I stopped labelling myself for 30 days and this is what happened
"I think labelling is the most unkind and impolite way to behave with ourselves."
Words have such a huge impact in our lives. Imagine a world where we stopped caring about what we say, the way we say it and not care about the impact our words make on other people. I don’t think I would personally survive in such a world. Even though we’re taught how to speak politely and sensitively right from our days of school we tend to lose it somewhere as we grow and call ourselves overly sensitive and extremely emotional when rude words are hurled at us.
As overtly sensitive people when this happens externally, we tend to deal with it. But most of the times we are extremely rude with the way we speak to ourselves. Especially when we say things like – stupid, idiot, careless, useless, worthless and so on. This is called labelling. When we label ourselves, we tend to relate and identify ourselves with that label. Most of the times these labels are not true and based on how others perceive us which we tend to believe very easily.
I’ve fallen prey to this act of labelling and I’ve honestly never felt great about it. For the longest time I believed in these labels and no matter what I didn’t know a way out of it.
Last month, some things in my life weren’t going as planned, I was losing patience and was getting bogged down easily. Even though I was showing up each day despite how I was feeling and thinking. I still wasn’t feeling quite happy. So, I decided to challenge myself for 30 days.
My challenge was to not label myself negatively in any way. I started for 10 days initially and when things were going well, I continued for the next 20 days. I kept a track of it while journaling every night so I could reflect on my progress after the challenge was over.
My challenge wasn’t just to stop labelling but to replace it with something less critical, for e.g., if I made a mistake and was about to call myself “stupid” I instead had to say, “Darn, I made a mistake.” I could in no way label myself.
This task was challenging but I experienced something positive from it –
1. I was mindful of what I was saying – Not just to me but even to other people. I’ll admit to slipping up often initially but I realized I don’t “have to” label to teach myself something, even something as simple as “I am fat” felt like a negative label. When I replaced it to “I need to start working out” I not only felt better but also felt free of any kind of pressure that “fat” would have. This had a ripple effect in my daily life otherwise as well, I started becoming more mindful of the things I was saying and doing.
2. I became less critical – When we label, we are critical. This kind of criticism is extremely negative and not healthy at all. It makes us believe that we aren’t good enough or confident enough and we keep seeing ourselves in a negative light. This not limited to just our personal self but it has an effect in the way we behave, think and feel about ourselves in other areas of our lives such as our work, relationships etc.,
3. I experienced self-compassion – I am in favour of self-compassion and self -love. This was just a bonus that when is stopped labelling myself I was kind to myself, I experienced self-compassion.
4. Being patient with myself – The days everything went well were not difficult but the days things went really rough I had to be extremely patient with myself while practicing this challenge. In chaos it’s likely that we tend to blame ourselves, we are critical of us and the way we behave, we are unkind to ourselves and don’t have the patience to slow down. This allowed me to give myself a chance to be more patient with myself.
5. Boost of Confidence – Needless to say (and you probably did see this one coming) I did get a huge boost of confidence in me. It made me more open to ideas and opportunities. It was now so much easier to make mistakes and just as easily learn from them. This boost of confidence also increased my energy and allowed me to show up even when things were not that great.
6. I recognized my inner strengths – Believe it or not, but, when we label ourselves, we encourage our limitations to show up 10 times more than our strengths. Our strengths tend to hide and soon we forget they exist. This challenge helped me bring my inner strengths to life and I figured out a lot of other strengths that I had no idea existed in me.