In Response: Labels I Have Worn

Hello! How are you? How are things in your life? I feel like there's been loads going on in mine recently and I'm probably overdue giving you an update on what's happened and what's coming up, but that may turn into a fairly epic post, so I'll save it for another day.

Instead, today I've picked another magazine article that sparked some thinking for me and I wanted to share it with you. Psychologies is one of my absolute must-reads and in all honesty I could probably comment on nearly every piece in every issue! But for now, I wanted to pick up on a coaching exercise suggested by columnist-coach Kim Morgan as an add-on to the case study discussed in the May 2018 issue.

The exercise is called Labels I Have Worn and is designed to "help you make changes in the way you see yourself" by reminding you that "who we think we once were, or who we think we are now, does not have to determine who we will be in the future."

The idea is to grab a stack of Post-it notes, or scraps of paper, and write on each one a word or phrase representing a label you've worn - they can be ways you've been described by other people, or words you use about yourself - and keep going until you've got as many as you can think of, positive, negative, and anything in between. 

Then for each label you decide whether you like it/agree with it/it's useful to you/you want to embrace it - keep these ones. For words or descriptions with an element of truth that don't feel quite right you should try to rephrase them to be more useful or empowering. And finally, any words that don't resonate, reflect who you are or how you see yourself - tear them up and get rid of them! You can also add any new words that you want to include in the current or future version of yourself.

It sounds like a really simple exercise - and let's be honest, who doesn't love an excuse to play with Post-its and pens! - but I think it could also be really powerful and revealing. I haven't actually done it myself yet, but just beginning to think about some of the words I might write down is bringing up feelings particularly about how I'm perceived by others.

I think the labels given to us, or the boxes we're expected to fit into, may be the easiest ones to come to mind, but I think these may also have some of the deepest scars attached, especially if they come with stories or memories or experiences that we resent or would rather leave behind. 

As you know, I believe that language is incredibly powerful, and words can definitely create wounds that can be difficult to heal if we hear them so often that they become part of our inner narrative. But the same power holds the capacity for us to re-write our stories - as the exercise suggests to rephrase words that don't quite fit, get rid of ones we don't recognise in ourselves, or include new ones that we'd like to embody.

I intend to do this task in the near future, and perhaps make a word cloud or mind map out of the words and phrases and labels I want to keep as a way of retraining the way I speak to and about myself, as I know I am guilty of talking myself down, belittling my abilities, and getting stuck in the expectations others have of me. If it can help me recognise the labels I want to inhabit and give my mindset a positive boost, then it will be worth it - and I'll have fun playing with language and Post-its and coloured pens!

Now it's your turn:

  • What labels do you wear that don't fit comfortably?
  • What words or phrases make you feel good when someone describes you?
  • Which descriptions could you tweak to feel better aligned with your truth?
  • Which labels are you letting go of, and which new ones are you embodying instead?

If you've carried out this exercise or one similar I'd love to hear about your experience with it, anything enlightening that you uncovered, and how it's helped you feel into who you want to become. Leave a comment below or send me a message.