Based on the above you create, in your mind, who you think I am. At this point nothing else is necessary. I fit into a prescribed box. Quite possibly you are wrong, but we lead busy lives and you don’t have time to make another assumption. I am in my box. The image you produced of me will remain unchanged unless you befriend me.
Based on the above, you may infer that I’m painfully conservative. You may base this on the fact that I’m a millennial and clearly young which means I married young. I had children young. In your experience, women who marry and have children young are conservative—or girls who got into trouble as teenagers. But I’m a Navy Veteran. I joined the military. So you decide on conservative. For now.
Because I’m conservative and straight, you may infer that I am Christian and therefore I’m anti-gay and anti-abortion. Because I’m conservative and white, you may infer that I am racist. Because I’m conservative and a veteran I believe in war.
So when I introduce myself by my societal labels and roles, “White, Straight, Married, Woman, Mother, Veteran, Millennial,” I instead become, “Conservative, Christian, Homophobic, Anti-abortion, Racist, War Monger.”
Society created the boxes we’re supposed to fit in based on those labels. We are bombarded with these boxes daily. We are taught to identify with them and only as Society dictates. It is restricting.
Today there are glaring examples of people who do not identify with Society’s boxes. They do not identify with what Society classified them as at birth, and because they do not identify with the box Society placed them in, they change themselves, completely and irrevocably, to fit another box.
Let me emphasize, they are not breaking out of the box. They are choosing simply to climb into another. The one they think they fit. This is not a radical idea. This is not new. We may not all change ourselves as drastically as those who change their genders or identify with another race, but most of us self-identify with a box at some point in our lives. It may be the “Goth” box or the “Femme-bot” box. It could be the “Macho” box or the “Metrosexual” box.
Whatever the box, it is polarizing. It separates us from each other. And often these boxes don’t fit anyway. At times they even prevent us from getting to know ourselves.
I had the opportunity a couple of months ago to attend a class, during which I was asked to answer the question, “Who am I?”
I, like most of my classmates, started answering with my familiar labels and comfortable roles. It was easier that way. But the instructor wanted more. She wanted the real answer without the labels.
Here is who I am.
I am an artist and my favored media are words. I love people and have compassion for their darkest moments. I don’t want people to hurt, physically, or emotionally. I love speaking and singing and dancing, these things free me. My favorite colors are blue and red at their primary levels.
There are still stereotypes and boxes that I might fit into based on the above, but they are far less polarizing. While only women can identify with being mothers, men can identify with being artists. While only white people experience the world through white culture, anyone might like primary colors.
When we begin with who we are the boxes start to matter less. When we know ourselves outside of the boxes, suddenly we don’t need to alter ourselves to fit them. We are more than Society dictates that we can be. There doesn’t have to be a Box restricting us. There doesn’t have to be a box to fit in. Our labels and our roles do not have to define us.
The boxes are weak like paper, just push out and you are free.