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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Can a label be a good thing?

I have a question for you all ~ are there labels out there which you are prepared to accept (or passionately resist)?  Other facets of your life, other parts of who you are, what you do, who you consider yourself to be?

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I struggle with some of the labels that get thrown at me ~ check this out for one that I can't stand ~ partly because these might not match up to the way that I see myself, but also partly because I hate the idea that what I am ... who I am ... is so simplistic that it could be summed up in just a few words.  I wonder if that comes from an inherent need to be different, to be special, to be unique ~ no idea who said it, but consider this ~ yes, you're absolutely unique ... just like everybody else ...


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Personally, I think it's the vocab and phrasing I find difficult to swallow.  In my mind there's a world of difference between a label and a definition.  While I have, over the years, had many labels ~ some of which I've stuck on myself, others of which have been attached to me by other people, I would not consider them to define me.  I find it empowering to pick and choose labels, like penny sweets in an old~fashioned newsagents ... today I'll be a charades champion ~ Petal and I are the winning team so far; a cook ~ brownies for Brownies for pack holiday;  a blogger, since I'm writing this;  a record keeper, with Smiler's appointment last week to log in his ever expanding file;  a carer, since we're on nosebleed alert complete with a pile of gauze swabs and extra meds.  Others are more elemental, including (for me) woman, parent, lover, partner ~ while these are not necessarily permanent, they are basic in that if they are somehow 'lost' they would shift my perception of myself.

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The tricky thing about labels is that, to some extent, as much as we might resist them on an individual basis, they are, or at least can be, useful, like a badge of membership, a shortcut which explains (at least a facet of) your role.  I'm involved with Bristol Parent Carers ~ a group committed to working with parent carers and services (NHS, education, social care) to improve our little corner of the world, to try and either level the playing field or else improve  wheelchair access, better lighting, and equalities training for the staff.  By waving the parent carer card, by positively taking ownership of it, BPC have been able to evolve into an organisation whose input is actively sought by the Local Authority and others on various different issues.

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Maybe it's to do with choice, and control ~ if as individuals we stick on our own labels and feel able to peel them off as desired, we're okay with that, while in contrast if we are labelled / pigeon~holed / judged / assessed by others, we lose that autonomy, that ability to pick and choose who and what we are.  Perhaps underneath all those labels, all those luggage tags and all the post~it notes, underneath those basic building blocks, those weighty words and complex categorisation, what we really are is ourselves.

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