Self-Adhesive Labels and the Manager in Your Head

Today’s article is written by Change Coach Lindsey Elliott


I want you to imagine, if you will, a light bulb covered in hundreds of sticky notes. Written on the notes is a variety of words such as:


“Too fat”
“Thinks of others”
“A failure”


The light that shines from the light bulb is covered over by all the sticky labels, until the light gets pretty dim. We all have them, these labels. Concepts about who we are that we believe to be true. We usually have a mix of both ones we would deem positive and others negative. The balance between these will vary from person to person. Certain labels are useful in life – such as man, woman, adult, child, teacher, dentist. They help us to navigate the world. However these are still just concepts that we have all agreed upon, to have a common language. This does help our computer brain make sense of all the sensory stimulation and information it needs to deal with on a daily basis. It’s helpful in society to be able to describe someone as a man or a woman; tall or short for example. That said, even these labels are not totally true, as we see from the experience of trans-gender people who are born into one body, and don’t identify with that gender.


Image of a lit up lightbulb being held in someone's hand

We also have those labels or concepts that we pick up along the way. It might start in school where we are repeatedly told “You are lazy” or “You are really clever”. We move into teenage years and might pick up more labels from our friends or family (“You’re so cool”, “You are a rebel”, “You’re stupid”)….and on and on it goes. Collecting labels from those around us, and also from our inside own heads.



When we are born we are like the light bulb, with no sticky labels on it. Pure, unadulterated consciousness in a body. As we start to gain a sense of separation from our parents we start to acquire concepts about how the world works, and who we are. Now some of this is necessary in order to function in our complex world, to grow up and mature. But so many concepts and labels we acquire are not helpful, or ultimately aren’t true.


The Manager in your head

As we start to pick up these labels, identify with them, and believe them (this bit is crucial), it seems we start to employ a Terms & Condition Manager in our heads. Once the labels are believed, we start to modify our behaviour according to them. The manager will start to tell us what we can and can’t do in life, according to the labels we believe to be true: “I am anxious, therefore I can’t go to that party/apply for that new job/ take my kids to school”. Or “I’ve never succeeded at anything so why should I try now?” Or another favourite “There is something fundamentally wrong with me, so I mustn’t get too close to people or they will find out”. Sometimes these are explicit things we believe to be true, and sometimes they bob about in our unconscious thinking.


Why is any of this a ‘problem’?


In essence, it isn’t a problem! Nevertheless a life lived according to the labels or concepts we believe about ourselves is limited by them. AND the labels are made up, not true and aren’t who we really are anyway. So why would we let them, and the manager in our heads, dictate who we are and what we can achieve in life?


My own experience has been that when I believed that I was a certain type of person, and I believed every fleeting thought (and not so fleeting thought!) about myself to be true, I felt I needed to improve, fix and change myself in order to be a ‘better’ person… in order to feel secure and to have a happier experience of life.


As I came across this life-changing paradigm of how the human experience is created, all that changed. I understand that it is thinking that is creating my feelings, not an objective ‘fact’ about myself that I need to improve. Furthermore, because the very nature of this thought energy is ever-changing, and I seem to have very little control over it, I started to see that identifying with it made little sense. Especially as it would give me polar opposite opinions about myself, even over the course of one day! Sometimes my thinking told me I’m a good mum, sometimes a bad mum; sometimes the perfect weight for me, sometimes not; sometimes I’m great at my job, other times it tells me I’m not.


So what I see from this, is that these polar opposites can’t be BOTH be true. Therefore, neither of them is true. I don’t have to believe any of the labels my mind comes up with to narrate how well I am doing in life. Because it’s all simply created by thought and isn’t some absolute truth. The freedom that comes with understanding this is immense.


Freedom can be found when we can see that all of the concepts and labels we have picked up along the way, are no more true than me stating the sky is green. That every thought we think, or belief we hold so dear about who we are, can be seen for what it is – having no substance or power, other than that which we innocently give it. When we see this for ourselves, we start to take off the sticky labels from our own light bulb, and the essence of who we really are can shine through. Who we really are is the awareness that is aware of all this is going on within our experience!


I see so many amazing and beautiful people seeming to struggle with low self-esteem, it literally makes my heart hurt. Especially when I see that the solution is not more self-improvement, new goals, or better habits so that we have a happier self-image. The solution is clearing away the misunderstanding of how our experience of life, and ourselves is created. The solution is seeing that the self-image is made up. I really hope that even if you can play with the possibility that what I am writing here might be true, that you will find some freedom from identifying with the incessant chatter in your mind.


I invite you to take some time to slow down and to objectively notice when your mind starts telling you all the things that are wrong and right about you, and your life. Ask yourself – what if this isn’t true? See if you can notice if your mind speaks to you in polar opposites as mine does. Happy exploring!


You can learn more about Lindsey here:


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