How to ditch the labels?

2 de maio de 2024

Fat, skinny, ugly, weak, show-off, bossy, broken, needy, moody—there are so many labels. Have you ever considered how can these labels affect us? Why are they so hard to overcome? 

Unfortunately, most of us have already been labelled at some point in our lives, some more, others less. However, if these labels aren’t addressed on time, they can carry a psychological burden that can affect our habits and even our professional future.

 According to a recent survey by the British anti-bullying organisation “Ditch the Label,” 2.5 million young people in the UK are bullied every year. Mr Liam Hackett, CEO of Ditch the Label, explains that labels significantly impact health, self-esteem and development.

Following Rebecca Barrie, Psychotherapist and Ditch the Label Trustee: “What is most alarming about these statistics is the number of victims of bullying who ‘act out their emotions. 27% of people self-harm due to bullying – causing themselves actual physical harm – and more than one in 10 people attempt suicide. These statistics are shocking, but I think they could be reduced with better mental health intervention and support`”, says Mrs Barrie. 

Young people with special needs or who are identified as GLS are most likely to receive labels. Race and religion are also linked to bullying rates. 

Mostly, bullying is presented by young people who have already gone through stressful and traumatic situations. According to research by the entity Ditch the Label, they are more likely to label others.

“Bullying is a learned behaviour. We will not stop until this is over,” says Dr Liam Hackett, Founder and CEO. 

Following the latest Annual Bullying Survey 2020, the report highlights that bullying as a whole has increased by 25% year-on-year. The political fall-out is a significant contributor, with 1-in-3 of the young people surveyed saying that they believe the behaviour of politicians influences how people treat each other in society. 

The first step to reversing these numbers is knowing the problem. If we know someone being bullied, we must encourage them to talk, express their feelings, and support them in getting expert help. In describing the distress of the bullying through talking, the victim will start to manage the pain safely and healthily and be less inclined to self-harm”, explains Rebecca.

Founded in 2012, the British entity “Ditch the Label” operates in the United Kingdom, the United States and Mexico and is dedicated to attending young people from 12 to 25. The organisation provides help through surveys and campaigns in partnerships with celebrities and major brands. Besides, they offer personalised support via digital mentors and an advanced technological system. It sends alerts to its users when they use specific terminology, which shows vulnerability and tendencies to suicide. Since its foundation, 1 million young people have received direct support, and the goal is to increase this number even more.


No one can control what others think or say, but we can choose our own thoughts, according to transpersonal psychology. 

External labels affect us to the extent that we feed or validate internal counterfeit labels. Any external value that finds an internal resonance is because the internal value exists. But, once they are reworked, deconstructed, they cease to exist”, explains the transpersonal psychotherapist Evanise M. Zwirtes.

Nothing or no one can lead us, in this or any form, without us allowing it, and this permission is often quite unconscious. The woman who feels inferior when she receives the external labels reacts to shouting, cursing, and accusing society. But, in fact, these are projections of her own psyche. That is why a woman needs to learn to respect herself and love herself so that there will be respect for others in the society she works in, says Evanise.

The human being is malleable. The adult can learn to think differently and modify what was introduced during childhood or adolescence. When the woman develops her self-worth and self-esteem, external labels, which are social, may exist but no longer affect her. 

“Each person, if we are going to analyse it, has gone through traumas and has had experiences that impacted their lives. But, no matter what happened, according to scientifically proven evidence, if a person wants to, she can overcome any label, any bodily experience that has affected her,” explains Evanise.


All of us adults still have an infantile psyche that needs to be worked on. What differs is its extent. Most of us have developed intellectual intelligence, not emotional intelligence, and we still behave like real children. And that is what people need to be very aware of. 

That is why we see so much disorder, fights and conflicts in relationships. Because there are projections. People don’t know each other and project their disturbed emotions outward. They have not learned to have self-knowledge, let alone self-control. And when they learn this process of self-examination and self-knowledge, they become independent of external factors. A woman must learn to overcome her own labels. Although negative labels still exist, we can go beyond them.

