Overcoming Labeling and Mislabeling (A Cognitive Distortion)

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Thank you for stopping by for my ongoing positive self-talk seriesSelf-love starts with positive self-talk, and all of that starts with you.  Shifting the way that you think requires the ability to recognize the power of your thoughts.  You can learn to love yourself by changing what you think about yourself and how you talk with yourself.   

We all struggle from time to time with cognitive distortions.  The healthiest person you know will struggle with a little cognitive distortion here and a little exaggeration there.  Doing this here and there won’t have an impact on your mental state in the short term.  However, when you start to do it constantly and become your everyday thinking style, your mental health will suffer. 

If you feel that your mental health has suffered to the point that you would benefit from therapy, then take a look at and you can use my link to receive a 20% discount [affiliate link]. It’s my belief that everyone should be able to have access to mental health resources and if you feel that you would benefit from therapy then I encourage you to give it a try.

What does labeling and mislabeling look like?

It is attaching a label to yourself or others and could be negative or positive.  When you attach a label to yourself or another person, it then becomes what is used to describe yourself or the other person.  It carries the belief that this label reflects that person at their core instead of reflecting who they are in that moment.  

Labeling or Mislabeling

For instance, if you attach the label bully to another person, then you may believe that this person at their core is a bully.  When in reality, it may just be a reflection of who they are now. 

Motivational speakers tend to be good at attaching positive labels to themselves in the hope that you will invest in them.  The danger with this is you may also attach this positive label to yourself and if things don’t work out.  You may find yourself swapping out this positive label for a negative label. 

This can also look like the more extreme version of overgeneralization.

This type of thinking is common in people that struggle with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, low self-worth, and self-criticism. 

Labeling yourself

Here are some examples of labeling and mislabeling. 

Concluding that you’re a bad (insert word here) because something did not turn out the way you hoped.    

Failing after trying something new and making the conclusion that you will never be successful. 

Succeeding at something new and believing that you are a winner only to stumble or fail at your next new thing and labeling yourself a loser.    

How these cognitive disotrtions can be harmful.

If you use terms to describe yourself or others, these terms may be “convincing” your brain that you or others are incapable of change.  Every time you or someone does something that supports the label, your brain interprets this as “proof” that the label is true instead of looking at yourself or others as inherently good but sometimes do bad things.  Labeling and mislabeling have a large impact on your self-worth and how you see the world.   

How to know if you are using labeling and mislabeling in your life. 

You might be if…

You are using labels to describe yourself or others, such as “loser,” or “winner,” or “bad” or “good,” in ways that are not entirely accurate?

Or you are using colorful language to describe yourself or another person or an event.  Think back to the last time someone or an event made you angry.  What types of words did you use to describe that person or event in your retelling it?        

How to get out and overcoming overgeneralizations. 

  • I.C.E. – and I’m not talking about “in case of emergency.” 

I’m talking about…

Identify the thought that contains the label. 

Call it what it is – a cognitive distortion or labeling or mislabeling. 

Explore if your use of labeling or mislabeling is accurate.  Perhaps at the time, it felt accurate but is it still accurate? 

  • Separate yourself and others from the label – Look at the shades of grey.  We all operate in shades of grey that fluctuate from worst, best and average. 
Feeling Great book by Dr. David D. Burns
Feeling Great

Check out Feeling Great by David D. Burns, MD [affiliate link].  Worst, Best, Average is a technique that allows you to rate yourself based on characteristics that you have identified in your label.  When you label yourself, the label does not provide you with any specific information.  This technique provides you with specific information and your own score, and areas to work on.      

  • Introduce shades of grey into your vocabulary – when you rate yourself at worst, best, average you are thinking in shades of gray.  You learn that you operate on a range on all these qualities.  Nothing is black-and-white and sometimes you’re doing better and sometimes you’re doing worse.    

Let me know your thoughts and what strategies have worked to overcome labeling and mislabeling in your life.   

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