Day 1072: One label fits all

I’ve written before (here, here, here, here, and here) about the cognitive distortion of labeling:

Labeling or Name-calling.
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. 

I often witness people labeling themselves harshly.  Whenever I hear an unhelpful label, I invite people to consider changing that label to something less toxic and more conducive to growth and healing. 

Yesterday, in therapy, when I heard the labels “lazy” and “stupid,” I suggested an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all  replacement to any unhelpful, habitual label.



Let’s see if this works.  Imagine, for the moment, any harsh label you apply to yourself, especially during times of anxiety, depression, and stress.  Now, replace that label with this:


Did that work?

How might you humans label any of these other photos I snapped yesterday?

How might you label this whole post?

Thanks to all humans who helped me create this one-label-fits-all post and special thanks to all those who are  finding this blog fit to visit, here and now.


Categories: personal growth, photojournalism, Psychotherapy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “Day 1072: One label fits all

  1. You have produced a positive label

  2. To use the label “human” denotes that we are perfect in our imperfections, but that from time to time, we find the need to chew on our pain for awhile.

  3. I can remember the refrain from my father as I was growing up and had made a mistake I was ruminating over: You’re only human” Hadn’t thought of that in years. So true Ann. I like that sparkly house- it would make me smile every time I passed it!

  4. With age I’ve learned to take things lightly and that humans need labels precisely because they are human. If you see animals, they do have an ego but it’s a very basic instinctual one, unlike that of human’s. Human’s ego is multi-layered, so it’s amazing to think of how many “labels” a person may be carrying, no matter their age.

    I find it’s good to be aware of this also, because “labels” are sometimes linked with “roles” and “games people play”. A person may be labeled as “stubborn” since very early in childhood, and may be acting up this role in an unconscious manner. People may tell the person, “you’re so stubborn!”, believing wholeheartedly that the person is indeed so, when in reality, it’s a “role” the person learned to play since very early in childhood.

    So character needs to be taken with a grain of salt because even when there could be genetic dispositions, there are also learned behaviors involved which have to do with labeling. Just how does one know is part of being human. The wise simply stop asking and accept others with silence.

    • On the other hand, one does not “have” to accept anyone if they don’t want to, but at least, for me part of wisdom is to be mindful of it, at least, to observe the “label” or behavior that is surfacing from that person.

    • I am pleased to accept your wise comments, Maria.

  5. I like that “life-changing magic of tidying up” I think if you house is clutter free, your mind is clutter free. Like I always say, there is nothing like a tidy house to put you at ease. I like the sparkly house – how do they do that?

    • I like you and your comments, SD. That is a book about “the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo. I don’t know how the humans who live in that house did the magic of the sparkles — it looks like a mesh of lights. I think you’ll be seeing more human photos of that, soon.

      • There is a guy down the street with the same sparkly lights on his house at night. I must go ask him how he does that. It kind of reminds me of those lights that the ghost hunters use, to pick up movements of apparitions. I have never actually seen any of them catch any movement but it sure looks groovy.

  6. “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” Human works for me. Thank you for the label.

  7. One label fits all: showtime!

  8. I think I’d label this post not only positive, but encouraging and highly motivational. I definitely feel it is well worth applying in my life. :O)

  9. Anne,

    First, let me say I admire your positive spirit; unfortunately, I can’t agree that positive is always the right answer for anyone. Usually, yes, but, not always. Reality, harsh and negative as it may be, is often a more useful lesson….

    Given the FACT that 98% of humanity IS lazy, AND stupid, I think ‘human’ is a good all-purpose label. as useful as ANY label, which is to say, useless in the face of ego-driven imagination….

    Mama Gump had it right; stupid is as stupid does. All I need for proof is to read the daily headlines to find clear, incontrovertible proof of this principle in action. And, as we all know, the first thing a principle does, in action, is to kill people, one way or another….

    gigoid, the dubious

    (I am a retired psychotherapist, so, I do understand what you are trying to get through to your clients; I just don’t happen to believe it will matter in the long run… Our species is doomed, and, by our own hands…)

    gigoid, the dubious

  10. The beauty of “human” is it’s inclusive. Lately I seem to find myself repeating again and again that however we label someone, or however we label ourselves, we’re still individuals. A label only means what we want it to mean but no label sums up anyone. At least “human” is a label that speaks to what we share.

  11. Human. Like that.

  12. My lebal is namuh.

  13. Ah, human! Yes, that works. Make mistakes, don’t we? And did you get take out latkes??? Yum.

    • Thanks for this delicious comment. I got latkes at the cafeteria of the hospital where I work, with sour cream AND applesauce. That worked for me!

  14. Ann, I really really like this post. First, as I’ve said before, I love the collage effect — it allows me to see a lot of pics at one time, and see how they all relate. And you are right — why we choose such negative labels for ourselves. Human is a gentle yet strong word. And it says it all.

  15. Thank you from this human. 🙂

  16. Oh I love the sparkly house!

    Labels – well, how else would we know if we needed the normal or delicate cycle? 😉 I’m okay with labels for the most part, as long as they’re not mean or derogatory. Sometimes, they can help show us an area we need to work on. Negative labels are so bad (and isn’t that a label too?) and they can be so damaging. People will play those tapes forever if they hear them as children. It’s hard to overcome. People who’ve heard too many negative labels do need the gentle cycle though. 🙂

  17. Pingback: Day 1838: Holes | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  18. Pingback: Day 2245: Expendable | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  19. Pingback: Day 2639: Metaphors | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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