Have you ever failed so badly that you were labeled a “low performer” or “the one who lost a client”? Have you ever been in the wrong place, where you were labeled the outsider because you did not fit in? At some point maybe you were new in a role and you were labeled “the junior” who will fail with no doubts.
Have you ever been given the label of being too loud, too rebel or too different?
Have you ever had a tough period in your life that impacted your work and caused you to be labeled as “not good enough”?
Have you ever disappointed someone at your workplace with a behavior that you regret now, even though at that time it was the best you could be?
Have you ever been labeled based on your behavior or results under circumstances that did or did not depend on you?
If you were in such situations or similar ones before, keep reading.
You adopted the “label”
In my leadership career, at some point I took over another manager’s position. The team was already formed and it was my first time joining a team that was already built. As I previously stated in another post, I failed. Big time! I failed so badly, that my job was put in danger and this is not even the worst part of this story. My team rejected me and each day was a nightmare. This is kind of a happy-ending story though because with a mentor that I encountered in that period and with other managers who didn`t lose faith in me, things got better.
This is not about how I handled the failure though, but rather about the label I put on myself. Yes, you read correctly. I put a label on myself. The “failure” label, the “almost got fired” label, the “not good enough” label. I could go on and on with the list of labels I put on my head at that time.
The awful thing about these labels is that I wore them in permanence. Sometimes I managed to keep them hidden, at least until the moment a new failure appeared around me. Even if we`re talking about a little failure or a low difficulty moment, the labels showed up to remind me that I was most likely going to fail. Because if I failed in the past, why not failing again? Furthermore, I was convinced that everyone else was expecting me to fail just to validate my labels. I was living under the impression that the others labeled me. Maybe they did, but I did so too. Then, how can I blame them?
The risk of becoming your “label”
When you wear a label you tend to act accordingly. In my case the “failure” label hunts me very often. I feel the need and the urge to prove my labels to be wrong. If something goes wrong, I feel like everyone will say: “of course she failed. She’s done it before and apparently she’s learned nothing”.
If you focus too much on these labels, you risk to become all that they represent. You are not only your failures. Learn to take into consideration your achievements as well.
You are not your “label”
We are humans. Some of us strive for perfection. But let`s be honest. We`re not perfect so failure is part of our DNA. But this does not mean that failure defines us. It doesn`t mean that if we fail, we earn a label immediately. Yes, maybe we`ll fail again. Maybe we`ll fail more than others or in different ways.
Sometimes you fail because you don`t know better, other times because you are in the wrong place or because you were not prepared. It doesn`t matter. You are not your label. Don`t let it take a toll on you. Don`t go around showing it off as if it was that award for bad movies. Do not act like a consequence of that label. Avoid becoming your label!
How to get over your labels
I`m not saying that you must forget your failures. Not at all. Failures have their role in your journey. Do not forget them, but change the way you look at them: take the failures as valuable lessons;
Acknowledge what went wrong and make things right. Make things better.
Find a person you trust and talk about this. You`ll be surprised to find out that he is not perfect either.
Regain trust in yourself. Look how far you have gone!
Count your success stories too!
Measure your progress. You`ll be amazed of how much you have learned and how much you have grown.
Don`t allow others define you and your actions.
You are not your labels! Let them go. It`s time, you survivor! 😉