What Am I?

IMG_1080I have gotten to the point where I just hate labels.  Not the kind of labels we find on our groceries, of course…they keep me from eating too much sodium or trans fat, and that’s a good thing.   I mean the labels that we give ourselves, and worse, the labels we assign to other people.  Maybe it’s because I’m not much of a joiner, and no matter what group of people I’m with, I almost always feel like the “odd one out.”  Or maybe it’s because most of the people I know well are complicated, complex individuals who don’t fit the labels that we toss about so casually.  All I know is that the minute people start assigning labels, to themselves or to others, I get very uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why people like labels so much.  We want to know something about each other, and being able to identify someone as a “Southerner” or a “Liberal” or a “Protestant” seems as if it would help.  We think it gives us a point of reference, of knowing just how much someone is like us, or even whether or not we think the person is worth bothering to get to know.  Sorting everyone neatly into categories seems like an efficient way to deal with all the people who cross our path, and we know right away who’s “in” and who’s “out.”  What could be simpler?

The trouble is, simple isn’t always good, or accurate.  There are tons of different interpretations of just about every label out there, and it’s a mistake to just assume that our interpretation is the same as someone else’s.  (Personally, I am still completely confused on just what exactly is the difference between a “right-wing dictator” and a “left-wing dictator,” yet we hear those terms all the time as if everyone knows.)  It’s sort of like when we talk to someone from another country and they ask, “What do Americans think about that?”  And the only honest answer I can give is, “That depends on which American you ask.”  We may all live in the same country, but we definitely do not all think alike.

And that, I think, is what I find the most offensive about labels:  the assumption that everyone within that label thinks exactly alike and shares exactly the same values. I don’t want to be “assigned” a to a group that I don’t truly fit in with, and I haven’t yet found a group that I always agree with, on everything.  Or even a group I usually agree with, if I’m totally honest.  And I doubt very seriously that I ever will.

I want the freedom to think for myself, and to draw my own conclusions.  I want to be allowed to have a “conservative” opinion on one issue, and a “liberal” opinion on another.  I want to associate with lots of different kinds of people so that I never stop learning, never stop expanding my personal horizons, and, most importantly, never become complacent in the supposed superiority my own beliefs.  I also want the option of changing my mind, either because I’ve learned new facts or because I’ve simply finally figured out that the way I’ve always thought about something is just plain wrong.

But I know that there are always going to be people who prefer labels, and that there are always going to be people who are eager to stick a label on me.  And when that’s the case, the label I’d prefer is simply “human.”  That one fits me like a glove.

30 thoughts on “What Am I?

  1. Wow! This is a wonderful and beautifully written post Ann. I believe the same as well. I never understood or like labels. But, we have been made to believe in these labels. I don’t think anyone or anything is ever truly that black and white or clear cut. Thanks for sharing Ann🌹

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  2. Well said! It really bothers me not only how quickly people categorize others, but also how quickly we are to dismiss someone else based on the category/label. My husband defies all political category labels, and he gets really frustrated with the oversimplifying of people and their ideals, as do I.

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    • Believe me, I relate. My liberal friends think I’m conservative, and my conservative friends think I’m liberal…mostly because I don’t always agree with them, so that means I have to belong to the “other group,” right? Truly independent thought seems to threaten people, but we really have no choice but to simply be ourselves. And to accept other people just as they are, as well.

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  3. I completely agree, Ann. Another thing I wish we could stop doing is having to check off our race on forms and applications. It keeps people stuck in stereotypes when, as you put so well, we’re all part of the human race. Many of my student are bi-racial in a variety of ways. They have no box to check and it makes some of them feel like they don’t belong.

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    • I agree! It’s not just political and religious labels, it’s all kinds of labels that don’t reflect the true diversity of people. It makes so many people feel as if they don’t belong, and really, there’s room for all of us, you know?

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  4. I don’t believe in “all or nothing” and the reasons can be found in your post. We all bring a unique world view to everything we encounter in life; they might fall into a broader category, but no two are exactly alike. The nice part of growing older is that I’m more interested in “fitting in” with my own core values and beliefs, not those of others. Happy Monday! 🙂

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    • I agree! The older I get, the more I realize the importance of listening to, and trusting, my own moral compass. And that means I care less and less about what others think of me, because I can’t keep changing myself to suit other people. I guess that kind of self awareness is worth a few wrinkles and gray hair!

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  5. Great post, Ann
    Like you I’ve always avoided labels. I’ve never joined a political group because I think it’s kind of crazy to have to support whatever a certain group believes. I think people place labels on people because it’s easier for them to think they know who people are without really taking the time to get to know them. They make judgements and then act accordingly.
    I remember being in Milwaukee on a business trip some years back and getting on an elevator on an elevator with a couple. We had a nice conversation on the way up and as we got off on our floor the wife asked me where I was from. When I said New Jersey, their expression changed. She then said, “I’m surprised you’re even talking to us.” Then they abruptly turned and walked away.
    I don’t know why people do that, why they see race, weight, gender, etc and think they know someone.
    They miss so much just by being shortsighted.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly! When we insist on seeing someone only by their “label,” we lose out on the chance to ever get to know who they really are, or in some cases, get to know them at all! (And I wonder what those people had against the state of New Jersey? One person from New Jersey was mean to them, so now they’ll have nothing to do with anyone from that state???) And maybe someday I’ll find a group that I fit in with so completely that I’m happy to let it do my thinking for me, but I think the chances of that are less than the chances of me winning the Mega lottery, twice in one year.

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  6. Okay, first of all, I DEFINITELY prefer the label of “Goddess” when it comes to myself! 😉 Other than that, you are hitting a nerve here with us all, but I will also say one of my upcoming blog posts has something to do with this, as well, but in a different way. I hate labels. Politically I claim no label. I vote my conscious. You’d be surprised how many people just cannot bring themselves to do that. In a country that claims they want to end divisiveness, I think the best step, the FIRST step to take would be to stop with the labels. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, now I can think of two labels I’m willing to accept: human and Goddess! Maybe the problem is that we just use the wrong labels? And I am the same way with politics….the labels just further divide us and take away any chance for understanding, compassion and compromise. And then we wonder why election years are so mean and nasty.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Labels are useful sometimes, but they can often also be very misleading, at least that’s been my experience up to now. The only label that I feel entirely content with is that of BunKaryudo-ist. I have no hesitation in admitting I have pronounced BunKaryudo-ist tendencies.

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