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The negative labels for totally normal human behaviours that we need to ditch ASAP (because actually, being 'emotional' is what makes you human)

Instagram: @sacree_frangine
Instagram: @sacree_frangine

And you're not bossy, you're just damn good at your job.

Clinical psychologist Dr Soph is the author of A Manual for Being Human, and believes that people shouldn’t have to wait until they are struggling to find out how to manage and understand their emotions, and other deeply normal aspects of being human.

One of the ways we can learn to love and accept ourselves is to break down the negative barriers society has created around totally normal human behaviours.

Here are some of those negative and damaging labels we need to ditch, in order to silence our inner self-critic and normalise the very behaviours that make us what we are: human...

Humans like to categorise everything. Good/bad, tall/short, animal/vegetable/mineral. Labelling is an important skill as it helps us make sense of the world around us, and means we can communicate ideas to each other quickly. If I tell you I am tall, blonde and a psychologist, you have a vague idea of who I am. If I tell you I also have a (modern, shag-style) mullet, a septum ring and tattoos, suddenly that image you have of me changes. I wonder what picture you have in your mind now.

Labels and categorisation helps us... to a point.

When we label our own or other people’s behaviour, the label stops us from getting curious about the truth. You perhaps already know this. Can you think of a time you flunked an exam or had negative feedback at work and the label “failure” flooded your brain, making you believe you as a person had failed and that there was little hope of a glowing future for you?

If so, this label (and your inner critic, which trotted out this label) likely made you miserable, utterly unmotivated and stopped you from seeing the reality of your situation: Yes, this one piece of work did not go as well as hoped, but it is only one moment of your long life so far, it does not define you, and you have the option to use the feedback as a learning moment, which will help you do better in the future.

When we label, we don’t just shut down our curiosity, we also often inaccurately describe ourselves and others. As we live in a society that is full of judgement, with little access to quality psychological understanding many of our labels are, to put it, simply wrong. My main job as a clinical psychologist is showing people that the behaviours they think of negatively and criticise themselves and others for are actual normal human behaviours, which can be understood and embraced.

Some common examples, which I want you to be aware of are:

Needy

How many times have I heard friends saying they are ‘needy’ because they want to see their new lover or long term partner more? Or because they are going through something difficult and require the support of their friends and loved ones to get through? Neediness is almost always categorised as a negative, as if needing others is a flaw or a weakness.

Humans are built to exist in communities. They are hardwired to connect (think of our earliest ancestors, they would have died should they have been alone). We need each other, and wanting to be near people or to gain their support is one of the most human experiences of all.

Attachment theorist, John Bowlby, once said “we are only as needy as our unmet needs”. So if you feel “needy”, instead of berating yourself, figure out what you are in need of and communicate it. If you want to know whether someone likes you, ask them! If you want more contact from them, ask for it too!

Do it all knowing you are being an adult human who knows what they want and need and can ask for it. YES!

Emotional

“They’re/I’m so emotional” is the negative way we often describe people who show or talk about their feelings with others, as if experiencing emotions is strange or to be frowned upon.

All humans live in emotion-filled bodies but as we aren’t taught about this in school and we are often told “chin up” or to “pull yourself together” when upset or struggling as a child, many of us have negative connotations around emotions and have worked hard to push away any emotion that is not happiness. Hence why we negatively label anyone who hasn’t shut their emotions off in the same way.

The reality is, emotions are the reason you and I are here today. It was anxiety that had our ancestors predicting what dangers could befall them, so they could problem-solve their way out of a potential future threat. It was fear that had them running from dangerous animals, and anger that had them fighting to gain back precious resources, or for their life.

When we understand that we are all emotional, and that being emotional is more than a good thing, we can stop fearing the very things that make us human.

The next time your inner critic or someone else calls you emotional you can simply say “Yes! I am, because I am human!”

Attention-seeking

“Oh, they're just doing that for attention, don’t give them what they want” - expressions I have heard adults say in response to a range of situations. Such as when children or even other adults proudly announce their talents, or dress up to the nines, or conversely when they sob their heart out displaying those pesky emotions we have been taught we are meant to hide.

The two main issues with the term attention-seeking are:

Many of the behaviours we describe as attention-seeking are actually people just living their lives in ways that make us feel either envious (such as when people show they are proud of who they are, and how they look), or uncomfortable and overwhelmed (such as when we see people sharing their emotions publicly). For many of us, envy and discomfort are intolerable emotions, so instead of dealing with how we feel, we label the behaviour as attention-seeking minimising that other person, making ourselves feel more powerful (and ultimately better) in the process.

Even when someone is doing something that is actively trying to seek our attention, this is not necessarily a bad thing. All human beings want and need attention. Attention is how we grow and thrive, it is the human equivalent of sunlight to plants. When people need connection, they will (usually) do whatever it takes to ensure they get it and that is smart!

If someone you know is genuinely seeking your attention, instead of shutting them down or negatively labelling their behaviour, offer them the connection they need.

Should your inner critic or another person tell you you’re attention-seeking, you can ask yourself, am I or others uncomfortable with emotions or confidence, or am I looking for connection? If the answer is the latter, return to the “needy” section above and follow the steps outlined there!

Bossy

We weren’t only socialised to believe emotions were to be avoided when we came into the world, there were many other rules we were taught too. Such as: there are only two genders (not true), girls are meant to be pretty and compliant, and boys are meant to be confident leaders. One of many issues with this is that when girls and/or women tell others what they want or need, and decide not to please others before they assert themselves, they are often labelled “bossy” - A negative label that suggests a character flaw in the person who has learned to speak up for themselves, or to be able to efficiently delegate tasks in the workplace.

If you have been called bossy, consider whether you need to take this comment seriously. For example, are your staff or partner more likely to meet your needs if you work on your bedside manner? Or, is this label negatively describing normal human behaviour in a sexist way? If it’s the latter, you can ignore it, or maybe even gently challenge the commenter in return with a question such as “I am curious as to whether, if I were a man, you would use the word bossy to describe my actions”.

In short, there are so many labels used each day that negatively describe normal human behaviour. Start paying attention to the times these words come up, either in your own negative self-talk or in conversation with others. When you hear them, return to the information we just discussed. And, if you get called bossy when you call someone out for these terms... you know what to do!

Original article appeared on GLAMOUR UK |Author Ali Pantony

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