SuRv!V!nG LaBeLs

sticky notes on board

LABELLING is common. We label almost every person we meet and most times, it is impulsive, spontaneous. I am not suggesting that labeling is a bad thing. I am saying that we label others ignorantly, without understanding that the label is in fact a reflection of ourselves. Yes, you read it correctly. You are what you label.

Welcome to ‘perception…projection’.

Perception projection is premised on the concept that what you see in others is a reflection of yourself. For instance, you recognize someone to be beautiful, calm or confident because it is a projection of you, of one of your attributes. Isn’t that interesting? The flip side is, this applies equally to labels that are not constructive. So, when you say someone is annoying, selfish or lazy, you applied these labels because you identified with it, it was something of you that you saw in the other person.

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the lazy person after all?  Shocked? So was I?

Isn’t it intriguing that when it comes to moments like this, i.e. of self-awareness, it is the non-positive comments that make you twitch? Personally, I felt vulnerable and exposed, troubled that my indiscriminate labeling was a part of me that I was not entirely happy with. Retreating silently into a hole was not an option because I believe the world would be a happier place if keep talking. I had to find an alternative.

As I was scrambling for my survival kit, I was introduced to the concept of ‘reframing’.  Reframing is a way of restructuring thoughts or simply put, a method of finding positive alternatives to view and experience ideas, events and concepts. Fantastic! I thought I will use this technique to reframe the not so nice sounding labels to a positive alternative that was also vibrant and glamorous. It’s a reflection of me after all right?

Finding positive alternatives wasn’t as easy as I thought. Huge problem (I mean great challenge). First, I must be consciously aware and recognize that whatever I saw in others was a part of me. Second, I must identify aspects I was happy with and those that I wanted to fix (I mean improve). Third, I must reframe the non-constructive bits with an alternative that is positive. Fourth and most importantly, I must work on areas that need improvement.

This is hard work (I mean, a continuous learning experience) and till it becomes my rhythm, it is going to be a conscious check and balance, a conditioning of my mind…my thoughts. I did some soul searching, fused some fun into the reframing exercise and started my upgrade.

Below is a little teaser of some tools that I work with, inspired by posts that I’ve read and light bulb wisdom of my own.

aloof – dreamer;

bad/not great – potential to develop/inspire/grow;

boring – orderly/structured;

complicated – a puzzle;

complacent – comfortable;

disorganized – a method of working;

impatient – loves the adrenalin rush;

fat – fluffy/prosperous/all rounder (round is a shape right?);

not practical – optimist/idealist;

ok – average/ minimum expectation/ fine/ room for improvement;

old – crispy/vintage/classic/young;

picky/fussy – selective/knows what he/she wants;

problem – challenge/ lesson/ adventure;

rigid – likes timetables/structure/order;

selfish – prioritises self/appreciates self-worth;

stubborn – determined.

The key is to approach reframing with the right mindset and in a way that appeals to you. Reframing has helped me understand my own shortcomings and I apply this to manage stressful (I mean delicate) situations. If my labeling or a situation gets the better of me, I step back, take a few deep breaths and reframe. Once I do this, things get clearer and a little easier.

I am still a work in progress but I believe with continued awareness, I will get through the labels tagged on me and apply higher QUALITY LABELS ON OTHERS.

*This article was first published in the Survivors Column at

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