Why is one woman able to feel good about herself after an embarrassing leak, while another feels humiliated long after an LBL moment? I’ve discovered that it’s not the leak that makes you feel the way you do. It’s the story you tell yourself after the leak that determines how you feel. Without realizing it, you could be telling scary stories to yourself like, “There’s something wrong with me,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m all alone.”
A story is not a fact. It’s simply a way to explain what’s happening to you. When noticing the stories you tell yourself, you’re better able to switch to something more helpful, like “I can handle this” and “I bet I’m not the only one this happens to.” Of course, that’s easier said than done. We women tend to give each character in our LBL story a label – good, bad, villain, victim… And we sometimes put the most dreadful labels on ourselves. Have you labeled yourself the sensitive one? The stick-in-the-mud? The drama queen? Here’s what you need to know about labels and how to let them go, so you’ll be better able to manage LBL, and get on with your life:
● Labels are inaccurate. When you avoid certain social situations, it’s easy to get labeled antisocial, when in fact you’re simply trying to protect yourself from embarrassment. You may love socializing, but find it challenging to put yourself in situations that might bring on LBL. A little creative problem solving can help you plan ahead for leaks and be ready, so you don’t have to miss a thing.
● Labels define your expectations. Expectations can stop you from branching out beyond your label. For example, you may want to exercise your pelvic floor to reduce leaks — but your fear of leaking at the gym is strong. “I’m not someone who risks leaking in public,” you tell yourself. When you expect yourself to say no to the gym, that’s what you do. Your friends may ask and ask you to join them, but over time they come to expect you to decline and they stop asking.
● Good labels are limiting too. The “responsible” person feels pressure to perform. When your body needs rest, this label can tempt you to override your need for self-care. The “perky” person feels pressure to always be upbeat, even when she doesn’t feel that way. The “perfect” person may appear to look good, while suffering silently and feeling alone. Allow yourself to be your whole self, sometimes responsible, and sometimes care free. Sometimes perky, and sometimes quiet. And always perfectly imperfect.
● Labels are sticky. Some last a lifetime. We use labels like loser, fat and disgusting as weapons against ourselves, damaging self-esteem and limiting our vitality. Once you’re known as moody, or standoffish, others tend to keep the label in place. To break free often involves a period of awkwardness, like trying to throw a ball with your less dominant hand. Remind yourself that it’s possible to break free, and well worth the temporary discomfort.
● Labeling is like looking through a filtered lens. If you expect to see something negative about yourself, you’ll find evidence to support your expectations. If you take the filter off and start looking for something more positive, you start to see that too.
What about you? Has your experience with LBL ever caused you to label yourself? How did you break free?