Ashleigh Jackson

Ashleigh Jackson

 
September 08 2014

The Question of Identity; Behind the Labels

Ashleigh Jackson

 

“What is your story?” So many people you meet, and indeed, I do this myself ask, “So what do you do?” or “Where are you from?”, but never, “What is your story?” or, “What can you give to the world in this moment?”

So much of our lives are wrapped up in our identity, in the labels that we believe define us. Wife, girlfriend, mother, step-mother, sister, sister-in-law, daughter, friend (not to mention perhaps cook, cleaner, member of an organization, and *insert your working title here*). But none of these titles satisfactorily describe who we are. Our stories are our unique essence as people of the world; the world we share with everyone around us, and yet experienced uniquely through our wonderfully diverse filters. In this statement, perhaps, is my story. My wish is to uncover the people buried beneath the weight of all of the titles and the labels our world places on them.

I myself am no exception for a plethora of labels others have bestowed upon me. I am a daughter, sister, girlfriend, friend, student, mentor, graduate, entrepreneur, consumer, service provider, customer, employer, artist, aspiring violinist, dreamer, crazy, naïve, woman – and indeed young woman as many people like to remind me – heterosexual, Caucasian, DSCF5269-001British, spiritual and probably a thousand more identifications that I am not aware of. These are the labels that exist inside the minds of others. And at one point or another all of these labels have affected how others have perceived and interacted with me. It feels as if people are playing the role of detective, asking questions to try and ascertain who I am. Impressions are formed and they stick for the most part, unless by some miracle, through all the labels, you manage to find someone who takes the time to really get to know your true self.

The problem with labels is that they carry with them expectations of how you are supposed to act and certain stereotypes that you are supposed to live up to. I never thought about my sense of belonging based on my place of birth until I traveled to different places where the local population would entice me to buy alcohol, a rarity for me. But my refusal was met with the challenge, “But you are British, yes? You love to drink!” And I must admit that whilst travelling, England did carry with it a sense of home that I have never really experienced before. I would delight at meeting other English people, even if under usual circumstances I would not consider an immediate affinity between people who share my birth place. Similarly, I never thought of the downside of youth. With the quest for the youthful glow creating big business for those who cater to it, I assumed that youth was a blessing, and finding my path early on in life could only be considered as such. But through the process of starting my own business, I’ve learned that ageism is not just something experienced by the aged – but by youth as well. Many ask me for about my chosen calling and of ‘how I could possibly know about such things’ without affording me the opportunity to share myself or my thoughts with them.

I believe that people are full of wisdom, beauty, creativity and passion and that everyone has something that can deeply and profoundly touch another in ways they may never know. I guess that’s the purpose for this space online. As soon as I discovered it, I felt a sense of connection with the people behind the words, and, without knowing these contributors, I felt I knew them better in some ways than many of the people in my life. Their ability to share is only through someone asking, “What is your story?” – giving people permission to share, not because they are imbued with the correct authority, but because their presence on this Earth qualifies them to share their wonderfully unique perspective. What a difference the world would be if we all took the time to find out the potential hidden inside each and every one of us, approached every encounter as a gift, or an opportunity to add depth to our experience of life. This is the world I wish to be a part of, one of authentic sharing, of honoring others on a soul level and forming opinions based on substance, not positions, authority and pre-defined labels.