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Moving Past the Labels Given by Others

Labels and Judgement from OthersSomething that everyone has experienced at one time or another is judgement or prejudice. Whether it’s positive or negative, your job title, economic status, family structure or education are just some of the categories people use to try to grasp an understanding of who you are. In doing so, assumptions are made and judgement is cast. I recently wrote about my expirience with this as a veteran and the response I received was overwhelmingly encouraging but also confirming that my experiences are shared by many.

It made me think about how judgement can be faced as a person going through a separation or a divorce. Whether you are the leaver or the left, if you were granted custody or you weren’t, or if you can co-parent or you can’t, each position and fact automatically gives others a platform to speculate. You are given a label or a moved into a category based on assumptions. Maybe that’s why in a divorce situation people often fall into two extremes: 1) I’m going to tell everyone about what’s happening and get my side of the story out there, or 2) I’m not going to say anything because they are going to judge me either way.

Offensive vs Defensive

When we expirience such a dramatic change in our lives and are faced with a highly emotional situation, it’s tempting to feel like we have to ‘do’ something to combat the perceptions and the vortex of information. “If I immediately go on the offensive then people will know I was the one wronged. I wasn’t the one to cause this destruction, I wasn’t the one who checked out or went against my vows.” It’s easy to get trapped in a thought pattern of thinking that you need to prove you were in the right in order to stop or push off the judgement and shame we feel. Because when a marriage ends, no matter what position you are in, shame is real and it can be strong. 

Most of the time when one jumps into the offensive mode of self-protection that only leaves the other to battle it out from a defensive position. They can either get vocal to combat the words/rumors/positions, or they can suffer in silence. Shame, depression or guilt, even if not entirely warranted, can shut a person down.

Do We Confirm the Judgments?

What if we not only refuse to step into the position of, ‘I have to tell everyone my side’, but also stay clear of retreating or feeling the need to defend ourselves? Would the judgement continue or would it fade away? Is there another route we can take?

Sometimes we unknowingly fan the flames by falling into the judgments received.

The Scorned Ex-Wife…The Narcissistic Ex-Husband…The Bitter Divorcee…

No one wants these titles or to be looked at as filling a stereotypical role, but do we unknowingly perpetrate these assumptions based on our own actions? Does going on the defensive result in the title of bitter, or does acting in a defensive manner create the view of being overly self-involved?

The truth is, there will always be someone who will cast judgement based on your situation and there will be very little you can do about it. The best way to move beyond the cloud of judgement is healing. If you work through your past and unresolved emotions you will be less likely to feel the need to fulfill a certain role. You won’t feel that you have to explain what happened or that you have to combat a rumor you heard. You will know the truth and the truth will no longer instantly trigger shame, anger or guilt. You can speak from a place of calm and rationality without the need to prove anything. If the simple state of living your days, separated from your past and moved on from your perceived title, still causes assumptions by others – oh well.

You are more than a title. You are more than a role. You’re past situation or actions do not have to define who you are today.

There’s a freedom that comes with moving past the opinions of others.

Moving Past the Labels Given by Others

Amy Bellows, PhD

Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.

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APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2016). Moving Past the Labels Given by Others. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Mar 2016
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