Why do we label ourselves?

Uncategorized

labels

I don’t know about you, but up until I was 31 years old, I obsessively labelled. I wanted to understand myself, so with the best will in the world, I lumped myself with label upon label, as it gave me a sense of who I was. It gave me an identity. Here’s a flavour of what my labels tended to look like. It reads like a very unfortunate dating profile:

“32 year old anxious female. Hates leaving the house without the safety of her car to use for a quick getaway. Likes nothing more than sitting in front of the TV watching mindless TV shows. Despises having a busy schedule. Very controlling. Gets stressed when things don’t go her way. Doesn’t particularly like holidays abroad. Easily overwhelmed.”

I sound like quite a catch, right?! If reading that doesn’t make you want to go out with me, don’t worry, it’s OK. I didn’t like the sound of myself much either.

Each one of those labels first came from a thought that popped into my head one day. Before I knew better, I took my thoughts as gospel, not realising that they are there to be listened to or not. Your choice. I believed that every thought that came to me was important, true and meaningful. So if a thought popped into my head telling me I was an anxious person, then by goodness, that’s exactly what I was!

Here’s the thing, though. When you think you are something, you become it. Once you give yourself a label, you start behaving in ways which make that label fit. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once upon a time, a thought popped into my head telling me I didn’t like holidays abroad. This was probably because I was on holiday and not enjoying myself at that moment, but it doesn’t matter. I believed it. I grabbed hold of it and made it my identity. I started avoiding holidays abroad. I dreaded them. When I did go, I spent the whole time telling myself I wasn’t a ‘holiday person’. Can you see where this is going? I became the label. I shut the door to any enjoyment or fun, so a miserable time was all I was able to experience.

So positive labels are OK though, right? Surely it’s a good thing if we turn into the positive things we think we are? Well, they actually have their problems too. On a different day if I was feeling particularly buoyant, my dating profile might read like this:

’32 year old female. Kind and loving. Very family centred. Great sense of humour. Enjoys quality time spent with friends. Loves to visit new places and try new things. Creative and artistic.”

That definitely sounds better. But which one is true? Which is the real me?

The answer is that they both are. Or neither are. Labels are just thoughts that we give importance to. It doesn’t make sense to get too attached to our thoughts as they ebb and flow depending on our mood. Don’t grasp hold of them and make them your identity because you have the potential to be anything in this life! That’s the beauty of it.

A positive label can feel nice, until one day when you act in a way that goes against it. Believe me, there are days when I’m not very ‘kind and loving’. In the past, I would beat myself up, upset to have disappointed myself and fallen away from my true identity. But now I no longer think that way. Don’t let any label be a standard to which you hold yourself up against. After all, it was just a thought you had one day and got attached to.

We are only what we are when we are thinking it. Thoughts come and go, so who we are changes depending on our mood (which is also out of our control!). Instead of grabbing hold of labels, positive or negative, see them for what they are. Thoughts that we once became attached to. We are so much more than that.

Once we stop listening to those old labels, things get exciting. We are no longer in a room with the door closed, surrounded by all the same junk. The door is ajar and there is a chink of light coming in. Ask yourself the question ‘If I am not (insert old label here), what else could I be?”. Experiences that before seemed impossible, will suddenly seem possible. Once you understand this, the door is wide open and it’s open for good.

Robyn

How do I stop feeling low?

Depression

low

Do you ever have days when everything looks absolutely bleak? You feel flat and your enthusiasm for life vanishes. I 100% believe that on days like those, I could win the lottery and still not be able to raise a smile. Isn’t that miserable? Maybe you can relate to this, because after all, we’re all human.

Feeling low can be even worse when you look around yourself and see things you should be happy about.

‘I have such great friends, I should be more grateful.’

‘I have the support of a loving family. I should be happier than this.’

‘I have a roof over my head and some money in the bank. I should feel lucky.’

The word ‘should’ has a lot to answer for. It can strike you down when you least expect it, sucking away joy in an instant. That is, unless you see it for what it is.

It’s just a thought.

But aren’t our thoughts important?

The short answer is they can be, but only if you want them to be. Although you can’t control which thoughts pop into your brain, you can place as much or as little importance on a thought as you like. Personally, I tend to ignore any that I don’t like the sound of because I know that another one will come along in a minute. It’s like flicking through a recipe book, looking for something nice to make for dinner. Nope. Nope. Nope. Ooooh, I like the sound of that. Nope. Nope. Nah. There are an infinite number of thoughts out there. Engage with the decent ones and let the low quality ones pass on by.

Here are a couple of important things to remember;

Your mood will influence the quality of your thoughts.

When we are feeling low, the quality of our thoughts takes a nose dive. This is totally normal. Your only job in this situation is to be aware of what’s going on and take every single thought that comes into your head with a pinch of salt. Negative thoughts are not a true reflection of your life, they are only a reflection of your low mood. You can’t stop thoughts coming but you can ignore undesirable ones and wait for nicer ones to come along.

It’s not your job to get yourself out of a low mood.

We live in a truly amazing body that is connected to a truly amazing mind. Our mind was programmed from birth to reset itself when necessary, without our having to interfere. It’s taken care of for us, just like how we don’t have to remind ourselves to swallow or blink (which, by the way, I’m eternally grateful for!). A calm, peaceful mind is our default setting and when we get low, telling ourselves to ‘think positively’ does absolutely nothing but make us feel worse, because we cannot control our thoughts. You can’t think yourself out of a low mood, the only thing you can do is to wait for the reset. It will happen. Not always when you want it to, but at the appropriate moment. Remember, our mind is wise beyond our comprehension, it knows what we need and when. So, let your body do its job. Trust it. Nothing you think, or don’t think, do or don’t do is going to make it happen any quicker. Step away from the engine with the spanner! The trained mechanic is already working on it and doesn’t need your help. Unless you’re a trained mechanic. In that case, replace the word ‘engine’ with something you have no knowledge of and keep well back. Isn’t it a relief that it’s not our job? For a long time I took it on myself, frustrated when I wasn’t able to turn my frown upside-down, feeling like a failure. Adding more fuel to the fire. I’m so glad I know now that it was never my job in the first place.

It’s perfectly normal to feel low. It’s part of the human condition and without it, the highs wouldn’t be so sweet. Society tells us that we should feel happy all the time, that we should be grateful and remain positive at all costs. However, this isn’t reality. There’s a whole spectrum of emotions out there and it’s human nature and our right to feel every single one. When we feel low we’re not living our lives wrong. We are just living.

Robyn