Math is not my strong suit.
Algebra 2 brought down my GPA in high school, and I couldn’t really care less about why x+y=z, but here’s one equation that I know is true and (should be) proven by some complicated math theory that begins with the letter “P”:
Labels = expectations = disappointment.
(I know. Not technically an equation. I told you I suck at math.)
Labels are okay for things like boxes in the garage, medications, and containers of food. But one place labels definitely don’t belong is on people.
My top three most loathsome labels right now are vegan, mentally ill, and millennial. I’ve been labeled as all three. Yes, I do my best to live a compassionate lifestyle that does the least harm to our planet and to other beings. Yes, I suffer from anxiety and depression. And, yes, I was born in 1985. But, I do not feel like I fit the grossly stereotyped labels of vegan, mentally ill, and millennial.
As you open a bag labeled “flour,” you expect to see flour. And you do. If you look at a person labeled “gay,” you expect (insert your expectation here). And that’s where the problem lies. My expectation of a “gay” person is different from my grandmother’s expectation of a “gay” person, and her expectation of a “gay” person is different from my boss’s. There’s a lot of room for interpretation, expectation, and ultimately, disappointment.
To me, my grandmother, and my boss, though, expectations of flour are all the same: White. Powdery. Used to make bread, pancakes, muffins, and other foods. Simple, straight-forward, and without much room for the possibility of anything else. There’s nothing exciting about flour. It’s always been flour and it will always be flour. It’s boring, and we may even be disappointed that it’s not chocolate, instead.
Imagine for a moment, that you’re ruffling through your cupboard looking for the bottle of vanilla to make cupcakes for your kid’s birthday party. During the search, you come across a brown paper sack shoved in the corner of the cabinet, labeled “FLOUR.” You don’t remember buying flour in that type of sack. And whose writing is that — you never write in all caps like that? But, you shrug it off. It says flour, so it must be flour. But, what if inside that sack labeled “FLOUR” is really a stash of chocolate candy, disguised by your clever husband as flour, to keep you, his choco-holic wife, from eating his finest Belgian treats? I bet you’d be pretty stoked if you decided to take a peek in that bag, after all, wouldn’t you?
Here’s the thing about people: We’re not flour. We don’t stay the same. We can and do grow and change. That’s what makes us human.
When you pass up the “FLOUR” because it’s not what you think you were looking for, you miss out on the chocolate.
Let’s try to stop putting labels on ourselves and each other.
Don’t be flour. Just be you.
What have you been labeled? What are some of your least favorite labels we give to each other?