Don’t Let Others Tell You Who You Are

Is someone defining you in a way that you don’t like?

I had lunch with my mother yesterday.

We discussed my upcoming plans to move to Brisbane, Australia and my business.

(Note to self: my mother has too much of a say into everything that goes on in my life!)

My mother perceived that there was a lack of organization in my life and told me that I’m not a good organizer.

My mother is a super organizer. She has organized a family of seven for many years (including a move across the world.) She organizes wards and staff in a hospital, and she used to organize various businesses.

She freaks out when my tax isn’t done a few months before it’s due. She freaks out because I don’t have residency for New Zealand and it isn’t organized yet even though I don’t need it right now. She freaks out because I don’t know where exactly I’m going to be living in Brisbane yet.

When my mother tells me that I’m not organized, I feel inadequate for a moment.

And actually, it’s not even true. I’m a good organizer. I have my own little business and I don’t screw up in the organization department very often. I’ve held down a variety of teaching jobs in foreign countries (teachers need to be organized!). I’ve taken the CELTA course (certificate for teaching English to adults) and passed with merit (that took a lot of organization). I’ve moved home at least once a year for the last five years (some of it was abroad). I’ve organized lots of travel plans and arrived at my destination in one piece.

How can I be a bad organizer?

My point with this little story is that sometimes people will define you in a way that you don’t like. They will tell you that you’re lazy, shy, disorganized, selfish, weak, etc. Is any of that true? Yes and no.

It’s true because I’m sure you can always find examples in your life when you were lazy, shy, disorganized or weak. I know I can. And based upon that one time, that person has pigeon-holed you as a shy or disorganized person. And they are telling you that that’s what you are.

My mum thinks I’m a disorganized person partly because when I was sixteen, I nearly missed the plane for a school trip to Spain. I was doing a Spanish language exchange in Madrid for ten days. I had a letter which told me what time to be at the airport for. But I’ve always had trouble understanding the difference between am and pm (a bit like how I have trouble with my left and right.) Yes, I was blonde and dippy. So, at 12.30pm when the plane needed to leave at the airport, I was shopping for shoes and hadn’t packed yet, thinking we were going to leave at 12.30am (I didn’t know that planes don’t leave at night!!)

In the end, I managed to catch that plane. When the school phoned my mum to ask where the hell I was, my mum went into my room, scraped up everything that was on my floor (basically a load of damp towels) and put it into a suitcase and came to pick me up from the shopping centre. It was all good in the end. I got yelled at, had a nice pair of new shoes, caught the plane, and landed in Madrid with a suitcase full of dirty underwear and wet towels.

I did have trouble explaining to my host family why I had packed no clean clothes (in my deficient Spanish) and I suspect they thought I was one sandwich short of a picnic.

But I’m not sixteen anymore. These days, I know the difference between am and pm.

So I’m no longer a bad organizer.

Maybe there’s someone in your life who makes you feel bad for being deficient in some way and reminds you of it regularly based upon something you did once or used to do.

You become who you tell yourself that you are. So if someone tells you regularly that you’re not a good organizer, you’ll live up to that story.

I see this sometimes coming up in readings. A client will present with what we call a ‘negative thought form’ in their energy body. It’s effectively their partner/mother/sister/friend telling them that they’re shy/bad at making money/irresponsible/lazy or whatever, and that’s something they’ve taken to heart, now believe about themselves and are attracting their life according to.

If you have some of those negative thought forms floating around in your energy field, you can actually clear them at will just by identifying what they are and refusing to live according to that perception.

So notice…

Are the people around you supporting you in who you want to be?

Is there someone who defines you in a way you don’t like?

You need to consciously choose your own self-image because anything can be true about you if you still focus on it. I could still be telling myself I’m stupid and a bad organizer because I used to not know the difference between am and pm when I was sixteen.

but I’d rather not create disorganized for myself right now.

In the same way, are you very certain of who someone is? Unless that trait is something you want to see in that person and which supports them, don’t tell yourself (and them) that story over and over.

It was either Byron Katie or Eckhart Tolle who said:

“The moment you think you know who your partner is, your relationship is over.”

(If you know who said that, let me know! I couldn’t find the quote)

Allow people space to grow and change.

So, how do you deal with it when someone defines you in a way that you don’t like?

I told my mum that I’m a good organizer and pointed out all the times I was a good organizer.

She agreed.


