At one time or another all of us have been affected 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 was somehow going to be invaluable 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 today. In all fairness, most of us were also the recipients of some very empowering labels. Most of our fear and insecurity as adults can be traced 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 coaching practice I have the privilege to work with a diverse group of clients. Many of my clients have been the recipients of empowering messages that have left them with a profound sense of self-worth and they take an upbeat, confident approach to life. Conversely, I have other clients who received a plethora of negative, discouraging messages which they have allowed to keep them stuck in the emotions of inferiority and fear. To them life is a scary place that consists of “winners and losers”.
Below are five of the most common labels that were handed out during childhood. Remember, if we hear a message long enough we are likely to believe it’s true.
* ”Quit acting so darn stupid”. The message many of us internalized was that we were not 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 too skinny”. These insensitive labels may have been the catalyst for our negative self-image around weight, our distorted relationship with food and often contribute to a variety of unhealthy practices that support the 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 do it incorrectly, many of us have created the habit of avoidance and procrastination.
* ”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 in which we may be put in a position where we could lose and “look bad” 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 tolerate 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 members, coaches, friends and relatives. Many of us have internalized these messages to such a degree that we might as well just declare to the world, “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 error of my ways. I should have just kept my mouth shut and been more like my brother Earl”. Now that’s a positive self image!
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. As long as we are living up to our “assigned” labels we can never truly expand and grow. The Ego knows that a “mind expanded will never return to its original size” and therefore it will fight hard to keep us trapped in our comfort zone.
• Adversarial. Labels offer two opposing sides. There is the truth and there is the Ego. The Ego wants to hold us hostage in 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 have been carrying around were “assigned” to us during our formative years. As adults it is important that we speak the truth about ourselves to ourselves and adopt a new set of beliefs. For example, when I look in the mirror I am more than capable of determining whether I am a healthy weight, under weight or obese. I do not let someone’s “opinion” from 30 years ago determine my true self image.
• Excuse. A label can become an excuse for not taking the action necessary to reach our true potential. When we encounter a challenge do we seek a breakthrough or do we revert to an outdated label that allows 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. Yesterdays’ 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 or hearing me speak at one of my seminars. I knew that my “assigned” label was false and that it was necessary to develop a new belief system that was congruent with my inner truth.
• Stories 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 stories from the past. Living our truth gives us permission to live in the present moment. Living up to our labels means that we are choosing to let someone else determine the rules of OUR GAME. Living our truth means that we have made a conscious decision to take complete charge of our life.
What negative labels are you hanging onto that are costing you happiness, prosperity and a true sense of self worth? We must choose what labels serve us and which ones