For those of you following along with this year’s theme, section 12 focuses on “Being Stereotyped and Labeled” from the twelve categories of shame list created by Dr. Brené Brown. Her research on shame-resilience and vulnerability demonstrates for us all, how and why to live a wholehearted life.
From the day we are born we are labeled (human being, baby, boy, girl). From that day forward we continue to be labeled (sister, brother, son, daughter, student) and in turn learn how to apply them on others.
In general, using labels helps us to quickly learn and understand the world around us along with making it easier to communicate. Trying to describe a tall organism with a brownish hard center structure, woody limbs with green foliage would go much faster and easier if we were just call it by the label assigned to it: tree.
On the one hand labels save us time; on the other hand, they can make us lazy and often times hurtful, especially when it comes to other people…where labeling turns into stereotyping.
Two sides of the stereotyping coin need to be explored here:
- when we label and stereotype other people
- when other people label and stereotype us
Have we ever formed an opinion about someone just because of their…
- age (youth, middle aged, elderly)
- job title
- money or lack thereof
- sexual orientation
- health status (physical, mental, emotional)
- food choices (vegetarian, meat-eater)
- lifestyle choices
On the other hand, have we been on the receiving end of stereotyping where people judged us solely by one of these aforementioned labels without ever taking the time to really know us? Did we accept these labels as gospel, thus setting up self-sabotaging limits to subconsciously prove these labels true? How much of our negative actions can be attributed to the shame we feel for buying into these labels?
An example for me is the “artist” label; in particular the idea that you can’t make a living as an artist. It still amazes me when people ask me what I do for my real job? Can you imagine going up to a lawyer to ask her what her real job is?
Because I bought into this particular aspect of the “artist” label, I find that I have struggled with making a living doing my art. I’ve looked at how I sabotaged my efforts in order to fulfill this artist label. Now that I realize this, I can change my beliefs and allow myself to be my full potential as an artist.
Now this begs the following questions:
- In what areas of our lives have we bought into the labels that have been assigned to us?
- In what ways do we limit ourselves from being our full potential just because we decided to believe a label to be true?
- Are we willing to defy the labels in order to be our full potential?
Need some inspiration from those who defied their labels?
- Erik Weihenmayer: blind, climbed Mount Everest
- Helen Keller: deaf & blind, author, political activist, and lecturer
- Lauren Kornacki: 22 year old female college student, lifted car to save her dad
- Diana Nyad: 64 year old woman, swam from Cuba to Florida
- Nelson Mandela: first black South African to hold the office of President of South Africa, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.
This month’s section asks us to explore both sides of the stereotyping issue. Chances are we’ve experienced both. Now is the time to become aware of how much we judge others only by their labels and how much we judge and limit ourselves for the labels we believe to be true about ourselves.
May you find clarity, understanding, and acceptance while coloring the last section of the 2013 Mandala of the Year.
Be sure to download/color the December 2013 Mandala of the Month.
Amazingly powerful books by Dr. Brené Brown (I’ve read all 3):
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
- I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”