Blog Post written by our blogger Irene Motz
I recently watched a movie – I’m A Teacher , I’ m A Singer , I’m A Writer .
“That’s What I Am.”
It teaches about tolerance , and appearance .
Sympathy , or indulgences for beliefs or practices different from , or conflicting with ones own , or the act of allowing something to be different .
It is saying to me, that you do not have to hear my story, or know my plight to accept me as an individual. Tolerance for everyone , no matter what their appearance or circumstance. The premise of the movie was “that we are what we believe we are, ” and if we allow stigmas and labels to identify us , we become them.”
We live in a world where success is measured by the titles we hold. The name on the door or certificate hanging on the wall measures our success. A title gives us acknowledgment of our accomplishments , and it can give us a sense of well being and pride . It represents us in a positive light . Labels have the opposite effect . They make us invisible as people. They rob us of our identity and define us as a label. We are under the neon flashing sign of our label that is placed upon us by others to make it easier to identify the problems. It accomplishes nothing but making one feel inferior. That is all people see, or choose to see. People in Poverty are a problem to be solved.
We are addressed as “The Poor or the Marginalized ” by agencies, reporters, and social media to bring awareness to the plights of those living in Poverty, and to draw compassion and empathy from the public. It does, however, not bring awareness that behind the labels there are people. People with dreams, passions and aspirations. People with the same families , same friends , who live in the same community , yet now are invisible or rejected and are living on the outside looking in.
We are addressed as “The Poor or the Marginalized” by agencies, reporters, and social media to bring awareness to the plights of those living in Poverty, and to draw compassion and empathy from the public.
It can be compared to being in a room full of the same people you have known , and suddenly you become invisible , and the label Poverty stands in your place. The Label has identified you , and you no longer exist as an individual person.
It is a silent shame others feel for you.
They do not want to exclude you. That would be cruel and undignified, but it is permissible to politely smile and ignore you. That is exclusion in its cruelest form.
Then there are self imposed feelings of shame that come after onslaughts of comments made on public forums by people you do not know, and even more damaging by those that you do know. You are told that “you are not deserving” ..” that you should be grateful,” …”that anything you have to say is inconsequential. ” It causes a slow and painful erosion of your self worth.
I walked among the same people, the same community, yet I was no longer part of it. I walked in the shadows of my own life. I kept my conversations guarded. I rarely spoke about my personal life, having had too many experiences of looks of pity , and/ or judgement . I was the same person, nothing but my financial status had changed, yet I was living on the outskirts . That was my new identity …I was one of “The Poor”. It felt as if I was in a prison and someone had the key to my life. Poverty removes personal freedoms. The freedom to make choices where you live, what you eat, and where you are permitted to go.
It seemed that there were now two road maps . One map giving you the freedom of choice , the other had road blocks . There were now signs of ” Do not Enter….Road Closed.” The choice was made for you if you lived in Poverty . Yes, our financial status may restrict us , but it is our label that blocks us . Labels oppress the very people that society as a system is trying to help. We are recognized by our circumstance, not by who we are as an individual person.
The circumstance of Poverty did not cause the slow erosion of my self esteem, my self worth, and my confidence. It was the perceptions of others, the judgement and the misconceptions that made me feel shame .
To live within the parameters of a label is a precarious place to be . It carries with it the burden and shame of always being identified by that label and never going beyond .
It was my choice to go beyond the label .
Poverty had not changed my physical appearance , nor my passion for life. I still had the same , if not more dreams and aspirations. The difference was my circumstance, and I could not allow my circumstance to define me. I was identified by society under the label, “The Poor.” It was my choice not to accept it.
Labels cannot identify and exclude us , unless we allow them to.
The experiences we all have in life cannot oppress us , unless we allow them to. Labels cannot identify and exclude us , unless we allow them to. People cannot make us feel unworthy and undeserving , unless we allow them to.
For a time we are not strong enough to do anything but silently walk through our life. We put our body and mind on auto pilot until such a time when we begin to recognize some familiarity of our lives. Despite the excruciating pain of all the personal and financial losses, we gain strength and courage in small doses from people who do recognize that we are still beautiful individuals hidden behind the label. They recognize as we do, our self worth. Slowly our identities emerge again. We become comfortable walking among others as we once were , and again are. We shed the label as if it were old disheveled clothing we had once worn, but have outgrown. We regain our place in our communities. We are the same, yet different. A difference that does not make us feel shame . It gives us strength and courage to speak out .
The memory of our experiences never leave us, but hopefully they will remind us and fuel us to make changes in our society. Changes that our children and grandchildren live in a world where behind different , is not a label. A world where despite the circumstance …they can say…” “I am a Teacher. I Am a Singer , I am a Writer ” …That’s What I Am .”
A world where we are accepted because of our strengths, not shamed because of our differences, or circumstance .
To be able to write, and to give strength to others , shows me that I have knocked down the road blocks, shed the label and I can freely say ,
” I am a Writer …That’s What I am. “