Day 898: [Idiot]

I keep getting emails with


as the first word in the subject heading.

That startles me, every time, because I sometimes call myself


when I make a mistake. 

I get so many emails every day (with or without the word


in the subject),  I sometimes miss responding to one, here and there. 

If I call myself


when I miss an email (or for any other reason), that is the cognitive distortion of Labeling, defined as follows:

We generate negative global judgments based on little evidence. Instead of accepting errors as inevitable, we attach an unhealthy label to ourselves or others. For example, you make a mistake and call yourself a “loser,” a “failure,” or an “idiot.” Labels are not only self-defeating, they are irrational, simplistic, and untrue. Human beings are complex and fallible, and in truth cannot be reduced to a label. Consider this: we all breathe, but would it make sense to refer to ourselves as “Breathers”?

Yesterday, in a therapy group at work, we talked, at length, about the cognitive distortion of labeling.

I could label myself


right now, because

  1.  I can never remember if labeling has two or three l’s,
  2. I didn’t take a picture of the topics we discussed in the therapy group (including labeling), and
  3. I haven’t explained why I’m getting emails with the subject heading


However, instead of calling myself


… I would rather

  • Forgive myself for inevitable mistakes.
  • Share this antidote for the cognitive distortion of labeling:

If you label yourself negatively, such as “a fool” or “a loser,” remind yourself that such absolute terms are subjective and meaningless, and that human beings are too complex to be reduced that simplistically. Also, consider the possibility that somebody else may have given you that idea about yourself, and that they were wrong.

  • Explain that those [Idiot] emails refer to my son’s participation in a local production of Green Day’s American Idiot.
  • Show you these non-labeled photos I snapped yesterday (like the “blogger” that I am):



How might you label those photos? I would much prefer that you label them, instead of negatively labeling yourself.

Here‘s a song from the group labeled Green Day:

I am labeling myself “grateful” to all who helped me create this post today and to you — of course! — for being my “reader.”

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , | 44 Comments

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44 thoughts on “Day 898: [Idiot]

  1. I wonder where idiot ranks on the stupidity scale. There’s fool, cretin, imbecile, dufus, moron, dimwit…

  2. I get the BloggyVille email notifications from Belinda of Ireland, Ann. She’s the one who decided to name her blog Idiot Writing despite being one of the finest writers out there. There are people out there who throw the “I word” of judgment around with eyes inward toward insecurity and outward toward sarcasm. Not just American, either, Green Day! Good going, Aaron.

  3. It ruffles my feathers too Ann. Given a choice I would say stupid. Wonder what that Makes me … 😉

  4. I love those blooms amid the urban landscape. I have been known to mutter the word genius- sarcastically- to myself when engaging in an activity that did not turn out as planned. A roll of the eyes usually accompanies it. Nothing like putting a positive spin on my own idiocy 🙂

  5. If you spell labelling with the correct number of ls, you are no idiot – just English 🙂

    • I majored in English, so of course I’d want to use the correct number of ls. You’re right, Derrick — I’m no idiot.

  6. Ann, I get many emails, even when they don’t go in the spam folder. You mean to say this one didn’t go in the spam folder? It just went in your regular email?

    • Some emails go into my spam folder and those usually ARE idiotic. The emails with [Idiot] in the subject heading are all from people involved in the production “American Idiot” and they go into my regular email.

  7. Three l’s in Canada, two in the States! Not an idiot, either way.

  8. Any mention of “idiot” reminds me of the movie “L.A. Story” and the very exclusive restaurant L’Idiot. That’s a bit of a spoiler since the restaurant’s name is spoken in French several times before the spelling is revealed. It may not be the best label for a person, but I do think it’s a fitting name for a restaurant that offers regular and diet dental floss. The label for all the photos, though, would be another I-word: “intriguing”. So there’s another potential definition of idiocy: failing to see what’s interesting in the world.

  9. I have noticed that when i indulge in that internal “idiot” dialogue, which i am quite sure comes from early, formidable, formative training from my mother and s few others, i begin to feel increasingly like i am sinking into a bed of stifling moss – familiar and soft and almost seductive, but suffocating and moldy and frightening. “Go ahead, hate yourself, here is proof you are an idiot, once again” . Noticing i was resorting to “idiot”, lately, i recently took a few moments to observe this survival strategy and experimented with it . As i allowed this distortion to proliferate, even for the ten or so minutes I succumbed to it, i stayed aware of how impactful it was on my behavior and spirit.
    Transactional Analysis named this voice, the internalized critical parent , a child’s formulation – created in the service of our efforts to learn from our real parent. The ogres that form out of the lessons, conscious or not, taught to us by our parents who struggled to find ways to teach us how to protect ourselves – (yes, i think self loathingor self admonishment is a distorted result of efforts to keep ourselves safe) demonstrate how often well intended parenting tactics misused shaming and punitive actions to try and teach us how to be safe.
    In short, i think it may be helpful to befriend this relativrly primitive young early internalized parent- acknowledge her efforts and then relieve her of the responsibilty of taking care of the adults we have become. She/he is little and we are now grown up, wise, and able to take care of , comfort and even, in some more practical and realistic ways, protect her.

  10. Glad you explained why ‘idiot’ was in the subject of your emails as I was having a hard time figuring that out since I’d forgotten the name of the play.
    Glad they weren’t personal. If only we weren’t as personally verbally abusive to ourselves! I am getting better – but not quite good yet. I often catch myself right as I begin to call my self a name and change it to something positive.

    • Yes, Emilie! If only we weren’t as personally verbally abusive to ourselves! Personally, I think this is genius.

  11. “The Idiot” is a novel written by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

    “In all of Dostoevsky’s works I’ve read thus far, Myshkin [The prince, main character of the novel] is easily the most well-rounded, authentically detailed, and ‘sane’ major character the writer created, so this makes the question of the title’s true referent all the more pertinent, and perplexing in its lack of critical discussion. Another avenue of thought for the title’s meaning could be that it does principally refer to Myshkin [the main character], but not for the obvious reasons, but because we realize that he is intelligent enough to recognize the flaws that the other characters mock and tease him of, yet chooses to do nothing to improve his lot. Certainly, this is ‘idiotic’, in the common vernacular, and as idiotic as any of the other characters’ actions.”-via

    An idiot could be a very ethical person, yet called an “idiot”.

    “In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.”-
    Walt Whitman

  12. yeoldefoole

    OMG, when I saw that title I was terrified that you’d chosen to write about me (and that my cover was blown)….

  13. Ann, I find that I am relieved that there is no song called Canadian idiot! ❤
    Diana xo

  14. I try not to use the word idiot and can tell you if I got an email with the word idiot in the title I would be like what the bloody hell is with that

    • I was like that, too, Joanne, until I figured out it was about the play “American Idiot.” Don’t ask me why the bloody hell they didn’t use the word “American” in the title, instead. Great to see you here, as usual.

  15. I refuse to repost memes that carry negative messages. The most surprising abusers are from ‘positive thinking’ sites. So I would be turned off by any one addressing me as “Idiot.” You definitely aren’t, Ann. That play should embrace its full name so that there is absolutely no confusion. 😉

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