The loner kid versus the popular group. The girly-girl versus the tom-boy. The wimp versus the “guy.” The cool kids versus the awkward losers.
I categorized people that I never interacted with based on these labels as a kid and often subconsciously, I still do. Anyone I ask attests to hearing their own friends categorize others with these labels and admits to stereotyping other individuals based on rumors and superficial appearances. The truth is, everyone uses these labels on people they don’t truly know.
As a child, I was shy, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew kids my age grouped everyone they knew into these categories. In fact, even parents did. I loved playing sports, running, thinking, but I hated barbies (they always smelled too strongly of plastics) and “girly” things like skirts and dresses. By default, the parents categorized me as a “tom-boy” based on my love for physical sports and dislike for barbies and the things the popular girls liked (like Justin Bieber, barbies, dressy clothing, and High School Musical, which fear not, my friends will make me watch someday because I assumed the movie worse than it is– my mistake). Whereas, the students at school typically viewed me as a mix of a quiet “awkward loner” in elementary because I hardly interacted with others.
I learned later on that one of the “popular” groups used to think and spread around that I was stupid. A side anecdote: my mom spoke with some of the parents from the popular group on the day of my middle school graduation. And, shocker, a few of them openly voiced their surprise when, contrary to what their children said, I was one of thirteen (out of 200+) who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA in middle school and their child was not. I, the one who was “not smart,” managed to get a 4.0??
Labels are harmful. Those who didn’t give me a chance, who said I was things I wasn’t, didn’t get to see the caring side of me. The side that values friends above all else. The me that loves learning and strives to be the best I can be. The me who loves reading about fantasies, mystery, science, and what it’s like to live in the wild. The me that loves music. The me that is more than the ill-conceived perceptions of me. The real me.
Never wish to be just a “cool kid” who disregards others who have potential to be great life-long friends. Don’t just strive to fit a few labels. Branch out and make your own label. Let others know who you truly are. Never let them assume. Because you are you. You are amazing. And you are more than the sum of society’s opinions. Be you and thrive, prove those labels wrong, not conform to them.
A/N: Inspiration for this post comes from March Hare’s post this week: Simply Being You. The song above comes from EchoSmith: Cool Kids.