Self Improvement —Taking the Labels Off
We all wear labels—not the labels on our clothes but the labels that are on ourselves that tend to influence our behavior, our reactions to others and events, our self-esteem—our life. Some of our labels are positive and influence our behavior for the good. But the ones that need to be removed are the negative labels — those that hold us back, keeping us from reaching our potential. Whether we are consciously aware of them or not they are driving forces in our lives. We need to begin taking the labels off. Let’s look at some of them.
Labels we put on ourselves
Some common negative labels we put on ourselves are:
- Too fat
- Too thin
- Not good enough
- Too Old
- Too Young
Parents put labels on us like these:
- good child
- bad child
- self-willed child
- problem child
- A handful
- too shy
- too loud
- a bully
- not strong enough
Our parents are powerful influences in our lives. We will generally live up to these expectations until we can determine who we are, what we want, and how much we like ourselves.
Labels from Health Care Professionals
We’ve been given labels by health care professionals and some of you may not appreciate what I am about to say. Please don’t reject it before you give it some thought. There are many labels connected to diagnoses, some of which are:
- Terminal or incurable
- Emotionally disturbed
- Mentally ill
- My doctor told me I was too old to lose weight (replace weight with almost anything else if you are past 65).
The labels put on us by professionals sometimes bring relief because now we have an explanation for what is happening to us. However, sometimes they bring stereotypical reactions toward us. Go to any doctor or psychologist after being diagnosed as bipolar and that label of Bipolar will influence everything he sees in you. Some who are labeled “terminally ill” even though they are not, will oblige the doctors by dying. And if the doctor put a time limit on it— “You have six months to live,” the ill person will sometimes die six months to the date. A diagnosis of AIDS makes you feel dangerously unacceptable and often keeps others away even though the diagnosis may or may not be true and you are not at risk just because you’re with them.
Bosses put labels on us:
- A follower, not a leader
- Hard worker
- Does not meet potential
- Weak delegator
- Motivated or unmotivated
If we believe that we’re an underachiever and a follower we may never set our sites on a higher position. We may believe we’re a hard worker but a weak delegator and so cannot lead. Wow, what will that do to you?
Not long ago I had lunch with a psychologist friend of mine who referred to people by diagnosis. (He was not breaking confidentiality, we were discussing things in general). He mentioned a client who had serious self-esteem/self-worth issues and was diagnosed as being clinically depressed and was not getting better. I asked him if he talked to his patient about what she longed for, how she saw herself, what she thought she needed, who loved her and whom she loved. Did he ask her about her beliefs about herself? Did he know what her parents told her about herself? “Not really,” was his response. She had come to him with the diagnosis and he just continued her former treatment with medications and occasional visits. She was wearing a big, bright label and he not only let her keep it but he reinforced it.
Taking the labels off
Be aware of your own labels. They may or may not be real and you don’t have to let them dictate your behavior. Remember the quote by Napoleon Hill, “What your mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve. “And that can be positive or negative.
Find your labels. Ask yourself if the label is true, and be honest with your answer. Then, simply reject your negative labels and put positive ones in their place. Or imagine yourself covered with that label and visualize taking them off one by one until they are all off.