pop-psychology labels

Pop-psychology labels are pernicious and limiting. Low self-esteem for example, is a handy label for those who want to judge others. It is not so useful when judging yourself. (If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I’m not a fan of labels because they tend to stick.)

There are others: attention-seeking, narcissistic, work-shy, in-denial, commitment-phobic, hyperactive, lazy… It’s a long list and we are all in there somewhere, in someone else’s view. Incidentally, have you noticed that they are never flattering?

A label is only one person’s impression of another, at a given moment. It is not a reasonable reflection of who they actually and how they generally behave. People who use labels like this imply (and often believe, more’s the pity), that they understand something deep and meaningful about the person. Of course they don’t.

Of course, labels have their uses, but beware when they are taken as a description of a person. A pop-psychology label  may carry with it the stamp of knowledge or scientific understanding, but it actually reveals misunderstanding and betrays the user as not very capable in their thinking. Snap judgements come easily. It takes time and effort to look behind the label.

The same thing happens when we use a pop-psychology label to describe ourselves; because labels adhere so easily we carry them around as if they describe who we are. We therefore limit who we are and, needless to say, this is not a helpful process.

Pigeon-holing people with labels is a lazy way of thinking about them. Any time I hear a label my knee-jerk reaction is to judge the person using it as short-sighted and bigoted (in that moment, you understand, I’m not labelling them).

Look out for labels, they do more harm than good.If you are in the habit of labelling yourself, stop it now!

As for me, I’m in denial about my own label of ‘a lazy, attention-seeking, narcissistic, work-shy, jack-of-all-trades pensioner’.



I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.


One Comment

  1. curlydogs11 November 30, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I hate labels too and try not to use them or think of them in terms to describe people. But I can’t seem to stop seeing Donald Trump as a psychological Narcissistic man! Yes, I am an American, but having lived in New Zealand for 30 years now I really do “label” myself as a Kiwi! (The person, not the bird!) Ha ha! Actually, I could see myself as the bird too – slow and steady, enjoying life in my own way, not being able to fly, but achieving what I want most in life…peace and harmony! Thanks Barry for this insightful post.

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