At one time or another all of us have been effected by a negative label that some “well meaning” person assigned to us. These “well meaning” people may have held the misguided belief that their “worldly” input would somehow be invaluable to us as we made our way through the ups and downs of our formative years. Many of us had some rather unhealthy labels attached to us, labels that we still identify with as adults. In all fairness, most of us were also the recipient of empowering labels. For the purpose of this article, I am choosing to take a closer look at some of the more “damaging” labels many of us have been subjected to. Most of our “hang ups” and insecurities as adults can be traced directly back to a label we “accepted” during childhood. The same can be said of the areas in our lives where we exhibit extreme confidence. Unhealthy label=insecurity and fear. Healthy label=confidence and daring.
In my practice I have the privilege to work with a diverse group of clients. Many of my clients have been the recipients of empowering and encouraging messages that instilled in them a profound sense of self worth. They enjoy an up beat, confident approach to life. Conversely, I have clients who received a plethora of negative, discouraging messages which they have allowed to keep them trapped in the emotions of inferiority and fear. To them life is a scary place that consists of “winners and losers”.
Below are five negative messages/labels that many of us received during our formative years. Remember, if we hear a message long enough we are likely to believe it’s true. This should serve as a reminder when we are communicating with young people.
*”Quit acting so darn stupid”. The message we received was that we were not very smart. Many of us have held this belief since childhood, and we have chosen to routinely under perform in every area of our life.
*”You look fat, chubby or to skinny”. These insensitive labels may have been the catalyst for our negative self image around weight, our distorted relationship with food and may contribute to an array of unhealthy practices that support our belief that our body is not “good enough”.
*”You never do anything right”. The message taken away from this “gem” is that we are incapable of thinking for ourselves and that someone else will always “have to fix our mess”. Because we fear that we will not do it right, many of us have created the habit of avoidance.
*”Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother”. The take away from this “timeless classic” is that we are not good enough. Many of us go through life constantly comparing ourselves to others and we routinely avoid competition or scenarios where we may be put in a position where we could lose and “look bad” in doing so.
*”Keep your mouth shut, unless you have something important to say”. Silenced at an early age, many of us have chosen to remain silent for a lifetime. We fail to speak up when we see injustice, we accept abuse, we routinely look the other way when we know something is wrong and we refuse to speak up for what we desire. We may also be unclear as to what actually constitutes “something important”.
Some of the people we received these messages from included, parents, siblings, teachers, clergy, coaches, friends and relatives. Many of us have internalized these messages to such a degree that we might as well declare “I am nothing more than a fat, stupid loser who never gets anything right and I am obviously going directly to hell because of the errors in my ways. I should have just kept my mouth shut and been more like my brother Earl”.
In order to live a truly rich, rewarding life, it is imperative that we stop identifying with false, unhealthy labels and begin telling ourselves a new, empowering truth. It is not up to other people to write our life story…IT IS UP TO US!
Some things to consider regarding LABELS…
Limiting. Labels are limiting. Living up to our “assigned” labels will never allow us to expand and grow. The Ego knows that a “mind expanded will never return to it’s original size” and therefore it will fight hard to keep us trapped in our comfort zone.
Adversarial. Labels feature two opposing sides. There is the truth and there is the Ego. The Ego wants to hold us hostage to our negative labels and the truth wants to set us free. Which side will prevail? The one we feed!
Belief. Labels represent an outdated belief system. The labels that most of us carry around were “assigned” to us during our formative years. As adults we know our truth and it is crucial that we adopt a new set of beliefs. For example, when I look in the mirror I am more than capable of determining whether I am at a healthy weight, to skinny or morbidly obese. I do not choose to allow someones “opinion” from 30 years ago shape my current reality or my true self image.
Excuse. A label can become an excuse for not taking the action necessary for us to reach our true potential. When we encounter a challenge do we seek a breakthrough or do we revert to an outdated label that will allow us to conveniently justify our lack of courage?
Lies. When we attempt to live up to a negative label we are consciously choosing to live a lie. Yesterday’s label does not define who we are today. For example, I was labeled an average student with below average communication skills. If I had lived up to this label you would not be reading this article. I knew that my “assigned” label was false and so I set out to develop a new belief system that was congruent with my inner truth.
Story from the past. Do we desire to live in a world of make believe or in a world of truth? Labels keep us stuck in our stories from the past. Living our truth finds us alive and well in the present moment. Living up to our labels means that we are choosing to let someone else determine the rules of OUR GAME. The truth means that we have made a conscious decision to take authorship of our own life.
What negative labels are you hanging onto that are costing you happiness, prosperity and a true sense of self? We all get to choose what labels serve us and which ones don’t. If during your formative years you were encouraged to use your voice, run your own race, love your body, embrace your God given intelligence and always speak your truth, you owe the influential people in your life a HUGE debt of gratitude. If like many of us you feature a few scars, now may be the time to begin embracing a new belief system, one that offers a more honest representation of who your really are.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.