No More Labels
For most of my life, I was bullied into thinking I wasn’t good enough due to my circumstances.
I was bullied into believing my voice was not important and that no one cared. I was bullied into believing I was not enough, and I believed it.
Although most of the self-damaging bullying I experienced happened before the age of 16, I still experience bullying today. This must stop.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s my childhood vantage point that has made my view on the world and all its people so different. Knowing my father as a quadriplegic my whole life made me see the world differently. My deep understanding of equality and early exposure to the disabled helped me see human beings for who they are without labels.
In a bold artistic photography project that represents strength and the power to create a massive impact, I’m one of the 100 influencers that participated in this campaign aiming to spread more love and kindness in the world.
We carry the labels that society gives us and that we give ourselves, but what’s really important is how we identify ourselves. That’s a choice that we make every day.
To contribute to this campaign, I was asked to identify 4 positive and 4 negative labels for myself. This was an interesting process that brought me some self-discovery. It’s heartbreaking to think about how many labels we use to identify each other.
Identifying these strong negative labels for myself and letting them go was therapeutic. They don’t define me and they don’t define you either. You might know that I retired from my pageant career in 2015 when I won the title of “World’s Perfect Miss”. Talk about a label!
For this campaign, one word I chose to have written on myself was “Imperfect”. I chose this word because as World’s Perfect Miss the message behind the title was that you define perfection, that you are perfect just as you are. For me, the word “Imperfect” was a reminder of just that.
As I removed my shirt to have the labels written my back, I felt the strength within me. Yet at the same time, during the shoot, I felt ashamed of my body and how I felt in my skin. I felt uncomfortable both physically and emotionally.
I’m sure some of you might think I’m crazy to say or believe that about myself, while others can relate. We must truly accept ourselves for who we are and be patient during times of self-doubt.
I love everything that UnleaSHE is about because I myself have always embodied that. My entire life others have pushed me to conform to one space, yet I’ve never done that. It’s just not me.
UnleaSHE is a self-development brand that is building a badass tribe of do-gooders. A tribe that I had to become a part of.
I met co-founder Seak Smith when I attended Unlock Love, an immersive experience that really connected with what UnleaSHE is all about, which is self-love. When Seak told me about the campaign supporting Boo2Bullying, it immediately sparked my attention because I had done a similar shoot that I created years back.
It was the day of the shoot when I finally met co-founder Jane Hong. Seak and Jane are two women that have spent decades volunteering and giving back to the things that are truly meaningful to them, just like myself. Once I understood their core values and how their creative collaborations built their business, I knew I had to figure out a way to be a part of their tribe.
As a society, we label everything and everyone. We even need labels for the non-labels like “non-conformist”.
Last night, after seeing the movie Avengers: Endgame, I left feeling inspired by the message I took away from the film, which was: true success and bravery is becoming your true self, not what everyone else expects you to be.
This brings us back to the idea of labels in our society and how damaging they can be. When I think about how labels have impacted my life, in most cases, they have had a negative impact. At other times, they have made me believe that I am something that I am not.
I challenge you to do the same, then reflect on how those labels make you feel. Many of my labels contradict one another, which makes sense because they are not truly me. It’s simply what society told me I should believe about myself.
Overall, this experience was incredibly empowering. Although I was bullied, to believe what I am not, it was always up to me to see and believe the truth.
For anyone reading this, please know how vulnerable of a position sharing this puts me in. We are all the same when it comes down to the basics. I open myself and my trust more and more each day with the intention to connect deeper with all of you, bridging the gaps between what separates us.
Before, during, and after shooting this campaign I went through all different levels of emotions. I want you to feel alive and empowered because of who you are, right here right now.
If you didn’t already know, you are enough.