No More Labels: Breaking the Cycle of Trauma

Walk. Stop. Agree. Look down. Be happy. I’m running because everyone else is too.

– Tamasha (2015).

Do you ever feel that others are making your life choices for you? That you can’t be yourself in this world? That you have to ‘fit in’ in order for people to like you and validate you?

I used to feel the same, and a part of me still does. That’s when I spoke to my mother about this. She started telling me how the world always told her to be an ardent housewife, and take care of her husband and children at the cost of her own aspirations and dreams.

I asked her to write this on a piece of paper, and then highlight some of the primary keywords. We wrote these keywords, or labels, on a transparent sheet of paper and clicked a photo along with it.

Such labels lie in the intersection of patriarchy, capitalism and the rat race which culminates into arbitrary societal expectations that start defining our identity.

That’s when I reached out to more people and conducted a workshop on the same. Everyone had varied labels and yet all of them were bound by their trauma and imposition.

“For me, these labels are suppressing. They suffocate me. They stop me from being who I really am and leave me doubting myself. Saying no to these labels is so important in order to be comfortable with my true self, and in order to love the real person behind all these labels. This initiative was liberating and empowering. I realised that behind all these labels is a real human being. Which is me. And I’m so much more than all these labels. No, I’m not what you tell me. I am the person behind these labels and I define my own identity. I create my own identity,” wrote Shreya Chauhan of Punjab University.

“Yes, I want to continue my education even at the age of 50. So what? I don’t need your judgement,” wrote my father.

“Labels should be for cans and not for humans. What we don’t understand is that every living thing on this planet is different, works differently and behaves differently. There is no such thing as perfection. Asking why I didn’t beat up a guy? Is it because I’m not man enough? Don’t cry, don’t wear nail paint, don’t be a girl. Who decides this? Who decided makeup is just for girls? Don’t joke about it. I’m not going to listen to you anymore,” wrote Tushank Arora, a 20-year old engineering student in Delhi.

“How long until we stop letting these labels define who we are? How long until we stop repeating these words to ourselves? How long until we stop believing that we are only what people make us out to be? It’s about damn time. #nomorelabels,” wrote Shaon Chatterjee, a psychology graduate.

The emotions. The feelings. The trauma. The confusion. The hatred. The love. The pain. It’s all yours and so the only one who can give you a label is your own self.

Annanya Chaturvedi, a final-year Literature student at Lady Shri Ram centres her narratives around her personal encounters with politics, society, feminism, and mental health. She also runs a podcast called ‘Breaking Beads’ which centres around conversations that are talked about in hushed voices and behind closed doors.

All images have been provided by the author.