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  • Writer's pictureMaria Teresa Shephard

TBI - To be Identified

How often are we misclassified on a daily basis? I’d say, too often to keep track. Also, the phenomenon of misclassification is not mutually exclusive to any one type of human. All of us have endured or will endure the tension that stems from the misunderstanding of identity during the human lifecycle.

It is always to be determined how to be identified. Will those misclassifying us project a false identity on to our image because of what they see, hear, or sense? It depends. What’s non-dependent, however, is what we choose to identify as. Only the individual owns their identity. Only the individual can state how they choose to be identified.

So then, why is it so often that after we reveal an identity to someone do they still choose to misclassify us? There are an infinite number of reasons. The power lies within us to react to this misclassification in any way we choose. For example, when I tell people I am a minimalist, they choose to identify me using terms like “trendy” or “hipster”, when that is not the term I used for the identity I hold. Subsequently, my choice is to let go of any initial emotional reaction I have to those terms and simply respond with education. I correct the notion of those terms being co-related to the term I used and then I move on, unless the other person seeks to discuss more.

During a recent discussion held during a General Member Meeting of the Employee Resource Group I co-lead at my company called UpLyft Unidos, I had a moment when I realized there’s a missing piece to the educational response I described above. I have neglected to educate in moments of identity misclassification through the lens of reconciliation. When I had this epiphany, I instantly felt guilty. I had not realized that in those moments of education I may be in fact creating unintentional distance because I do not approach the conversation or situation with the perspective of forgiveness. I have been approaching them robotically, or mindlessly, instead.

I recognize that I must change this. Furthermore, I understand that reconciliation does not innately result in the coming together of individuals after a discussion. Rather, it implies the intersection of imparting knowledge and respect for individual differences by way of humility. I don’t seek to convince anyone. I should, though, seek to create proximity to my fellow humans instead of distance.

With this, I challenge you to take a moment this coming week to assess your own behavior during moments of education surrounding clarifying and sharing your identity with another.

Are you fostering community by creating proximity despite differences? Or are you increasing space between you and the person learning about you?

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