We must never choose the role of victim and accuse our parents, the school, and society, but take on the responsibility to develop internally. “Our parents tried to give us the best they could. Certainly, they had a much worse childhood than we did. Blaming others for past events is a waste of time,” says Evanise.

 Evanise advises reading good self-help books for internal development, participating in meetings in therapeutic groups, developing spirituality, and, if necessary, seeking professional help.

 “There are therapeutic processes that enhance awareness, regardless of what has happened in the past. Because those who seek the approval of others have not learned to approve themselves,” says Evanise.


“As a child, I was constantly called fat, gas cylinder, a garden gnome and many other bad names because I was chubby and I’ve always been short. At 19, I became a single mother, the pressure from society increased, and the labels continued. When I decided to come to London to pursue a better life for my son, I had to leave him in Brazil to be looked after by mother. The labels got even worse, which triggered a deep depression, and then I developed cancer. Besides the conventional treatment, I sought a psychologist to help me work on my self-esteem to overcome the disease. And I went back to drawing, a childhood passion I had abandoned for lack of encouragement. I express myself through my drawings. It is a way of putting out all my frustrations, anger, and feelings of anguish but also of joy. Today, I value the special moments with my friends and family much more than material goods that life can offer me”.
Daiane Medeiros, 38, visual artist and educator of children with special needs, London, United Kingdom.

“During my whole life, I received labels, mainly for being gay and overweight. Recently, I have started showing my white hair, and now I am labelled as sloppy. I’ve decided to come out only in my adulthood. I’ve spent many years of my life hiding who I really was. If I had a choice, I would be heterosexual because it would be much easier to live in society, especially here in Brazil, which we know is still a sexist society. Many people do not respect others’ choices. I have lived together with my partner for 8 years, and even today, we are afraid of being beaten on the streets when we go hand in hand. We have to have eyes on our backs. We plan to get married later this year and adopt two children. My parents still pretend that I’m not gay. Today, I deal much better with my sexuality. I practice holistic flower therapy, but I still occasionally suffer from panic attacks. All the difficulties we face during life contribute to our internal growth. Today, I see that the problem is not in who is labelled, but in who does the labels.”
Ana Paula Quintela, 49, is a journalist and owner of the book publisher Volpi & Gomes, Santos, Brazil.

“At 11 years old, my mother took me to a doctor because I was overweight. The doctor put me in front of the mirror and said, “Society would never accept you being fat like that”. I still remember that scene clearly today. It was something that affected me really deep inside, and some years later, I developed anorexia. I was in therapy for a few years with a psychologist, and I managed to overcome the disease. Today, when I look at myself in the mirror, I no longer see my distorted image. I can see myself as I really am. However, I realise that the labels related to my appearance affected me much more than the labels related to being married but not wanting to have children. That decision was made when I was still a teenager, and I am very certain of this choice. For this reason, I do not feel pressured by society, even less by my husband, because I have always been outspoken on this subject. The labels do not affect me, and people respect my decision”.
Luciane Mallmann, 42 years old, lawyer, London, UK

“I have always received labels in my whole life. When I was a child, I was skinny. They called me Olivia Palito, a super skinny and tall character from a famous cartoon in my childhood. All my friends already had boyfriends in college, and I still didn’t have one. I remember being the last one in my class to lose virginity. I wanted to eliminate that ‘weight’ right away to be like the other girls.

I have recently ended an 8-year marriage, and the fact that I’m divorced doesn’t bother me. When I was married, I had a very comfortable life. However, I walked out of my marriage penniless. But, I love my life today, my financial independence. I could have chosen to be a victim, but I decided to fight. I don’t want to be the ‘trophy wife’ anymore. I am looking for a more equal relationship today.

I work on my self-esteem daily through readings, motivational lectures, videos and meditation. I have always been considered a strong person who goes after things and always gets what I want.

But for that, I take good care of my self-esteem, so I don’t let myself to be overwhelmed by society’s labels. If we are not happy in our current situation, we must have the courage to change it. It is much easier to complain and whine, but it is not the path to self-development and emotional independence.
Flávia Castro, 38 years old, entrepreneur, London, UK