Labels are supposed to be useful shortcuts to describe things and people. And yet they come with a whole bunch of preconceptions & associations which are not useful at all.
Labels are useful short cuts to describe someone or something. For example, I am a woman, I am short, I am overweight. These are useful adjectives which describe me (even though I would prefer not to be overweight… – that’s a different story!)
But when it comes to having been raped…. What are the words used then? I am not something that happened to me.
In NLP we have a phrase, we are not our behaviours. My friend has dyslexia, she is not dyslexic. My Mum walks with a stick, she is not a cripple.
If a friend’s flat is broken into, she is not forever described as a victim of that crime.
I hate that word. It’s so passive, so weak. It’s a true word for what happened in those moments of time when that man was raping me. It is not the truth of who I am.
I use that word a lot. It’s the one I’ve settled on, for now and in the absence of a word I like more. But it’s full of struggle isn’t it? And who wants to live a life of struggle?
Lots of people use that too. It’s often used to liberate. But warriors fight battles. Battles are violent things. I don’t want to be fighting all my life either.
What do we call ourselves?
Those labels come with all sorts of preconceptions, to define us, for us. And we don’t need that. The labels come with expected behaviours. Are we behaving victim enough? Are we demonstrating our worth by always surviving whatever comes our way? Are we to be feared as rampant feminists, fighting for our sisters? Labels that trap us into behaving in a certain way, they trap us into thinking that’s our new reality. And it isn’t. We are not what happened to us. We are allowed to move forward from what happened to us. We don’t need to be a victim forevermore, we don’t need to always be struggling to survive, we don’t need to always be fighting battles every day. We can just be.
I don’t want to be ‘handled with care.’ I am not a fragile flower who might break at any moment. (I might, but I don’t want to be treated like I might). I am a human, being. I want to be being me, just me.
There are so many labels you could use to describe me – some of them I would agree with, some of them, I might not.
I am a divorcee, I am a coach, I am an entrepreneur, I am queer, I am childless, I am a marketing strategist.
I am a lush, I am an over-eater, I am an ex-smoker and self-harmer, I am lazy, I am a couch potato.
I am loyal, I am big-hearted, I am optimistic and hopeful, I am an idealist.
Some of these have emotion attached, or stories that go along with the words. Some come with judgements and preconceptions and assumptions. Some of them are factual, some of them opinion. None of them describe my identity. None of them describe me.
Look at the labels you’re using to describe yourself. Look at your preconceptions, judgements and assumptions about those labels. Some of those things that are attached to the label might serve you. Keep them whilst they do. Some of those things that are attached to the label might not. Remove them from the label, or change the label. We are not what happened to us. We are so much more than that.
You are so much more than that.