I can have many labels. Just like you, I choose if, when, where, and with whom I will wear them. An author and teacher, I'm also called a father, gardener, White, single, a poet, builder, painter, illustrator, Canadian, graffitist, son, business owner, immigrant, singer, member, leader, reader, actor, citizen, bill payer, brother, bicyclist, traveler, hiker, driver, and many, many other labels.
As I have accumulated more and different labels throughout my life, I have learned that they're very arbitrary. All these labels have taught me that the time and place we stand within are as important to how society addresses us as the actual experiences that grant us those labels initially.
The Principle of Engagement shows us that the ways we are engaged within ourselves or in the world around us are not decided before we get here. Our engagements haven't happened because of the genetics we were born with, the culture we were raised in, or the social class we belong to. We are not conditioned by any forces outside of ourselves, either.
You are fully responsible for your engagement in this world.
This responsibility grants us whatever labels we'll assume. Sure, there have been a lot of stories about characters who've taken labels that weren't theirs. People claim roots they never came from, and run from experiences they've never had, or never own ones they have had. Since we're each fully responsible for our engagement, we can do that. Sometimes we lie, sometimes we release, sometimes we forget. Ultimately, none of these are perfectly wrong since all of them are forms of engagement. The Principle of Engagement works in all these scenarios.
Are you engaged because of the labels someone else gave you? Since someone called you middle class, do you think you need to drive a new car and live in a suburban development? If you are a college dropout, do you believe you can't get a good paying job? Men, women, children, youth, seniors, retirees, divorcees, singles, straights, gays, lesbians, fisherman, longshoremen, policemen, emcees, rockers, instrumentalists, classicists, students, teachers, administrators, bosses, workers, unemployed... Stupid, smart, creative, dull, engaged, disengaged... All these are simple labels. We get so caught up in their complexities that we don't see the outcomes of weight they can carry.
For some, it is a challenge not to confuse who they are with their labels. For others, labels are simply water on the wall that drips to the floor and onto the ground, evaporating with no meaning or purpose. You get to choose how you respond to any of your labels, and whether you're engaged in what they mean.
So make a list or walk away from this post, and see what they call you next and whether it matters to you. Learning about the Principle of Engagement shows you that its all your choice now.
CommonAction is available to train, speak, and share about this topic and many others. Contact me to talk about the possibilities by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (360)489-9680.