The Peril of "Always" and "Never"

Chicago Compass Counseling Blog

Throughout our lives, we often to attribute labels to ourselves that weave their way into the way we view ourselves and our behaviors. We can easily see how "bad" labels can inhibit us from living the life we want to lead. A general example is the label of "the bad test taker." If that's a label that you identify with, then you may hold back from taking classes where the graded assignments are tests, or hesitate to apply to graduate schools for fear of the dreaded graduate school aptitude tests. This "negative" label may hold you back from a career or opportunity you are capable of, because somewhere along the line you believed that you are not able to test well. In reality, test-taking ability is fluid based on the subject, how well you've prepared, and can likely be improved through skill building.

This logic can also apply to "positive" labels that you may like about yourself. These "positive" labels are things we may pride ourselves on, and can still inhibit our sense of self if we live-or-die by them. For example, if someone were to say to you "He's always so reliable"-that's a good thing, right? Sometimes! But it also may be your sword to fall on. You may find yourself saying "yes" to everything, and then spiraling into overwhelming anxiety when you realize that are only human and cannot conceivably appease everyone. Or perhaps, someone labels you as "the life of the party." You may feel the need to always be the loudest, most fun person at the party offering to get the next round of drinks, even if you feel like you might need a quiet night staying in. We get ourselves in trouble when we ignore our emotions and push ourselves to maintain the status of our label. This rigidity will likely push you to a point of emotional and physical exhaustion that is bad for your overall health.

It's essential to step back and take a look at our own labels, whether it's something that we've conceived ourselves or a label that has been put upon us (or likely a combination of both) in order to create more balance in our lives. As humans, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment when we see ourselves in "always" or "never" terms. Even the most agreeable person has to say no sometimes, and the life of the party sometimes needs a night in. So what labels are you carrying with you that are getting in the way of the life you want to lead? And what is one thing you can do for yourself today to challenge that?
Julia Meo, LCSW, CADC
Hi, I'm Julia, and I'm a counselor who helps organizations make lasting change. I am passionate about the health and wellness of young adults and corporate training here at Chicago Compass Counseling. If you're interested, you can read more about me on my about page.
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