Counselling – Labels: Fact or Fiction?
How have you defined yourself over the past few years? What would you say to your friend if they were to ask you about your strengths and shortcomings? Do certain labels describe you; would you consider yourself to be dependable, creative, disciplined, passionate, or loving? What are some major shifts throughout your life that has changed how you view yourself? Now, take a moment and consider whether you have forged these labels from your own life experiences, or if these labels were imposed on you and have influenced the way you think, feel and behave. In other words, did your life experience describe you, or did your labels come first and dictated your life experiences?
Where do our Labels Come From?
We may have come to label ourselves from some of our major life accomplishments or setbacks. For example, we may have endured a difficult childhood, challenged ourselves to an academic career, or managed to develop a thriving business. When we consider these experiences, how might we describe ourselves? Take the example of enduring a difficult childhood. Do we consider ourselves to be resilient, broken, driven, lost, experienced, fragile, or empathetic? How have we taken steps to embrace or reject these labels? What is the possibility that these labels have shaped the way we perceive or experience our life events?
Some of the labels that we carry have come from others. They may have come from what our teacher said about us in third grade.Or perhaps our first friendships, intimate relationships, or even employers. Maybe we were compared to others by our parents or other adults during our early years. We may have been told that we are, for example, quiet or loud, hardworking or lazy, mature or immature, boring or exciting, strong or weak. Were these descriptions accurate? How likely were they based from only a few incidences and limited understanding? How did we respond to these labels regardless of how accurate they were? Do we believe them?
We Feel Pressured to Live up to our Labels
The labels that we carry can affect how we experience pressure or stress. Imagine that you are helping someone with unloading their groceries. If you considered yourself as being helpful, reliable, courageous, strong, or efficient, you may be inclined to carry more items on your trip. You might even feel obligated to help even at your own expense (you may be running late). If you decided not to help, or carry less than what is expected, you might even feel guilty. You might experience a certain amount of pressure to help, and to help in a certain manner. On the other hand, if you considered yourself as being fragile or passive, you could experience other forms of pressure. It is quite possible that you may develop an “I can’t” perspective. You might question your own helpfulness, or fear that you would be judged because you cannot help as much as the average person. You might place your own restrictions on how much you can help or decide that it is not even worth it to help at all.
Basically, the way that we describe ourselves can influence how we think, feel and carry ourselves as a person. We might not enjoy some of our labels, but when we stray from them we can still experience discomfort. For example, when we consider ourselves to be a loyal or dependable person, we can have a particularly difficult time when we behave in a manner that is contrary to how we have described ourselves. If we have to end a relationship because its in our best interests, we may feel ‘disloyal’ and fear that we’ve lost that quality. Similarly, when we consider ourselves to be a reserved or shy person, we experience discomfort when we’re thrust into social situations that force us to share. If we labelled ourselves as a troubled person, we may worry or self sabotage when our life is going too well. We may think, “is it safe to be this happy? People like me usually don’t get this kind of luck” for example. In many instances, our labels can describe who we are, but sometimes we also work to actively keep us stuck.
The pressure to maintain labels is strong. Take a moment and imagine yourself as being surrounded by an imaginary circle that is drawn and edited by you and other influential people that you have crossed paths with at some point in your life. This imaginary circle represents the labels that you have acquired through life and most of the time you live within this circle. You are accustomed to living in this circle, and people may expect you to live within this circle. When you’re inside this circle, you have a sense of familiarity. You can see outside of your circle, and sometimes it can look excitingwhile during other times the outside can seemthreatening. You can decide to step outside when others are present or absent. If others are present, once you take a step outside you become vulnerable to new forms of judgment from bothyourself and others. However sometimes stepping outside your circle can reveal a new way of life. You can also enlist the help of others who are familiar with the area or perhaps they can see things from a different angle from within their own circle. Either way, either on your own or with the help of others, it can be meaningful to attempt to live outside of these prescribed labels. If you don’t like it, your circle is alway there waiting for you.
Living with the Labels that Serve You
Its helpful to spend time reflecting on what our labels are, and how exactly they serve us. While there are many labels that benefit us, many do not. What are the labels that you carry because of how others have described you? How accurate are they? What are the benefits to keeping them, and, what are the costs? What would it feel like to shed a particular label, just for a day, and choose to believe something different about yourself?
The way that we describe ourselves can have far reaching affects for our life. We may perceive, prioritize, and experience our life differently when we begin to change what we believe about ourselves.
Labels aren’t real. They are perceptions. So consider what it would mean to be open to a different lens of who you really are.
Living Well was created with certain values in mind. We want to help you connect with a Psychologist or Counsellor that is effective in their areas of strength and also one that is welcoming, non-judgemental & easy to work with. Whether you need to meet with a counsellor for anxiety, addictions or depression, are in need of couples therapy, anger management tools or an LGBTQ friendly therapist, one of us may be a good fit. For tips on finding the right counsellor, click here. We also strive to keep our rates lower than the set rate for most Calgary counselling agencies, and have therapists covered by benefits should you have access to extended health coverage.Although Living Well is a counselling Calgary practice, we now serve clients worldwide through the advances of technology. We also offer a free 20-minute initial Living Well Counselling Services Inc.
Living Well Counselling Services Inc.
4803 Centre Street Northwest #4,
Calgary, AB T2E 2Z6