The image we hold of ourselves is of vital importance. Why? Because we live up to that image. In psychology terms this living up to the image of ourselves is called the self –consistency theory. What this means is that however we see ourselves, we will act in a manner that is consistent with that persistent thought.
I prefer to term it as labeling. And I believe it is a Law of consistency rather than a theory. I believe it is so powerful it can make us or break us. Let me give you a couple of examples of how this law works in relation to labeling and how it can affect us.
You will quite often run into people and you will hear such statements as, “I am always struggling financially” or, “I am always late for appointments” or, “I am the type of person who (Fill in blank with any negative you see fit)”
In some cases you may hear expressions such as, “I’ve been in counseling for years and will be for a lot longer” “Just when things are going well in my relationship, I start to have arguments and then they end”
When we consistently say phrases like these to ourselves they become a part of who we are. The law then ensures that we live up to them. We cannot, not live up to them because they are a part of us. As human beings we have to act consistently and congruently with the labels we place on ourselves. So we end up struggling each month, always being late or being in counseling for longer than what is necessary.
And here is the strange part and at the same time the worst part.
Eventually we enjoy struggling, we enjoy being late and we enjoy prolonged counseling.
But, it can get worse.
Labels can also be placed on you by other people. And the higher the authority of the person or the more emotionally attached you are, the stronger the label becomes. You may disagree with me, which is fine, feel free to do so.
A Doctor may tell you that you are depressed. Now because of his authority in your mind (It MUST be true she is a qualified Doctor, she knows her stuff), there needn’t be consistent thoughts; it will be automatic. You will be quick to tell family, friends, co-workers and whoever will listen, which in turn cements the belief that you are indeed depressed.
You will be compelled to act in a way that fully supports the label. And sooner, rather than later, you will actually like being depressed. Depression has become a part of you. It is now your identity.
If you find that hard to believe, how many times do you hear people (happily) telling you about this problem, or that problem they have been suffering with for years on end? Or how they ‘never’ seem to be able to have a successful relationship? Even depressed people do it enjoy telling others who will listen, which reinforces the label, about their suffering.
I know, I once suffered.
Are you placing labels on others? And if so are they healthy? (Incidentally, be mindful how you could be labeling your children; but that’s another blog)
Change your labels. Change the image you have of yourself. Do this and you will quite literally, change your life.
It saved mine.