“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Wouldn’t that be nice if that were true? Unfortunately, words can cut deep and sometimes they don’t heal quickly. You can probably still remember something hurtful that someone said to you or about you many years ago.
You are probably also painfully aware of the labels that have been placed on you. Granted, labels can be positive or negative, but the negative ones are so destructive that I believe it would be better if we just did away with the whole concept of labeling people altogether. We’re not all the same — but we’re all human beings. And we’re all complex. None of us fit neatly into tidy little labels and categories. And yet we hand out labels left and right — ugly, stupid, hopeless, unstable, needy, attention-seeking, loser, idiot, drughead, whore, pompous jerk, narcissist, abomination, felon…. the list goes on and on.
Not only are these labels hurtful, but worse yet, the people we label often believe what we say about them. They may internalize these things. They may begin to look at themselves through the lens of their labels. They may believe they’re stupid. They may believe they’re ugly. They may believe that no one will ever love them because of “how they are.” They may worry that they’ll never amount to anything, that they will never be successful or happy. And they may begin to live out their labels — beautiful people hang their heads in shame and withdraw from social situations because they believe they are ugly. Brilliant people don’t contribute their ideas to a group because they believe they’re stupid. We are disabling our own society by tearing each other down instead of building each other up. We’ve got to turn this around. Where do we start?
First, begin by peeling off the labels that have been placed on you. Just because someone sticks a label on you doesn’t mean you have to keep wearing it around. Peel it off and throw it in the trash! No one else can define who or what you are. You don’t have to believe everything that others say about you.
Make a pact with yourself not to accept judgment from someone you wouldn’t accept advice from. I know this is easier said than done and when someone says something mean, it’s going to hurt your feelings. But you don’t have to get stuck in those feelings — feel them and then let them go. Don’t hold onto them. Don’t give them the chance to destroy you. Peel off the label.
If there are things about yourself that you would like to change, go for it! If there are old labels that you fear might have been accurate, peel them off and start doing things differently. People can change — you can change. Become who you want to be. And in the process of becoming your best self, commit to not labeling others either.