even venture to say that this is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why there are so many bloggers. So we can shout to the world how much we really are. To tell our stories without being SSHed.


This post was inspired by Ashley Judd and Just.Be.Enough's "Change the Conversation" prompt for Be Enough Me, and is being linked with Yeah Write #54.


Also, next Monday is my 2 year blogoversary! I'd love to do a Q&A with you guys for the occasion. So here I've added a form in which you can anonymously submit your question (or identify yourself if you want!). Anything you've been dying to know about me that I haven't already disclosed? Anything you'd like me to elaborate on? Don't be shy; ask away! (If I don't like your question, I just won't answer it.)

31 comments:

  1. So, are you a dork because your father was a dork, or am I just the father of a dork.

    Oh crap, I think I just answered my own question.

    Never mind.

    Love,
    Dad

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  2. Couldn't agree more with all of this. Labels are the worst, well on people. On food they're helpful :)

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  3. I love labels. For instance, when I look at you and your family I see:

    Strong
    Helpful
    Resilliant
    Funny
    Enerjetic
    Thoughtful
    Caring
    Smart
    Amazing

    Shall I go on?

    Labels are helpful... Negativity is not.

    You are right, and any one label, good or bad really isn't good since it doesn't give you a fair representation, BUT, this is where people should then step back and be willing to see ALL of you.

    We all have our faults, our weaknesses, our strengths and individual talents. This is what makes up a whole person. So while yes, you may have all those lables, you also have many more and should never let anyone make you feel like you are just one simple piece of a very big, amazing, whole of a person.

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  4. I think you're right when you say labels make it easier for people. But I hate the mean labels, the judgmental ones. Label me kind, supportive, gracious. I love those. The world has enough cruelty and we don't need to add cruel labels to each other.

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  5. Jennifer, I love this post so much. Coming from the advertising/branding background, I relate labels with brand perception. It is how people perceive us at first sight/encounter. And as we slowly get to know the brand/person, we develop different sets of perception towards them.

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  6. Really love this post and can relate to it so much. I don't much care for labels. They are silly. Kinda like posh clothes, in the end they all end up old and unwanted. Same with labeling people. If I was too thin. A teen and I am now overweight, does that make me a different person, belonging to a different group of humans? Silly really. Love

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    1. Adoria's comment. And I second it. Cannot wait to meet you and share a cuppa with you girls soon!!

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  7. I think the hardest thing to overcome are the labels I give myself. Thanks for reminding us that labels don't define us.

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  8. I agree with Cathy. The labels I give myself, or the ones i THINK others have given me, are often the hardest to overcome.

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  9. Well, after I thought I commented, I realized that I asked you a Blogoversary question, having not scrolled down to the comment area. That's what I get for sneaking writing/reading time here in my office. In any event, this should have appeared here...and, Happy Blogoversary to you!


    I wrote a post a while back, about such labels. Having ADD myself along with two of my three grown children, I hear people making cracks much too often, trying to be funny, when someone is overwhelmed or forgetful..."hey, your ADD acting up today?"

    My late mother had AD, another label...Alzheimer's/Dementia, which is the basis for my blog and almost-finished book. We write to share, to be heard and, as you said, not to be SSHed.

    The best label we all share is that of Writers and you do it extremely well!

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  10. Because I am an idiot and also have a toddler climbing on my lap, I accidentally typed my comment above in your google docs form. Again, I am an idiot. Haha! Whoopsy. I do love this post, I hate being labeled!

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  11. This is an awesome post Jennifer. I completely agree, people use labels as a way of keeping track or categorizing things, people, everything we come across so we can remember and make sense of things but I think it's when people become too close minded and literal and reply completely on those labels to figure out how they feel about things or people, that's when it becomes a problem. Especially with the negative labels. I loved and totally agree with your feelings that we are all SO much more than whatever label someone puts on us or even one we put on ourselves. Awesome post and good reminder for us as well.

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  12. You really have a way of putting it all out there with honesty and grace. You and your family are so much more than the words.

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  13. Inspiring is my label for you. Should I ever need to summon the strength to deal with a trial similar to yours I will think of you, and revisit your posts. Nice post. Yes, labels ought to be positive - not restricting.

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    1. This is just one of the sweetest comments ever!

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  14. Oooops! I commented in your question form. I'm the dummy who can't follow instructions well.:)
    Anyway, I meant every word of my comment which is now stuck in the wrong box.
    Gorgeous post.

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  15. @ Heidi - I was halfway through the question form when I noticed. Teehee.

    Love this post. I don't think labels are always bad. It's only when the label becomes a concrete block around our necks, not allowing others to see that it's actually more like a cube picture frame - with changing photos. Okay, poor effort at describing what I'm picturing. Still, I have lots of labels for myself and others - some positive, some not so. And it's only when I hide behind them or allow one to take over for too long that I think it's negative.

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  16. Jennifer, I could have easily written this! I have such a problem with labels and have already struggled with them. Labels of "weak," "shy," "quiet" have followed me around since I was a little girl. But as you so eloquently pointed out here, we are all so much more than a label. :)

    Great post!

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  17. This is all so true. We often get stuck behind stupid labels for no helpful reason.

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  18. Posts like this are why I love dropping by your little bit of the interweb. Labels are all well and good just so long as we remember we're all made up of so many of them, not just one. Judgement versus understanding, so true.

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  19. I love that you called out all those labels, even the ones that must be especially tough to admit to. I can think of worse things than being thought of as a prude. ;)

    You are more than all that, and I think you're right - blogging helps us to see that and to dispel those myths. So glad you linked up!

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