Self-Esteem: How You Label Yourself Matters


different types of people standing in a line labeled

How Do You Label Yourself?

When you start to label yourself, your identity becomes integrated with that label. If you tell people you’re a smoker, you’ve integrated that attribute into part of your being – as opposed to being someone who smokes. As a part of your identity, the pattern of behavior is much more likely to stick even if you want to change it later. You won’t believe it’s a mutable property. 

This may seem like a subtle distinction but it creates a specific self-image. This self-image can potentially lock you into a fixed mindset instead of a growth one. Since your label is part of your identity, you start looking for reasons to make it true. Using these labels you can justify any action by claiming it’s an integral part of your nature. 

Labels Strengthen Over Time

The longer you hold these labels the more deeply rooted they become. If you label yourself as temperamental, you’re more likely to act temperamentally. Then it becomes a habit and over time you have more experiences proving your label correct. The longer this happens, the harder it becomes to break out of those habits.

One Event Can Create A Label

Labels also come when you use one instance of something and blow it out of proportion. For example, I lost that game, so I’m a loser. These are amplifications of single acts that force your mind into telling itself that you habitually behave in a certain way. Again, this will continue to build on itself.

Labels Impact Others As Well

The same thing happens when you do it to other people. If you’re continually telling someone that they’re stupid or lazy or smart or handsome or any other type of label, eventually those are going to have some impact on how they view themselves. Some people are more resilient than others, but over time repeated ideas seep in and invade your identity – or at the very least make you question certain traits.

Labels In The Medical Realm

I’m going to walk into territory some of you might not agree with, but this is why the recent spike in mental disorder diagnoses makes me a bit nervous. When we give someone the label of depression, for example, we also have a good chance of building it into their identity. While for some this can be used to help them identify symptoms and make adjustments, for many it will become an integral, immutable part of their identity.

The diagnosis will encourage people into identifying themselves as people who have depression instead of people who are prone to depression. I think there’s a big difference there. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt individuals suffer from depression and other mental illnesses (I know from experience). The difference is one frame can steal your motivation. Instead of I’m prone to depression so I need to work hard to combat it thoughts come out as I’ll be depressed no matter what I do. If there is any chance of overcoming or limiting these issues, we have to believe there’s a possibility of doing so.

Be Wary Of Labels!

The main thrust of what I’m trying to get across is be wary of labeling yourself and others. Labels have a tricky way of embedding themselves and becoming true. This may or may not be helpful depending on what the labels are, so be mindful of negative ones. Once you identify them you can decide if these are labels you want to stop using or adjust.A growth mindset is pivotal to making positive change in your life and increasing your happiness. If you don’t have one you’ll believe things must stay exactly as they are. And that’s simply not true.


Exercise:

  1. What are some labels you give yourself? (ex. – smart, fat, strong, weak, etc.)

  2. How are these labels impacting your life?

  3. What can you to do or think to gain experience which contradicts your label? (ex. ‘I am antisocial’ – what instances have you been outgoing? What people do you connect with naturally?)

  4. What labels are you giving to others around you that could be negatively or positively impacting their life?


 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.