We were at a party. I was feeling good. I was ready to dance with the party animal, talk to the shy person, have a giggle with the flirt.
But people kept turning away from me. Crinkling their nose in disgust. Sighing. Tutting.
I began to feel left out. My smile had turned into a frown. I felt panicked, ostracised, needy. I wanted to leave early, go to bed, bury myself in a book.
People weren’t just being mean. We were playing a game where we all had a label on our head. We didn’t know what our own label was, but we had to treat each other according to their label. I had ‘kill-joy’, and by the end of it kill-joy is certainly what I felt. Every single one of us successfully guessed what label we had from how we were treated.
It really brought home for me the power of labels.
How many of us are afraid to change because it means losing a label we’ve always had, an inner dialogue that is so familiar, even if it’s an unhelpful one? How many of us act a certain way because that is what is expected of us, even if we don’t want to act that way?
Tune in to your self-talk and notice what you’re saying.
If you find yourself saying things like “I can’t ________ because I’m ______” start questioning that label. Who gave it to you? Do you want it? Is it true?
If you’re finding it difficult to change, is it because you’ve been labelled a certain way for so long that part of you isn’t sure what your identity will be without it?
The labels we have stick far more than we think they do. But they can be removed. The brain is so elastic, and it will change if you want it to. Stay with the discomfort as you peel back the glue, and notice the relief when the label is unstuck and you can throw it away.