In Label Me Not I wrote about the cost of labeling others. Quite a few people asked if a label can ever really be removed, and if so, how?
Here are some thoughts on how you can apply the fundamental acts of leadership – speaking up, stepping up and standing up – to take back your personal power in the face of feeling diminished or limited by a label.
If you feel you have been labelled in a way that limits or diminishes you in some way, don’t let it slide – speak up.
First assess whether the label assigned was intended to be derogatory or limiting or whether you just related to it that way. If it was intentionally derogatory or diminishing speak up to let them know you won’t tolerate being diminished. If you aren’t willing to or don’t believe it is wise to confront the offense head on then make sure you are prepared with what you will say the next time that label is assigned to you to more subtly send the signal that it is not ok with you.
On the other hand, the label assigned may have occurred as limiting to you because that person only sees one facet of who you are. In that case consider it feedback about how you are occurring to some people in the world. Then decide whether it is worth the effort to expand this particular person’s or groups view of you. If it is, then speak up and let them know more about who you are and what you offer.
If it is someone who you know cares about you, speaking up is a no brainer – they will want to know. Just make sure you own the label in terms of how it occurred to you as opposed to using language that may leave them feeling bad they harmed you in some way.
Stepping up is about taking personal responsibility through your actions for who you are, how you occur, and what you do in the world regardless of your circumstances or what other people do or say.
In this case it means starting by owning the label to the extent it is valid. It may not be a blanket truth about you, but it may point to how you occur in some situations and/or with some people. You can learn a lot by the words people use to describe you. Of course not all of those words are unflattering either – some labels you may actually want to let stick!
Once you can see how your behavior might be eliciting the label assigned though, consider what changes you can make in your actions (or perhaps even in your reactions) to begin to shift that perception of you. Start simple by choosing one change to make. Then step up and make it.
Standing up is about being willing to declare a commitment and then backing up that commitment with your words and deeds.
Who better to take a stand for than yourself! To do that you need to be clear about how you want to be known in the world and then letting others know who you are consistently over time with your words and deeds.
Note that when your words and deeds aren’t a match for who you say you are all there is to do is correct course. None of us are perfect and if you are taking a bold stand it is going to take work to become who you declare yourself to be. Don’t let that stop you from taking a stand for you.
Consider the label someone else assigns or has assigned to you may even apply to who you have been n the past. That doesn’t mean you have to let it stick though. Once again use it as feedback and continue to modify your behavior to transcend the label for yourself.
However, when someone assigns a label to you that doesn’t fit who you know yourself to be, then choose to speak up, step up or let it go.
Sometimes the best way to deal with a label is to not let it stick to you internally in the first place. Besides, just because someone says it doesn’t make it true and doesn’t mean you have to internalize it even though that is how you occur to them.
In the end the only person who can truly make a label stick to you is you. Choose wisely.
And always remember this…
People are like diamonds with many facets, each one reflecting a distinctive light into the world. Together they shine with a unique and magnificent brilliance.
May you shine brightly because the world needs all of you.