A few days after Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer, thoughts come to mind. Not just about what feelings Jenner has had to live with throughout Jenner's life, but about conformance, judgment and labeling.
It's really quite simple. I can sum it up in two words. Who says?
This simple term can be applied to pretty much anything. Who says anyone of us is doing the "right" thing, and who decides what is right and what is wrong? Who says how we should live, how we should act, how we should dress or how we should behave?
Who decides where we should work and what is acceptable?
Who decides what is dangerous or what is not, what is good for us and what is not, what defines pretty and what defines ugly or what is "smart" and what is "dumb?"
You get the idea...
Perhaps the biggest point for my discussion here -- and perhaps the most thought provoking: Who says and decides how we should be labeled?
I believe labeling is probably the worst and most destructive function we have in our entire society. Once you label someone or something it could create detrimental consequences.
Just look around.
We label everything and everyone. We are and become "these people" and "those people."
Who says Jenner is any different than any one of us? Jenner is a human being with feelings and needs. Just because people don't conform with "the social norm" does not make them wrong.
I have been doing a lot of research these past years as part of the Time to Play project in reference to what people need to achieve quality of life. I've recognized that once we label a person "depressed" or "no good" or "sick" or "dumb," they live up to their labels.
I believe that once you label a person as "wrong" you put them at risk for self-harm. In reference to Jenner and others that are "different," did you know that the members of the LGBT community have one of the highest rates of suicidal ideation and self-harm? Do you care? Why do you think this is so?
Just imagine having feelings of being "different" (again, Who says who is "wrong" or who is "different"). Imagine trying to personally accept feelings of being "different" and deal with the potential judgment and prejudice that you will face as being "different." Imagine how you will feel if society does not accept you. Imagine dealing with the reactions of family and friends.
Why do you think so many people hide so many things in their lives? Why do you think so many topics are "taboo?" Think of all the ramifications of a person not feeling good about themselves and the self-destructive behaviors that can result.
What are we doing to our people -- our loves ones -- by creating an environment where people hide, resulting in potential harm to themselves?
It's something to think about and something that we, together, can change. I commend Jenner for opening a much-needed area for discussion, and, hopefully acceptance for many.
After all, Who says we can't all live together in harmony and enjoy life?
It's time to play. It's time for all of us to enjoy our lives.
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Doreen Guma, MA, FACHE, CPC, CLC, is the founder of the Time to Play Foundation, a 501c3 not for profit corporation inspiring EVERYONE to enjoy life.
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