Self-labels are an enormous force in your life without you realizing it. By understanding how self-labels are affecting your life you can begin to take back control over your feelings and actions. This article will help you understand what your self-labels are and how to change them.
What Are Self-Labels?
Everyone has self-labels. A self-label is simply how you automatically think about yourself. If you were asked to describe who you are, it is the description you would give. It is the list of attributes you would use to describe yourself. These are your self-labels. Our self-labels can be positive or negative. Here are some examples of self-labels:
- I am smart
- I am fat
- I am a night-person
- I am not athletic
- I am a runner
- I have a short temper
- I am an artist
- I am a smoker
- I am impatient
- I love computers
- I hate country music
- I love animals
- I hate animals
You get the idea. Self-labels are the “facts” you believe about yourself whether they are true or not.
How Did You Get Your Self-Labels?
Where do these self-labels come from? There are several sources.
- Given to us by others – When we were growing up we were greatly influenced by the significant people around us such as our parents, siblings and friends. What they say to us and how they treat us aid in the formation of our self-image. We see images of ourselves in the “mirrors” others present to us and we believe those images regardless of how warped or imperfect those mirrors may be.
- Self-created – Many of our self-labels are self-created as we experience the normal ups and downs of life. They are created from our successes and failures, pains and joys, frustrations and triumphs.
- Media – The third way that self-labels are created is through the media that pours into our lives every day. Millions of dollars are spent on figuring out ways to make you feel that you don’t measure up unless you buy a certain product, look a certain way, drive a certain car or eat a certain food. We are blasted with messages like these from the media every day. They help form many of our self-labels.
How Are Your Self-Labels Affecting You?
You may be wondering why you should care about the self-labels in your life. Your self-labels are what make up your entire self-image of who you are. It is the blueprint your brain sees when it thinks about you. All of your actions and emotions will always be consistent with this blueprint. You will always act in harmony with it. It’s impossible for you to act in any other way except that which is in agreement with your blueprint of yourself.
The girl who thinks she is shy and unattractive to other people will manage to prove to herself that she really is shy and unattractive. The boy who thinks he is bad at math will find a way to fail at math. The man who believes he has a weakness for gambling will live up to that belief and continue gambling. The woman who believes she can’t sing will prove it over and over that she has no singing voice.
Each of us carries this mental picture or blueprint of ourselves in our minds and we simply cannot act contrary to it. To do so would not be in harmony with our beliefs about ourselves. We must live up to our self-labels.
What you continually tell yourself about yourself tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) is an accurate statement.
Can You Change Your Self-Labels?
Can you change what you “think in your heart?” Can you change the mental blueprint you have of yourself? The answer is Yes!
Because we are dealing with “objective truth,” most people seldom recognize that the problem lies in their own evaluation of themselves. When they have tried to change in the past it didn’t work because their main efforts were aimed at their behavior, not the root of the problem which was their belief about themselves. One of the main strategies is to change your old labels to new labels.
Let’s look at the following two labels:
- I am a liar.
- I do lying.
Do you see the difference in these two self-labels? The difference is huge. When you say, “I am a liar” it gives the impression that this is a permanent condition and that you do it all the time. The “I am” makes it feel like this is what you are, that it’s part of you, that you inherited it and it’s something you can’t change or stop.
The second label has a very different feel to it. “It do lying” is still negative but it gives you the impression that you still have the possibility to change. It’s not who you are but something you do. It’s a behavior that you do occasionally. You can change from an “I am” label to an “I do” label very easily.
As you examine the negative labels in your life you can make this one simple change and give the labels a new meaning.
To take it one step further you can change a negative label to a positive label. “I am nonathletic” becomes “I am athletic.” I am fat” becomes “I am thin.” “I am bad at math” becomes “I am good at math.”
These simple words can have a powerful transforming effect on your life. You are, in effect, changing your mental blueprint of yourself. Once you have done this and truly believe your new self-labels, you can’t help but live up to that new picture of yourself. You must live in harmony with what you believe about yourself.
How Do You Change Your Self-Labels?
You can put this method to the test yourself by switching the words you use. Here are some simple ideas to help you do it.
- Write down your old, negative, self-label
- Change it to a new, positive, label and write it on card or sticky note
- Look at it several times a day and say it out loud
- Stick it on your mirror at home
- Carry it with you
- Change your wristwatch to the other wrist as a reminder
- Choose a color and whenever you see that color say your new label
- Put a button or bean in your pocket or shoe to remind you to say it often
You Are In Control
You are in charge of your thoughts. With this method you will become more aware of your thoughts and be able to control which thoughts you entertain on a regular basis. You can then be certain that your self-labels are positive and constructive because you consciously made a decision to make them that way.
Nothing will be of any use to us unless we have taken the most important step of all: The decision to produce change inside ourselves. Not a change in my father or mother, not a change in my wife, husband, children, not in anyone else—in myself. Let us initiate change in ourselves, for then and then only shall we be able to effect a change in other people. – Huxley
Master Yourself, Master Your Life
Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson