I don’t know about you but I really struggle to read food labels! Either my eyesight is deteriorating or they cram so much information due to food legislation that they have to use very small text which we can’t read anyway! That said, I understand the need to label (in bold) food allergens for those who either need or choose to eat differently due to health reasons. So here’s my point…would you say some people have an eating difficulty as a result? I know, that sounds as ridiculous as labelling someone who can’t walk along a tightrope as having a walking difficulty!
We live in a society of great advancement as change is happening all around us and at a very fast pace too. We seek clearer, more eloquent ways to express our identity as freedom to be who we are and self-expression is becoming more acceptable in cultures where it was previously confined. Laws and guidelines are also evolving to accommodate people’s freedom to choose words that best describe their identity or gender and as such organisations, institutes and corporations are updating their policies accordingly. So why is it so important to use the right words?
The thing is…words have power and their power is the meaning behind them. They can heal and they can hurt. They can shame and they can liberate. They can strengthen and they can weaken. Words that are both true and kind can literally change someone’s life. Have you ever felt this power and been moved by words you’ve heard or even said yourself? Some of the greatest changes in history happened after the delivery of carefully chosen words.
So what happens if we repeatedly hear the same words used over and over again to describe us? If we accept the words as truth we then form a belief in our mind which then becomes part of our identity. The Cambridge Dictionary defines belief as ‘the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true’ so if during our most impressionable years, we are told often enough that we are bad or defective in some way, what are the odds of us being easily influenced by these words? We define ourselves by our beliefs and therefore our thinking and behaviours reflect the belief system we uphold.
Now let’s look at the words ‘learning difficulty or disability’ which are often used to describe approx 286,000 children in the UK (Mentalhealth.org.uk) who cannot learn in the standardised, one size fits all way. What beliefs do you think these children have formed about their ability to learn? Is there a possibility that they learn differently to the standard approach and have been wrongly labelled as having learning difficulties? Historical greats such as Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Hans Christian Anderson and many others have all been characterized as having learning difficulties yet they were all ahead of the field. How can we be so presumptuous so as to believe that anyone who learns differently to the norm has a disability, when it could quite easily be the other way round?
More and more children are suffering with their mental health as a direct result of not learning in the usual way. They are developing negative beliefs about themselves and therefore school becomes a very harmful experience which they then spend the rest of their lives trying to heal.
Everyone should have the right to be who they truly are without carrying the burden of negative conditioning. It’s time to stop using damaging words to describe people who do not fit within the expected rules and instead let’s truly accept what makes us human…our uniqueness and our freedom to express ourselves differently.