Monday, April 11, 2016

On the Labels that Bind and the Shaking Off

How often do you think about labels? Too fat, too thin, weak, strong, taken, married, single, childless. Wanting. Waiting.

Because we are all wanting and waiting, simultaneously, for something, aren't we?

How often do you take a label - self-given or slapped on from a bystander to your life, and slide into it as if it's a second skin?

We live in a world, in a culture, that wants nothing more than to hand out labels like lollipops to young children in the candy store. People often have a visceral desire to inform you of all the ways you can improve and grow and lose and gain; there is a perpetual well that is seemingly endless - full to the brim of advice waiting to be given, handed out, laid down.

I've spent a lot of my life trying to adjust under the weight of labels. Some of them I, admittedly, have given myself. They're not often kind and they tend to have quite localized pressure points. I've met these labels head on, nestled into their breast, and awaited the coddling that will never come from slipping into a skin I wasn't ever supposed to carry around.

And then there are the ones that have been given. And these really seem to be the ones with the sharpest edges, the most devastating with their pitch perfect aim. These labels can become like bondage. We hear them, we hear how we should go about changing them, and then we hold out our wrists and wait for the shackles to be locked and the proverbial key thrown to the bottom of a well that once housed our self-esteem.

Here's what my heart tends to hear when labels come up: change. Change who you are. Change how you look. Change your levels of willingness. Alter. Alter your size. Alter your ego. Alter the amount of things you feel for people. Succumb. Succumb to what this world says is best. Succumb to saying yes, always. Succumb to being an object to be noticed. Give up. Give up your ideas of what you thought were best. Give up believing what you bring to the table is enough. Give up thinking you are enough.

Hear me out. Change is good. Change, in my story, started out like that step sibling I never had, nor did I want, that I just longed to stomp into the ground and never be heard from again. And then I realized how much they might actually add to my life. My step sibling change ended up scraping off all the crud I had let build up in the crevices from staying put. I think change is beautiful and revolutionary; it has the propensity to create growth you never knew you were capable of.

Change has become a character I consider to be a leading role in my story.

But the changes I've made, the times I've said yes when I wanted to say no, the space I've allowed for growth and learning, is because I wanted it.

Not because someone else told me it would be best.

Not because it would garner more attention for myself.

Not because it would allow me to slip into a better label.

I am not perfect. Neither is anyone else. But for the better part of the last 48 hours I've tried slipping into a label because I started to believe it was true of me; I held out my wrists, that I've always been really hard on because they're not thin or delicate, and awaited the clank of the shackle to be locked -- because someone compared this me to what I could be.

Truth? I could be a lot of things. I could be thinner and quieter and less likely to cry over music. I could be less sensitive and more unwilling to let people know how much I love them and I could definitely eat less dairy and think less about bread.

But those things make me, me. And if I'm going to go about altering any of those things, I want it to be as a result of believing it's what's best for my own life, not anyone else's.

And I've spent the last year trying to remind myself to be softer to my own reflection. I've actively not thrown hate filled words at my jeans before I put them on in the morning. I'm trying to learn to give myself some of the love I easily give out to others.

I don't know what labels you're carrying around. I don't know if they've become freeing and enlightening or if they are holding you stiff and immobile. But I have to believe that we need not stuff ourselves inside them in order to survive.

How many years have I been existing because I bound myself in lies and claimed them as my definers?

I don't want to exist in a life when I can actually be living it.

Shake off the labels. If change is healthy for you, then welcome it. But do it for you.

Because, I don't know about you, but it's high time I stop fighting for people that only make me feel worse and start going to battle against those that make me feel that worth is lacking.

And y'all, more than I'd like to admit, I'm at the front of that charge, carrying the weapons that scar and desecrate.

And it's time to stop.

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