Look beyond labels because it is what’s unwritten that actually matters the most.
LABELS are important when it comes to food and supplements because they contain vital information about what we are consuming.
Care labels are useful, too, because nobody wants that beautiful silk garment ruined by inappropriate laundering. Keeping dossiers and box files properly labelled helps us stay organised.
For many other instances, however, labels can be a bane. Brand labels, for example, can influence the perceived value of material goods such as cars and handbags.
This is the reason why the Kia Stinger, a very deserving winner of the Straits Times Car of the Year 2018 award, may be passed over for a similarly-priced but lower performance continental model.
THE MOST DEVASTATING LABELS ARE THOSE WE SLAP ON OUR FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS BASED ON SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL STATUS AND OTHER STEREOTYPES.
It is also why a handbag with the insignia of a sought-after luxury label monogrammed all over it can command an inflated price tag of thousands of dollars even though it is only made of canvas.
But the most devastating labels are those that we slap on our fellow human beings based on social and financial status, academic qualifications, professions and other stereotypes.
These are double-edged swords that can be a source of motivation to spur someone on, but they can also deliver crushing blows of defeat.
An article that a friend shared on social media got me thinking about job labels, in particular.
It was penned by a medical doctor who became a full-time mum and she shared an incident at the hospital when she was expecting another child.
She did not want to undergo the full screening for Down syndrome because she had decided that she would keep the baby regardless, so all she wanted was to have an ultrasound that would enable her to see her unborn baby.
The hospital repeatedly insisted that she had to do all the tests and eventually relented only when she revealed that she was a medical doctor. The whole episode left her feeling as if
her opinion as a doctor carried weight, but not as “just a mum”.
The difference a label makes. When I first gave up architecture practice to do freelance writing and subsequently also became a mum, I found myself feeling somewhat inadequate.
It was as if being a writer and mum were somehow less accomplished compared to being an architect. The article articulated the difference between “jobs of success” – professions that people tend to look up to, versus “jobs of significance” that possess a deeper meaning to both the people who take them up, as well as the people who benefit from them.
Needless to say, architects, doctors and lawyers all belong to the former category.
Initially, whenever I introduced myself to new acquaintances, I felt the need to add that I was an architect before I became a writer and mum. It was as if I had to justify my self-worth because writing stories and raising a child hardly seemed as big a deal as designing buildings.
We are often judged by our professions, our titles and our education qualifications, the same way that many people judge cars based on their badge and not what they are equipped with or what they are capable of.
In my previous profession, I designed schools, campuses and other institutions
of learning, I worked on education masterplans for Asian cities and I am proud to have received awards for the work that I did.
While I miss the recognition and that glint in people’s eyes when they learnt that I was an architect, I also realise that I wouldn’t trade what I have now to go back to that life.
Writing about cars and design allows me to combine the three things that I love doing, while giving me the space and flexibility to devote my time and energy to the needs of my daughter.
Seeing her face light up as she runs to embrace me, as she excitedly shares a new Science fact that she discovered, a canteen stall that she finally got to try, or even a conflict that she had difficulty resolving during project work brings sunshine to even the gloomiest of days. And nothing else matters more than being there when she feels like a cuddle or a kiss when she is happy, sad, anxious or for no reason at all.
LYNN SAYS WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES TO BELIEVE IN WHAT WE DO. AND AS LONG AS WE STILL DERIVE JOY AND FULFILMENT, LET’S KEEP DOING IT.