I recently read an article in the newspaper about homelessness. What really caught my attention about it was the research outlined in the article about how labels significantly impact people’s wellbeing.
In a nut shell, people without a stable home commonly take on the label as being homeless, but not always. A lot of people who have no place to live claim they are not ‘homeless’ because their situation may be complicated. What was interesting but somewhat no surprise, was that those who described themselves as homeless had significantly lower self-esteem and wellbeing compared to those who rejected the label, even when having no place to live.
When it comes to mental health, when we use a label to describe ourselves, we begin to think and act in ways that are associated with that label.
Tell yourself you’re not good enough? Or believe people when they tell you this? Then you are likely to start acting like it. Just like those who accept the label of being homeless then act and think in stereotypical ways aligned with such label.
Good news is, we have the power to choose one thought over another. So much of my role as a wellbeing coach is changing the language that teenagers use with each other and themselves. I can call a student a number of amazing things and give them so many wonderful labels, but if they do not accept this label or describe themselves in this way, they are not likely to behave in ways that match.
My challenge to you is, if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, then don’t say it to yourself.
Start using labels that you want to be
Want to be smarter? Want to be fitter or more creative? Then tell yourself you already are. Research tells us that it’s the best way to go.
Besides, what do you hope to achieve by putting yourself down all the time, or telling yourself not good enough? There’s not productivity in that, so it’s best to start practicing swapping negative labels with helpful ones.
You may need to work at it
Choosing one thought over another can be a constant battle, and there can be a lot more to it than simply trying to change our thinking and the words that we use. But like anything, it will get easier with practice and patience. Be kind to yourself, you are always doing the best you can. Keep in mind that our brains are designed to think, but we have the power to mold them like plastic to work the way we intend them to. If you’re someone who has been putting yourself down with internal thoughts for a long time, then that is what your brain is hardwired to do. There’s not time like the present to be the architect of your own brain and begin to build a productive and useful tool, one positive thought after the next.
Some tips to help you and remind yourself that you are amazing
Because I know that I will act in ways aligned with labels I give myself, I have chosen positive words and things that I want and put them on my bathroom mirror. If I remind myself I am a happy person who laughs a lot, I’m more likely to do just that.
I’m reminded of these labels everyday because I can see them everyday. And when I’m battling with my inner voice who tries to give me negative labels, instead of beginning to act in ways that align with those unwanted labels (because who actually wants to feel useless or not as good as someone prettier or smarter than I am), I have something concrete to remind myself that I have the power to change. I have the power to change my thinking and become whatever I want.
The first step is to decide what you want and start telling yourself you already have it. See what happens.
Change your language and you’ll change your thinking. Change your thinking and you change your life. You have the power, so what are you waiting for?
Photo credit: Featured image from mimielashiry Instagram.