How to deal with unhealthy body labels


Do you ever feel like you’re wearing certain labels when it comes to your body?

Labels like fat, thin, ugly, old ….?

Body labels can form harmful stereotypes that damage self-esteem and body image.

The worst thing about these ‘labels’ is that they don’t come from you.

You’ve acquired them from people or circumstances external to you.

If you feel defined by labels that are getting you down, I’m sharing a technique to help you ditch unhelpful labels and change how you view yourself.

Watch or read below:

Body labels

As humans we have a tendency to put people in boxes and create stereotypes around them.

If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been put in a box that doesn’t fit the real you, it can be harmful to your sense of self.

The labels put on bodies are harmful to self-worth, self-esteem and body image if you allow yourself to be defined by them.

Think about the kinds of labels that exist around bodies and appearance.  There are ideals around what makes someone a ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ person for example.  There are also stereotypes around ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ people.

If you’re someone who feels labelled or defined by a hurtful stereotype, please know that you do not have to let these labels run your life.  Just because someone else has given you a label, it doesn’t mean it is true, or that you have to live up to it.

Ditching the labels

To help you ditch unhelpful labels that limit you, I’ve got an exercise to make changes in how you see yourself.

This is how it works:

Get some sticky notes.  On each write a word or phrase that represents a label you have worn.  These might be things others have said about you, or things you have said to yourself.  Make sure to include both positive and negative labels.

Take each one in turn and decide if you will:

Keep it –  if you like it, agree with it and its useful.  You may want to put it somewhere that you can see it.

Reword it – there may be some element of truth in the word or phrase, but the word may not be useful to you.  How can you reword it to make it more useful to you?

Reject it – if the word doesn’t reflect who you are or how you want to see yourself, throw it away.  Then write some new words for yourself that will be useful to you in your life now.

Dealing with the ‘fat’ label

Say, for example, that you have worn the label of ‘fat’ for much of your life.

This label was one given to you at a young age, and the meaning associated with it was that you were lazy and undisciplined.

Such a stereotype is hurtful and harmful, so when doing this exercise, it’s unlikely you would chose to keep it.

If you identify as a larger person, but want to ditch the stereotype associated with ‘fat’, you might choose to keep the word fat, but reclaim it as a neutral body descriptor (which is really what it is!).

Or you might want to reword it to something that is more acceptable to you like ‘larger bodied’ or ‘plus size’.

If you don’t identify as a larger person and the label is something that doesn’t apply to you, you can choose to reject it, instead selecting some new words for how you see yourself.

In this instance, you may decide to take the focus off your body altogether and choose to label yourself according to your personality traits or values e.g. honest, compassionate, kind, hard-working.

Choosing your own labels is empowering, because it allows you to decide how you see yourself, which impacts on the way you feel and behave, so give this exercise a try.

I’d love to know what labels you’ve been carrying and what you are going to do with them.  Please leave a comment below.

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