Labels. #SoulfulSunday

As I held the jar of pickle at the grocery shop, wondering whether to buy it, or not, the label on it caught my eyes and I was transported to many years ago, back to when I was a 6th grader.

I wasn’t studious then, and hence a mediocre student, scraping through the many exams, moving on from semester to semester, desperately trying, but unable to give my parents reason to smile or feel proud of their daughter.

I never knew it earlier, but realised later in life, that kids like me were labelled ‘Moron’. Or, whatever’s the opposite of ‘scholar’.

At school, we—the not-so-good-at-studies kids—occupied the last benches; the front benches being offered to the deserving candidates—the scholars—the toppers, who made everyone happy and proud.

We rarely got a chance to sit in the front and feel good about ourselves.

And that label reminded me of this little incident that took place during that “moron” period in my life:

One day, I walked towards the front of the class, looking for a place to sit.  The girl, who occupied one of the front benches, instantly raised her voice and asked me what I was doing there. Didn’t I know that the front benches were only reserved for the scholars? She asked, sarcasm dripping from every word she uttered.

We were sixth graders then, eleven or twelve years of age, but at that age, she knew about this great divide, this distinguishing feature that set us apart from them.

I being the timid, diffident little girl, managed to mumble that our teacher had suggested I sit in the front, next to the class topper, so that I would pay better attention in class and also ask her about any difficulty I may face in any subject.

“Okay, then, sit!” she said, giggling, mischievously, and went back to chattering away with her friends.

Things didn’t change in spite of this move, and I continued living with the label all through my school life and the first two years of college life.

Nine years later, I graduated in Sociology, scoring the highest marks in my college. I was felicitated for this achievement, with my mother sitting in the audience, applauding me. I sure had come a long way. But, that’s not what I wish to dwell upon.

Two incidents, nine years apart, which I remember in minute detail to this day.

The expressions on that girl’s face when she admonished me for attempting to do something that I didn’t deserve, and then, nine years later, the expressions on my mother’s face as she saw me walk up to our principal to collect my award for being a topper at college.

No, it doesn’t fill my heart with either sadness or pride. I have accepted it as part of life. But, it affects me in a way most of those sailing in the same boat as the school-girl me will understand.

This labelling of students based on their performance in their studies, be it at school, or college. Particularly in school, when children are like little blooming buds, trying to get a grasp of the world around them, trying to find their footing, trying to make sense of all that is imparted as “knowledge”. When many of them haven’t realised wherein lies their strength, when they haven’t yet figured as to which subject holds their interest. At such a stage they are labelled as morons, losers, back benchers, failures, and what-not.

Isn’t it saddening?

Why don’t we allow kids time to understand themselves, understand their likes and dislikes, experiment with all that they have at their disposal and find that which holds their interest, that which might be their strength? You never know, but the kid we label as loser, might go on to win ‘Achiever of the year’ ,award, or something, don’t you think?

I can imagine, how many of us must get crushed under the weight of these labels, the effects of which they must feel for the rest of their lives. Incidents that take place during childhood, often leave a mark on our psyche, don’t they?

Do we think about it? Do we think for a second how our words could leave a lasting impression on the children’s mind about themselves?

I still take time to gather courage before I begin any project, even when I know I am good at it.

Like, last month, as I began working on the illustrations of a children’s book, it took me quite some time to convince myself that I am the right person to make those illustrations because I am an artist, and a good one at that!

I require that encouraging, motivating self-talk before I begin working on anything, even preparing a different recipe, sometimes.

That lack of confidence leaves me feeling frustrated, at times, and the first thought that comes to my mind is, does this have anything to do with the kind of student I was at school? I couldn’t do anything right back then, couldn’t do one thing praiseworthy. Will I be able to do it now?

Am I still carrying that weight with me? I think I am, because I am tired. Tired of carrying that weight, tired of convincing myself that I am worthy, that I can achieve success, and I can do whatever I put my mind to.

