This won’t be a lengthy post. Jared and Mairead have been dealing with a personal loss and I have been overwhelmed with anxiety and work…but I wanted to write at least a little.

The perfectionist in me (and she’s not super nice) wants me to post more, on a schedule, and be super good about sequencing things in an organized manner… But the “kinder” and (hopefully) healthier me, reminds herself that this whole project started as a creative outlet and not just another source of anxiety and critique. So…I’ll get started.

I spent a lot of time thinking about labels and identity this week.

I’m not sure I have a great “moral of the story” (as I like to say) or “point” even, but I’ve had a few things come up that I mostly just want to remind myself to keep examining.

First—I have had discussions recently with a close friend who pretty much ‘rejects’ labels.

This is really interesting to me because I feel like I have a lot of empathy. So….even if I didn’t experience the same exact scenario as somebody else, I have no trouble associating it with a similar scenario in my own life and then “putting myself in their shoes.”

Here’s a super easy example…. I have never really felt discriminated against because of the color of my skin. But I HAVE been discriminated against because of my gender. Feeling as though I was “discriminated against because of something outside of my control” is the common denominator though, so although I will never claim to understand ENTIRELY what it’s like to be discriminated against because of my skin color or race, I CAN say I didn’t like the general “feeling” of discrimination and, therefore, I have personal, direct, interest in fighting against anyone feeling that way.

SO- that little bit of backstory to say- when somebody I love says “I don’t like labels” and they REALLY mean it, it’s hard for me to actually empathize with. I’m not judging against it (in fact, I’ll make even a stronger effort to support it, since I know it’s not my natural tendency), it’s just HARD for me to totally understand, because I haven’t experienced it. I have always found vocabulary and language and labels to be super helpful for me. Affirming.

A silly example is that, recently, my husband sent me an article on being an “omnivert”. I am an introvert, but I love people SO much that I just can’t help but set up engagement after engagement, because I can’t stand saying no to somebody I love. After doing so, I need a few days to reset and energize, because I am, at heart, truly an introvert, despite my deep love for my friends. But when my husband sent me some “language” to describe myself, it felt wholly reassuring and not at all a situation where I felt “put in a box”.

This was the first instance of me trying to reexamine myself recently. Empathy comes much more easily to me than the opposite- whatever that is. So when I DON’T feel it, it’s surprising to me.

Which was the case with this friend (who I support and love deeply) when she described her desire to remain label-less AND, upon further thought, religion.

I am not religious. My entire religious philosophy can be summed up by this image (which I would love to give credit to the creator, if the opportunity arises!) and the following thought.

“If I believe in Islam then 5.7 billion people are condemned. If I believe in Christianity then 5.1 billion people are condemned. If I believe in nothing….then nobody is condemned. “

I didn’t start writing tonight to get into a religious debate or discussion. I just am sharing the things that sort of make up my thought-process so people know where I’m coming from.

Overall though, at this point in my life- I really do value how important and beautiful religion and faith can be in a person’s life, so I am 1000000% not interested in trying to get people to think the same thing that I do.

So….All that I’m talking about with religion in this post is that I noticed that I didn’t really have empathy when I thought about the role religion can play in identity. I just don’t have that personal perspective.

But instead of writing it off or ignoring those things, I’m going to spend some time thinking and reflecting and actively trying to find more ways to value and understand (both of) these things that I’m noticing didn’t come naturally to me right away.

And, as always, I’ll keep trying to notice those deficiencies in my empathy…recognize them…and then learn, and hopefully do better….at the very least, in my personal interactions with those who feel or experience those beliefs or identities. It’s work….always. But it’s worth it and I will do it.

I hope some of you will too.

One thought on “Labels/Empathy

  1. I am totally with you there on struggling when you can’t find the empathy. I think when most people have a hard time finding empathy with someone else’s struggle, that’s when they reeeeaaaallllyyy stretch their personal experiences to try to find that personal connection. However, often that comes off as too superficial, or writing off what that person is going through. I’ve been guilty of it myself. I’ve had to learn how to stop myself from replying when it’s out of my personal experience. Just say nothing. Put your arm around them (physically or emotionally) and meet them where they are.

    It’s uncomfortable to allow that to happen. Realize that sometimes you really won’t know how to connect with someone, but still wanting to be there for them. One of hardest parts of the human experience is being able to sit in your discomfort because sometimes that’s where your biggest growth experiences happen.

    I feel like a lot of this comment is disjointed and not cohesive, but I’m gonna be ok with that for now :X


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