High School Sophomore Claire Harris on Labels

Claire is a sophomore at the Colorado Springs School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She plays tennis and volleyball and loves darkroom photography. She recently had the time of her life at Indoor Skydiving. Labels are funny things. It is human nature to label everything we see, including other people. This is yellow and that is blue. He is black and she is white. Labeling is our human way of making sense of the world. Although this is our natural instinct, labeling people can be very restrictive. It doesn’t matter if the label is good or bad. Labels can make some people carry the weight of the world while others wish to help but are simply “inadequate."

I have always been a very confident girl, so labels never bothered me. But for someone who is very shy and dependent on the opinions of others, labels can be very threatening and hurtful. I recently attended a seminar that focused on labels that people give each other. In this seminar, we all sat in a circle and were given headbands that labeled us.These labels could be positive or negative, but either way we felt the effects of the label. A lot of these effects were not good effects, no matter if you were a “good” or a “bad” person.

In Colorado College’s e.motion Faculty Dance Concert this year there was a particular piece that caught my attention: “Whole Body.” In this piece, they talked about how when a girl turns to a woman, especially, though this is not limited to women, a new self is created. She now has two selves: herself and herself as the world sees her. This new self adds so much burden to the woman because now not only does she have herself to worry about, but she also has another self that will always be criticizing her and judging every aspect of her body and personality. John Berger said, “to be nude is to be seen naked by others … Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is put on display.” This is perhaps the essence of the idea of another self.

Whether this is true or not, think about what yourself-as-the-world-sees-you would look like. Put labels on yourself. Consider everything about you: your hair color, your grades in school, your job, your family, your race, your sexual orientation, how you dress, how much money your parents make. Everything that anyone could know about you.

Picture these words on various places of your body. It might be where the label comes from or where the label effects you. Think about how each label makes you feel about yourself and about the world around you. Even if these labels are good, think of all the possible situations that they could restrict you in any way. Now that you’ve done that, would you like this image to be different? I’m going to imagine that you do.

So now you’re going to take that image of you, and slowly peel off all of your labels. But don’t just peel them off of your body, peel them off of your conscience. Completely let them all go. Once you’re done, picture yourself. Become at peace with yourself. Doesn’t that feel better? I can imagine that it does.

Now think of the people that have the labels that rule their lives. They feel like they can’t tell anyone anything about themselves unless they tell those people about this one thing first. Almost like it should follow their name. “Hi my name is so-and-so and I’m ______” I feel that way sometimes. “Hi my name is Claire and I have two moms”. That way we can just get the judging out of the way and actually get to know each other. Maybe saying this would make us appear more at peace with who we are. And you know what they say, “Fake it ‘till you make it”. Maybe if we say “Hi my name is so-and-so and I’m most-prevalent-label-here” then we could finally become at peace with that label and be abel to finally peel it off. Because that’s the ultimate goal isn’t it? To not get rid of your aspects, but to get rid of the labels that make those aspects restricting.

Everyone labels and everyone judges. There’s no getting around it. It’s just how the brain works. But you can take those labels and judgment off of your conscience. You can become naked instead of nude.

(Special note from Marilyn: Claire is the daughter of my friend since the 6th grade Tricia Harris and her partner Carrie Delius, who just celebrated their 25th anniversary. Claire's sister is 11-year old Jensen.)

Go to The Diversity Project for more information on the Dimensions of Diversity wheel chart.