Stop Answering to Negative Names

Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the on-going battle of wits between Mahatma Gandhi and a Professor Peters when Gandhi was studying law at the University College of London.

At one point, Professor Peters, who carried a serious grudge against Gandhi, returns an exam paper to him with the word “idiot” scrawled across the bottom. A few minutes later, Gandhi approaches the professor and says, “Mr. Peters, you signed the sheet, but you did not give me a grade.”

There’s some doubt about the anecdote’s veracity, but, nevertheless, it’s a clever story. And a good reminder that we don’t have to accept negative names others call us, or — even more damaging — those derogatory names we call ourselves. Such as:

“I’m not creative.”
“I’m unimaginative.”
“I’m a poor speaker.”
“I’m dull.”
“I’m stupid.”
“I’m weak.”
“I’m clumsy.”
“I’m scatterbrained.”
“I’m simple-minded.”

Those are just a few names people call themselves when listening to the Negative News Network broadcasting in their heads. Such names often stop them from being creative. From being good speakers. From being athletic. From being inspired. From eagerly participating in their own lives.

Maybe they were called the names years ago by parents or coaches, bosses or peers. Or maybe they actually bestowed the names on themselves. Either way, such disparaging labels are roadblocks to creativity, happiness and success.

How about you? Any negative names lodged in your mind? If so, take a tip from the Gandhi story and cast those names aside. A few suggestions:

1. Listen up.
Pay attention to names you call yourself — the words that follow “I am…” See if they are fear-filled, ominous or destructive.

2. Write down.
Put the words on paper and examine them in the light of day. Are the negative names true? Are you absolutely sure?

3. Check your pulse.
How do you feel when you accept those names for yourself? List those feelings and what the names prevent you from creating and accomplishing. Ask yourself how you would feel and what you would create and accomplish if you never again accepted those names. Write it all down.

4. Take action.
If the names aren’t true and don’t fit, determine ways to remind yourself they’re bogus. For instance, if you catch yourself saying you aren’t creative, refer to a “highlight reel” (on paper or in your head) of previously successful ideas you’ve developed, imaginative projects you’ve created, tough problems you’ve solved. Give testimonials to your creativity.

If, however, a negative name does happen to be true, determine action steps to make changes. For example, if you’re telling yourself you’re a poor speaker, perhaps take classes, attend seminars or receive coaching on public speaking.

5. Stay grateful and curious.
Negativity vanishes when we’re living in gratitude and practicing curiosity. If you catch yourself going negative, find ways to be grateful for your many resources. And let curiosity lift your outlook by leading you to fresh inspiration, new adventures and unique opportunities.

“It ain’t what they call you, but what you answer to,” said comedian W.C. Fields.

Decide now to answer to favorable names — and commit to assigning positive names to yourself.

© 2019 Sam Harrison.  All rights reserved.


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