So, I have this thing about hating the feeling of being stereotyped. Over the years, since I was a teenager my views on describing this aversion have changed. At one point, I labeled it for myself as not giving in to peer pressure. I still get incredibly mad, when I have the feeling that a group of people is trying to pressure someone into doing something they shouldn’t do or they are not ready for.
But the stereotyping has been about more than peer pressure. It has been about the feeling of being put in a box and stuck in a drawer with a label slapped on my forehead.
I was a very quiet teenager in school. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t speak up very much and I didn’t share my opinions, as I always had the fear that I would have to defend them against others and wouldn’t be able to make them be understood. Therefore I didn’t speak much about them at all. At least not in a big public group. In year books and class discussions, people loved to use the label: “Quiet waters run deep” to describe who I am. Maybe it was my own definition of what quiet meant that made me disagree with this label. While I might have not had words flowing out of my mouth on a constant basis, my brain and the thoughts flowing around in my head where certainly not quiet. Quite to the contrary, sometimes I wished I could tone their volume down just a little bit.
But, I now realize that humans are prone to wanting to make sense of the world around them by categorizing the things they see into digestible chunks they understand. The big world of thoughts, ideas, determination, but also fear and self-doubt that are inside of me are not often shared with the people around me. Therefore, when others create themselves a construct of me in their head in order to understand where I fit in within their world, my internalized values and thoughts are not able to part of their equation.
Writing this down makes me realize something that I had not thought about this way before. Despite knowing all my life that there was more to me than this quiet soul that people could rely on, I was never immune to the yearning of wanting to be accepted by people for who I am. But if your truth rests inside your mind and you don’t speak it out loud, people define you only by what they can perceive on the outside. This then means that what society reflects back at you as you, is not the full you. And if you define yourself by the image the people around you have of you, you will ache and crumble and always wonder why you are so misunderstood.
Wow, I just surprised myself with that revelation. Maybe my recent thoughts of needing to find a way for my inner voice to be expressed vocally to the outside world and needing to “Reveal myself” for who I truly am on the inside, with all my hopes and fears, is more needed than I ever thought. Maybe my original fear of having to publicly speak about my opinions and speak up about what I stand for is much easier to overcome, if I allow myself to realize that I will inevitably let others define who I am, who don’t have the full scope of all the parts of me. And because I am human and want to fit in, I listen to their description of me and internalize their judgments based on a picture that was created with only half the facts. How is that for scary?
Scary yes, but I also just motivated myself to take leaps of faith in putting myself out there. Maybe then one day the way I hear people describe me feels more empowering, because I can identify with that person, rather than defeating, because I don’t feel understood.