At almost middle age, I wish I knew I am “good”; I wish that confidence came to me naturally.


The above post has been written for #SoulfulSunday, a weekly writing exercise that I, along with my friends, Esha and Vinitha have developed into a beautiful habit. Do join in. 


Published by shilpagupte

Do you know the secret to living a happy life? Eat. Pray. Love. Or, watch what you eat, wish well for all and fill your heart with love! That's precisely what I try to do through my blogs: 'Metanoia', the wellness blogazine, and 'Fictionista', my blog for fiction and non-fiction. Welcome to my virtual homes!

5 thoughts on “Labels. #SoulfulSunday

  1. You have been proving to yourself and to the world that you are capable and worthy through your writings and artworks, Shilpa. Now, please drop that weight. You are carrying that dead weight around for no reason, dear. That little kid couldn’t do anything praiseworthy because of the lack of proper guidance. Look at you, once you grew old enough you had the sense to guide her and put her on the right path. Now don’t let yourself bog down by that unnecessary weight. Now is the time for you to be proud of yourself. I hope you do that, Shilpa. 🧡

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Vini, for your kind words and your encouragement! ❤
      Yes, I am glad I put that little girl on the right path and am helping her follow her dreams.
      Believe me, I am trying my level best to let go of that baggage. It might take a little bit of a time, I guess, but I am sure that with time, I will be completely rid of it.


  2. You know, Shilpa, I was a good student in school. I always came in the Top 3 students in my class and yet I was labeled for a different reason. I didn’t speak and this was my problem. Though the teachers didn’t say anything about this, the classmates teased. Outside the school, the relatives ridiculed and called me proud and haughty and thus made me feel forever uncomfortable. This caused me to move deeper and deeper into my shell. I now understand the reason why I became like that although I started off as a verbose toddler. It was due to the exceptional level of fear of my father’s temper. I was never sure where the next blow will come from and for what reason. Now, you know the reason why even now I go into my shell when I feel troubled.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That must have been so terrible, Anamika!
      I think, whatever we do, there will be always someone who finds faults in us and we will never measure up to them. That’s the reason my heart goes out to kids who get labelled thus and live with it all their lives.
      Hugs, dear! Let’s hope we both come out of our shells and shed the labels we have carried all these years.


  3. Hugs, dear Shilpa! ❤
    It takes an entire lifetime to get over the pain and hurt from the labels that fall on us, and even more so when they are rooted in childhood when the young mind was so impressionable and in need of all the love and assurance in the world. It is NOT your failure, Shilpa but a failure of the system, that failed you!

    Sadly, in our country, academic performance has always been considered to be the only yardstick for measuring the potential of a child. Formal education is just one aspect of a child's development.
    One of the key reasons that children who show poor academic performances suffer is because the education system DOES NOT capture the full range of abilities and talents that they possess, The new theories suggest people do not just have an intellectual capacity but have also many kinds of intelligence— including musical, interpersonal, spatial-visual, kinesthetic and linguistic, to name a few. Things are changing slowly, Shilpa. And while you may have suffered a lot and the damage cannot be undone, in your case, there are many schools in our country now that follow this system of multiple intelligences. Education methods have also evolved nowadays. The schools employ varying methodologies to enhance learning, because kids are said to learn in 6/7 different ways. It is quite a revolution in the learning world that is now changing the pace and style in which formal and informal education works.

    Anyways, to come to your post, let me tell you, I completely agree with Vinitha's comment, above, word for word. In you, I see a bright, intelligent, extremely talented creative individual, who has not only shaken off that stigma the world put on her tender shoulders, but has also created a path to walk on, a path that she has taken towards a goal that SHE desires for herself, not for the others. And THAT is a very big step towards becoming the person who is worthy in every way, one who is valued, and appreciated for the skill and the quality of work that she brings into her work. That is who you are, Shilpa! And you deserve a pat on the back for having come this far in life, all on your own hard work and efforts.

    P.S. That was my blog post, in response to yours! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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