Saturday, March 24, 2012

Actions speak louder than labels

March has been kind of a bust in terms of following a theme. I've been busy, certainly, but I just don't have the time or energy to take on new tasks right now. Maybe April will be my reading month. In the meantime, something unrelated:

Monday night this week, a woman who had just taken my Zumba class for the first time stopped to chat at the end of class. She asked me if I did any other kind of dance*.

"Oh no," I replied. "I'm not a dancer." Then she looked at me like I've got news for you, sister.
"You're a dancer," she replied.

I've also said the same thing about a running: "I'm not a runner." Yet next Sunday I'll be running a half marathon.

I think I have a problem.

We do this with labels, though, don't we? We struggle with labeling ourselves as this or that even though our actions might tell a different story. We're worried about others' expectations. If I say I'm a runner, people will wonder why I'm not skinny. Sometimes this is hypocritical when we give ourselves a label of something we'd like to be but don't follow through on, but I'm talking more about the labels that we feel we're stuck with that limit us and make us feel excluded.

I can't wear that style of clothing because I'm not cool. 
- Maybe wearing that style of clothing will make you feel cool. 

I can't take an art class because I'm terrible at art. 
- Hm. Isn't this what the class is for?

These are circular arguments and self-fulfilling prophesies, but these are not legitimate reasons to stay away from something that interests you. None of us is born with the label "athlete" or "mom" or "musician" stamped on our foreheads (boy, that would make things a lot easier, wouldn't it?).

Also consider that you might be the reason for someone to change how they think of their own labeling system. In other words, you might inspire other people who don't think they're a ____ to give it a try anyway. So, label yourself or don't, but understand that actions--not words alone--tell your story**.

*Zumba is not dance!
**By the way, the last thing I did for this post was to choose the "labels" for it. Nice.


Anonymous said...

You should say, "I'm not a millionaire."


Domestic Kate said...

If only...

David said...

I completely understand. I tell people I'm a musician. I tell them I play in a band. When these people come to watch us play for the first time, they are very surprised after we get finished with our set. It's almost as if they doubted me from the start because I don't "look the part." Some have just flat out said, "I did not expect that."

Domestic Kate said...

David, exactly! I feel like I don't look the part for most of the things I do with my life! Cheers to that.