Throughout our life, we pick up labels. Sometimes they come from other people but we can also assign them to our self. They can be personal labels such as ‘weird’, ‘miserable’ or ‘odd’, physical like ‘big’, ‘fat’ or ‘clumsy’ and of course, they can be medical. Although we may not give them much thought, all labels have one thing in common; they fix us to the place and time that we got them. When a label is given to us by our parents, other children, our boss or friends, it attaches itself to the person we were in the moment we got it. This means labels fix us at a point in time, they can easily stop any change we might want because we let them keep us in that state, never moving forward. Each time we are reminded of that label, our mind recalls everything about the time we got it. If that time was in any way painful or uncomfortable, we can get all those feelings back again.
Labels can also change our behaviour depending on how we are feeling when we get them. A label like ‘diabetic’, for example, can have an instant effect on the mind, either positive or negative, depending on the state of the mind at the time. In a positive mind that is comfortable with change, the label can create action, formulate a plan, call on previous successes of change and then seek to remove the label altogether. However, in a negative mind that is already in a victim state, the label gives the mind permission to give up. Immediately, the mind thinks of everything it has to lose from the label – sugary foods, cake, cigarettes and everything which it uses for pain relief. The mind goes into a state of loss, almost mourning what has gone. The label and the feeling of loss together causes an obsession. The mind needed the food to feel better and now someone has taken it away without any replacement. This is why diabetics can become obsessed with what they can’t have. It is even why when you label yourself as ‘on a diet’, your mind panics and starts to think constantly about what it is missing.
If you are someone who has a lot of labels from others or from yourself, this short exercise can help you examine the labels you live by and choose whether or not you take them forward with you. It is best to do this on a notepad when you have some quiet time.
For each of your labels, answer the following questions:
• What is the label and who gave it to you? (Include medical diagnosis, anything from school, nicknames etc.)
• What does that label mean to you?
• Has this label fixed you at a certain point? (When you acquired the label)
• Does the label stop you from doing anything?
• Do you use the label as an excuse to not do things or to distance yourself from something?
• If you let go of the label, how would life feel?
• Do you want to keep this label, or give it back and just live instead?
Extract from “Still Overweight? The 6-week course that changes your weight and relationship to food forever”