Web developed by Bolinger web design

Nixing Your Negative Labels…

Many of my clients tell me that they are dissatisfied with things in their lives that they are unable to change; perhaps they are not artistic or creative enough, or they feel that their social skills are not up to par. Perhaps something happened in your personal life or in the workplace which you wish you could have done differently.¬†Labeling yourself in a negative way because of your limitations or a past occurrence¬†can lead to shame, anxiety and depression…as most of us know, kicking ourselves when we are feeling already down or vulnerable is not the most helpful way of getting yourself to a place of feeling better!

If you look at your entire self based on one small aspect of your whole self, you are judging yourself in an incorrect and unhelpful way. As human beings, it is important to remember that we are always in the process of changing, growing and developing. You are too complex to be accurately rated on the basis of one or more individual traits or actions.

Instead of calling yourself a globally negative label (i.e. “I’m a failure”, “I’m weak”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m a loser”) try to assign a label ONLY to the specific action(s) or aspect(s) of yourself that you might currently be displeased with. As an example, instead of saying “I’m a total loser”, specify exactly what you may have lost by saying something to yourself like “I lost the promotion to my colleague.” Being more specific and avoiding global negative labels acknowledges that you are a complex individual who is also capable of succeeding in the future.

Here is an example: John Doe anchors a great deal of his self-worth in his career/monetary success and his popularity with friends. He often tells himself that he is “a loser” or a “total failure” if he makes a small mistake at work or feels he has embarrassed himself on a date or out with friends at a party. John Doe reports feeling tense and anxious before he goes to work in the mornings and before he meets up with friends in the evenings. Due to his beliefs that he MUST be a smashing success in his career and in his social circle, he experiences unhealthy negative emotions (such as shame, guilt and sadness) when his personal rules are not fully met. He does not give himself any “wiggle room” for human error.

As human beings, we are fallible and are capable of BOTH success and failure. We can do negative things from time to time, but this does not make us inherently negative as a whole.

Think about the questions below:

  • List the areas that you commonly rate your “whole self” based on: (i.e. career/job success/social success)
  • What negative labels or messages do I most often use about myself? (i.e. “I’m a failure” or “I am inferior”)
  • What are three good reasons to lose these negative labels? (i.e. “I seem to feel really bad about myself and sad when I call myself these things” or “I tend to avoid social outings because I feel I might mess up” or “I get so nervous at work that I feel paralyzed out of fear of looking dumb”)
  • What are more healthy/self-accepting alternatives? (i.e. “Everyone makes a mistake at work, it’s normal!” or “Lots of people seem to like hanging out with me, even though I feel awkward, they think I’m kind and funny.”
Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

AAMFT Member

Featured On

Verified By Psych Today

Proud Member



Web developed by Bolinger web design