In my sociology class we are learning about labels given to people and how when others see and label us, that is what becomes our form of self-identity. We let our labels define us as who we are unless something changes. That something, well that is what I can't seem to figure out.
If you read any of my previous posts you may notice a pattern where I label myself as the food allergy girl, the girl with allergies, asthma and anxiety and the girl trying to find herself, yet never seems to. The girl who faces change, takes risks, tries to break stigma and yet always ends up back as the food allergy girl.
Even when I try to be the nice girl, the kind girl, the hardworking girl, the dedicated girl, the caring girl, and even the perfect (well now ex) girlfriend, I still end up as the food allergy girl.
As much as I say my food allergies don't define me, that they aren't my everything and that I am more than them, it still seems to everyone else that I am the food allergy girl. And yet I use my food allergies an excuse for why I can't go to things or do things and why I am not capable of having better friendships or even finding a good partner.
I tell myself I am not deserving because of my food allergies. Perhaps because I am not like other people. I don't fit the so called norms. I don't wear makeup as I am afraid I will react to it. I don't have tattoos or piercings as I am afraid I will react to it. I don't usually wear jewelry as I am afraid I will react to it. Maybe it is my fear preventing me from being like other people who have these things. Or maybe I just don't want these things and I use my food allergy as the excuse for why I don't have them. As perhaps my real fear is that because I am not like other people and I know I will never be and this idea that I won't ever really fit in is what scares me.
So I have tried to embrace being different instead of trying to fit in. Sometimes people laugh with me, or at me. Sometimes people call me crazy and I call myself crazy. As maybe crazy and being laughed at are better labels than being labeled as the girl with allergies, asthma and anxiety. I try to stay upbeat and positive as I hope that is what people will recognize instead. Except when it comes down to it, my food allergies always come up and seem to get in the way.
Even with all the educational resources out there, a lot of people without food allergies still don't get food allergies. And I'm tired of having to explain myself, my label. That I am more than someone with food allergies. Except my label remains strong, as people tend to think of my food allergies when they think of me. And sometimes I want to be separate from my food allergies. Sometimes I don't like thinking about food and what I can and can't eat.
When I don't want to make a big deal about the food and my food allergies, that's when I decide to not attend the party I was invited to, to not go to that meeting, to not go to that event. As having to have that conversation about the food and my food allergies is making my label front and center. When I do choose to attend the party, meeting or event and I eat something different that I brought for myself or when I decide to not eat all, that also makes my label clear. That I am different and my situation with food is what is seen.
I don't know how to change my label. Perhaps to most people I will always be the girl with food allergies, asthma and anxiety. And this will always prevent me from fitting in, so as I said before, I try to embrace being different, as maybe some of my other characteristics will stand out and be able to replace my label. Instead though it seems like my other characteristics get put together with my food allergies. And sometimes it feels like my food allergies cast a shadow over all of the other qualities I would rather be recognized for. Labels stick and I'm that girl you know with food allergies. Maybe next time ask her what else she is.