Dumping the Labels is Good For Your Mental Health


Labeling others and yourself is not good for your mental health. Whether you label someone, all you are doing is showing that you make snap judgments without knowing the whole person. Labels shape our perception of people, and may influence how others view that person. That can cause bullying, online or personal harassment and, as proven by hate crimes and suicide, may have disastrous results.

Stop labeling yourself

One way is by not labeling yourself. When you have negative thoughts, make a list of “positive” things about yourself and “things you want to change” rather than immediately concluding that you are a loser or worthless. Look at the situation as a whole. List your positive qualities first, then list the things that you personally have control of changing. Write down an objective version of what happened to make you feel this way, then leave the table. Go for a walk by yourself or with a pet, read a chapter of a book, listen to some soothing music,  talk to a friend or family member, then return to the account and review it. Is this truly what you are, or what another person made you feel? Are you in control of the situation? If so, how can you change? 

Stop labeling your children

Children choose who they want to befriend at a young age. Children don’t learn to label others; they are taught by the adults in their life. When they call others “fat,” or “stupid” or “ugly,” they don’t  use the words the way adults do: they use these words to define “different.” This fear of difference or labeling others as such carries into adolescence and even adulthood.

6 Tips to Avoid Labeling Your Child advises you to look at your own childhood experience to uncover why you would assign those labels to your child. Most parents see their children of extensions of themselves – their little “mini-me’s” – and when your child disappoints or questions you, it’s not unusual to get defensive and lash out. Why do you do this and is it really how you feel? Ask your child his reasons for his behavior if he is old enough to discuss it. This opens a healthy dialogue that allows your child to express his feelings. Talk about the behavior instead of labeling your child: Make him take responsibility for what he did rather than calling him out. If your son leaves his clothes lying around, don’t call him lazy. Rather, explain his responsibility to keep his room clean.

When describing a positive trait, praise your kids for doing well without resorting to simply labeling them as the smartest or the best. That’s a comparison to others, not an evaluation of their accomplishments. By explaining that you are proud of your daughter for getting a “B” in a class in which she normally struggles, she can accept ownership of that accomplishment. Labeling your child can cause her to label others. Ask others to tell you when they catch you using labels and if you do find yourself “in the act,” show your child that the mature thing to do is to apologize. 

Stop labeling others

Yes, there are people who like to enforce their will by bullying others, but will calling them a bully make them change? There are people unskilled at a task, or those that are not good drivers or folks not possessing great people skills, and there are those that may get the promotion you desired, but does that make them worthy of outbursts of name-calling or road rage? Do you do that to make yourself feel superior or as a means of describing the person doing the act that you despise?

When you lash out at another person, it may be your own prior experience, disappointment or prejudice causing this feeling. Striving to put everyone within a box or giving everyone you meet a label can be more stressful for you than it is for the people you attempt to pigeon-hole! Everyone has his own priorities and everyone has his own expectations of his abilities. We are all human. When you can accept that a person’s personality can change, even if at first you don’t experience that change within yourself, you may become more tolerant of others. Rather than disparaging a person, train yourself to celebrate the differences. It will lead to far less stress in your life.