You know the deal. You’ve been promising yourself you’d never do that thing again, and there you go, you made that mistake again. Before you know it, you’re labelling yourself a failure, a loser, a hopeless case. At times in life, we can become prone to labelling ourselves in unhelpful ways. In the heat of the moment, these negative labels reappear momentarily, or, worse, stick around and become a habitual way of thinking.
How does it help us to label ourselves in a negative way? What benefit did you ever get from labelling yourself as a loser, a failure, unlovable or worse? Can you gently become aware of the labels you give yourself and consider for a moment that not only are these labels unfair and unhelpful, but they also don’t make sense.
Of course, on the face of it, you might buy into those labels if you’re feeling depressed, ashamed or anxious, but the truth is, as a human being it’s just not kind to label yourself in the same way you would a piece of luggage.
Let’s look at it another way... Think for example of a jar of jam. Any kind, your favourite perhaps? Think of the label on that jar. What does it say? Maybe Strawberry Jam, Raspberry Jam. What else is on the labels, maybe a short or long list of ingredients?
However detailed you make the list of ingredients on the label, the label will never come close to being the jam itself. The words can’t capture the essence of the jam, the taste, the look, the attributes. Think of yourself in that way, and see if you can give up the habit of labelling yourself.
If we return again to our jar of jam, you might also realise that each jar of jam is unique and each has its own merits. Some people prefer one jam, some like another – a jam can be different fruits, consistencies, home made, shop bought, organic, sugar free, runny or set. Regardless, this doesn't make one jam somehow intrinsically better or more universally valuable than another either. It takes all sorts to create a supermarket shelf of jams, just as it takes all kinds of people to make up a world of human beings. Accept your uniqueness, foibles and all, but above all see if you can peel off the label and see what’s underneath.
Ali Binns works as an accredited CBT therapist in Bath and sees self acceptance as a key to improved mental health. If I can help you, please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page or email firstname.lastname@example.org