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How a resilient person moves past labels no longer serving them

We often get our first labels as children; something a resilient person has to challenge as they grow into the professional they want to be.

As a child, you may have been ‘the smart one’ `and your brother, ‘the naughty one’. While given as children these labels often stick around far longer than they should. They can even follow you into your career.


  1. A resilient person unpicks the labels that no longer serve and questions if they ever did!?
  2. First ask: ‘Who do these labels really serve?
  3. A resilient person then asks:

A resilient person chooses to unpick the labels they’ve been given, or even adopted themselves to see if they still help. All too often they are now getting in the way of who you could become.

As an ICF MCC accredited coach, I’d encourage you to unpick the labels holding you back: 

1. A resilient person unpicks the labels that no longer serve and questions if they ever did!?

I was reminded of this when speaking with Mairi, a professional woman, after a talk I’d given to her law firm.  She complimented me on how confident I appeared, giving such a big talk to ‘all these people’.

I thanked her but admitted I’d always been deemed the ‘shy one’ when I was a teenager. She was surprised but agreed that people could change over time.

With a smile, I asked Mairi: ‘How have you changed then?’ 

She looked taken aback I’d asked, so I suggested we sit down. She agreed, and explained her father had routinely said ‘You’re a nervous and anxious person, just like me.’ That description had defined her for many years.

As we talked about all the ways she had indeed changed, Mairi became quite animated.

2. First ask: ‘Who do these labels really serve?

Mairi continued: ‘I’ve stayed in Scotland, so they haven’t really seen me in action like my colleagues have since I was 18 – over 20 years ago! I’ve done so many things that they can’t identify with. I love them, but I think those labels were given to me, more to serve them, than to serve me.’ 

We sat in the auditorium, which had now mostly emptied. Mairi’s pace slowed down and said ‘I’m not sure those labels were ever really true. Or perhaps I just needed to get away from them to prove to myself that they didn’t have to be’.

A resilient person must do this. They question the assumptions made about them by others, as well as the labels they’ve given themselves.

3. A resilient person then asks:

  • What labels did I have in the past?
  • Do they still serve me?
  • How have I changed?
  • What label or description would serve me now? 
  • Was this label ever really true?
Let me know the labels you’ve left behind and how you shed them? If this topic resonates check out:

How resilient people deal with bosses who never give praise

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