Who Defined Your Identity?
If you were asked to describe yourself using 10 adjectives what would you say?
Funny, serious, technophobe, outgoing, challenging, quiet, sociable, unconfident – all of these may be valid; but have you ever stopped to think where they came from?
Often from our childhood – I was ‘unruly and whimsical’…once described as ‘a tornado entering’. Labels start to define us; informing how we act and what we believe we can accomplish. What starts to happen is that you begin to live up to your labels and they inform your behaviour. People continually describe the world to themselves, labeling and evaluating people and experiences so that they can process more effectively.
Being thought as the ‘sensible’ or the ‘organised’ one puts you into a role, it gives you responsibilities and defines how you should be and act – it can also place you under a lot of pressure. What if you want to kick back and be a bit risky, do you feel allowed to or guilty? People should from time to time reflect and think is this me, is this who I actually want to be – does it feel authentic to me? What if the significant people in my life when I was growing up hadn’t told me that I was sensible and responsible – would I have made the same choices? Where do the labels you hold for yourself originate from; don’t be afraid to challenge them!
Labels help us define who we think we are, but they can also limit us and be responsible for limiting beliefs, such as ‘I’m shy, I will never be good at presentations.’ Inaccurate labels can inform cognitive distortions, our brain filters our thoughts, perceptions and assumptions, which reinforce our beliefs and negative self talk. Our brain cannot process all the information it sees, so based on our beliefs it will delete, distort and generalise information in a way we can understand and process. What that means is often our brain shows us the information that it believes and ignores some inconvenient truths.
We all make perceptions and assumptions about a situation. If you consider yourself to have a higher than average level of self-control, you will notice the times others lose their control and are impulsive. You may make a statement such as “Silvia always overreacts and shouts when the pressure piles up” the statement and the language will reaffirm the belief about your superior control. But what you will not be paying attention to are the times that Silvia copes, this is a cognitive distortion in play.
It’s the same as when you are looking to buy a particular new car; I bet you have never seen so many of those cars around. If you allow yourself some time to reflect on this it’s a massive thing. A leader who believes he has much greater levels of passion than his staff will see the evidence that proves this. If you then give that leader a challenge of seeking evidence of passion in his staff, asking him to actively look and seek it, the picture may actually be quite different.
There are always positives and negatives, try listing out your labels, see which ones you’re drawn to. What do they give you and what do they take away? Where did the label come from and is it still valid? And next time you go to put a label on someone, or hear yourself making a statement like; ‘we’d expect that, because you’re…’ be conscious and clear and also consider where that thought comes from. What you think is based on your perceptions and distortions, generated by your filters and are not necessarily about what is going on for the other person at all.
As an adult I’ve become much more focused and driven, determined to succeed and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I chose to take a fresh look at the labels I had for myself and that others placed on me. When you consider a label is nothing more than a word, you start to dig deeper into yourself and what is going on – you’d be amazed by the choices and opportunities it can open up and how empowering it can be to release beliefs that no longer serve you.
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Contact us if you would like discuss how Vantage People could help you or your business.
Jemma Barton, Director & Coach
T: +44 7717 131 434
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