Monday, November 10, 2008

GSA Mondays: Labels - Just how sticky are they? Can you change how people see you?

As an offshoot of last week's discussion at the Gay-Straight Alliance club meeting that I help facilitate, the topic of how hard it was to change people's perceptions of you came up.

The point made was that if you make a mistake as a freshman, and word gets out that, say, you're a "Big Slut" - that's a hard label to shake. Even if you act like Mother Teresa or one of the nuns from "The Sound Of Music" (okay, not Maria, but you get my point...) everyone's still going to be calling you a "Big Slut" for the rest of your entire high school career. You don't get to change who you are until you've left high school and are making a new life for yourself in college.

The general consensus among the kids attending was that they agreed. It's super hard to get anyone to see you in a different way once minds were decided, once labels were made and given. Labels are sticky.

But then one of the other very smart faculty adults at the meeting offered up this idea:

Why not take on NEW labels for yourself, all the time? How about a NEW label, every day? Even though there might be some people who would still try to call you a "Big Slut," they'd also have to contend with the fact that you're a "Brainiac," you're a "Fashion Icon," you're a "Super-Chef," you're a "Soccer Star," you're a "Stock Market Wizard," you're an "Artist," you're a "Fanboy," you're a "Reading Fiend," you're an "Iconoclast," you're YOU.

It was a great point - we're ALL multifaceted, and while we may get one label we don't like, we can add others to make up a more real and full picture of who we are.

There are lists and lists of labels speaking to the negative. Lots of words to put us down. To tear at our self-confidence. To inflate others in their eyes by trying to deflate us.

But guess what?

We are each the master of our own destinies. We get to define ourselves, too.

So, to get the ball rolling, here are some labels I CLAIM for myself.

So if you're going to call me names - go ahead and include some of the labels I claim for myself, too!

Let me know what labels you CLAIM for yourself!


Terry Doherty said...

This is a wonderful post. The timing is exquisite: I have been looking at my daughter with one lens. I need to remember all the other colors in the prism. I have this image of myself looking like a walking Post-it ... maybe I'd be skinnier.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Love the signs.

Christine said...

Nice post. In my parenting, I often feel like my label is "Bad Cop." I recently decided that if I'm going to be Bad Cop some of the time (in my kids' eyes at least) I'm also going to be the "Silly One." Just making that decision has helped me lighten up.

holly cupala said...

This is a lovely post, Lee. Don't forget, you are a great friend.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks everyone, for chiming in. And thanks for that, too, Holly.
It made me smile.

Saints and Spinners said...

Don't forget that you are a cutie, too.;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee,

Gay Dads here and book blogging, mostly children's books, but not entirely. Found your site through the Kidslit Comment Challenge.

Bibliovore said...

Labels are hard to shake, especially when they're the ones you've put on yourself. Some I'm proud of, some I'm not. I'm dealing with some kids at my library who I've labeled mentally, "Big Pains in the Patootie." Recently, I've come to realize that they are also "Eager to Help," "Politically Aware," and "Basically Good Kids Even When They Are Being Big Pains."

Thanks for reminding me of this, Lee.

Unknown said...

You post made me smile, today. I think I can work this idea into a good activity to do with one of my classes, too.

Make your own label. I like it.

BTW: Five comments a day is harder than I thought it would be. But I'm not giving up.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

let me know how the exercise goes with your class - and keep commenting!!!

Chocolate said...

What a wonderful idea.
Something I always try to live by.

And further to that... the labels other people give me, I take them and own them. If someone calls me weird, then I happen to agree. I'm weird.

I'm also "Exceptionally Happy", "Kid With Large Appetite", "Honest", and "Silly".

It's the same with my geek label. When people call me a geek, I rarely get insulted, because its true.

David LaRochelle said...

Hi Lee,

Count me in with Holly who labels you a GREAT FRIEND. I very much appreciated your warm and outgoing spirit when I met you this past summer at the LA SCBWI conference.

As I plow through a rather-overwhelming week of school residencies, I am going to label myself a GOOD TEACHER, because I am, and though I'm exhausted at the end of the day, I feel satisfied knowing that I've inspired kids to write.

Korianne said...

Fabulous title, fabulous thought.