Sometimes it feels like we’re always defining who we are, what we do, what we’re about. We attach labels to ourselves… the outward ones: professional, mother, wife, teacher, mentor, manager, organiser… and the inward ones most people don’t know are there: struggling, exhausted, lost, barely managing, coping. Oh let’s not forget those really cruel inner voice labels we sometimes attach to ourselves: worthless, failure, unattractive… and so on.
When we strip away the labels we think we should have, the labels other people have attached to us and those inner voice labels, we get a little closer to the truth of who we really are: kind, loving, caring, playful, content, there for my family and friends, human, woman, mummy.
Do you know who you are? When are you most yourself?
Imagine you’re at the end of your life (stay with me on this… it’s not as bleak as it sounds!) and you’re asked who you are and what you gave to the world. Your closest family and friends are asked the same. What would you say? I know I wouldn’t be defining myself for the 80 hour weeks I’ve worked or the status of previous job titles. Nor would it have anything to do with the amount of money in the bank or the possessions I have. For me, it’s all about love, kindness, being there for others and not forgetting to play along the way.
So, how would it feel to ditch the labels that don’t serve you and start living by the ones that do?
How you define yourself, the words you choose to direct towards yourself won’t change instantly, but the process of being aware of the language you use and the way you feel about yourself will gradually enable change to take place. When you find yourself feeling defined by the role you take, the expectations others place on you or that negative inner voice, try the following ‘STOP’ technique:
- Stop for a moment.
- Take time to breathe.
- Observe the way you feel and the way you label yourself. Would you talk to a friend that way? Use the same language you would use with a close friend or a loved one and show yourself some much needed compassion.
- Proceed… move on with your day with a little more love towards yourself than a moment ago.