  1. Anna, this is a good one!

    It’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone define me in a way I don’t like. Best example, though: for many married years my hubby told me, not in words but in attitude, that I had no value except to cook and clean and have children. I ended up with an ulcer (two separate times). When hubby finally voiced “when I met you, you were nothing” I realized I was in a very bad place. I knew my own value and worth. That man is no longer my hubby, and since that time I’ve blossomed in all kinds ofways.

    This taught me an important lesson: words can kill. I’m very conscious of what I say to others, and I find tons of opportunities to lift people up with positive observations about them– and I find myself uplifted as well. Negative observations go unsaid and get dismissed from my mind (when I’m aware of them).

    The power of the spoken word is SUCH a two-edged sword — they can heal, and they can destroy. We have the power to wield them in either direction, and we’re accountable for how we use them.

    Good for you for speaking up for yourself — I’m glad your mum agreed with you!
    .-= Jeanne´s last blog ..Open Minds = New Adventures =-.

  2. Good for you for standing up for yourself with your mum! Other people’s words can cut us to the core. I know I’ve said things directly to people – innocently – that rubbed them the wrong way. And worse, I’ve said things to other people about other people that created an unfavorable impression. I believe that’s called gossiping. Perhaps, even worse than that, are some of the things I say to MYSELF that kill off my joy.

    I’ve spent the last 8 years carefully and gently removing people from my life who generate “negative thought forms” around me or who speak in unloving ways towards me. It took guts, confidence and blind faith that I was doing the right thing. It was never easy. But, over time, my decisions for whom to stop hanging around with were spot-on. I’ve become a much happier person because of it. Being intuitive helps – I’ve become super sensitive to people who make me uncomfortable. I limit my time with them as much as possible.

    Oh, and about you missing that plane because of the mix-up with am and pm…you’re not alone. My brother often says to me, “that’s what I like about you…you’re either accidentally brilliant or suddenly stupid”.

    Whatever. I think I’m funny and I like that about myself.

  3. I’m glad I found your blog today (thru Yaro’s tweet). I added comment luv to my site too. Thank you!

  4. Hi Anna
    I really liked this. It’s such an easy thing to happen if we let it, but being vigilant and clear about who we are helps, I like that you went back to your mum and told her all the times you were organised and she got where you were coming from.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..If you had 24 hours left… =-.

  5. I think your mom is no fool, she knows you’re a grown up, but keeping on questioning your productivity seems to be her way of saying that she cares about you. And it seems like you’d do anything to show that you’re doing things right, so I think you guys have a good dynamic going on here.

    With my mom, we have a different issue: My mom’s older brother was autistic, and it totally killed the love in her family. Frustrated by the hard conditions of raising an autistic child, my grandma would unleash a lot of her anger on my Mom. Today, my Mom still carries this anger around, and she transmits it to the same people that transmitted it to her in the first place: the ones she loves.
    .-= xavierv´s last blog ..A special birthday gift =-.

  6. Wow! What a great post, Anna. :-)

    You are right, we become who we tell ourselves that we are. And also who those surrounding us tell us what we are. That’s why it’s so important to surround ourselves only with people who see the very best in us!

    Awesome how you deal with your mom now. :-) My mother also has quite a lot of negative beliefs about me, so I know what you’re talking about. Awareness is of great help in such a case.

    Keep up the good work! Love,

    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Anti-Manipulation Techniques =-.

  7. Hey great topic!

    Actually it touches on something I’ve been pondering lately, about my mother as well. I know she cares for me, but the way she shows it just doesn’t work with me. She too is a good organizer, and there tends to be a lot of reminding me of things I needn’t be reminded of, and giving advice without me asking for it, when what really would give me support would be her simply expressing trust and love.

    Anyway, I’m wondering what to do about it, or not to do. Should I try to tell her about it, try to make her understand? Or should I let her play it out, not letting it affect me too much and instead identify with the compassion it comes from?

    As for the am/pm, I never understood why you wouldn’t switch to the 24 hour clock just like the rest of us! 😉

  8. Hi Jeanne – That’s great. I lately became more much aware of the ways that I have influence over people – such as my younger brothers – and I realized that you can contribute to some people’s self-image for better or worse, in quite a significant way, with a few comments. I try to get my positive observations out too, but for some reason am more inhibited in that regard! I am working on that.

    Re. your ex-hubby. It’s good that that input is not in your life anymore!

    Hi Cheryl,
    Thank you for your friend add on Twitter! Nice to ‘meet’ you on here and hear about your experiences with this.

    That is a really good point that sometimes we can be the ones who say the hurtful things to OURSELVES! A lot of people have that mean and critical voice in the background making them feel unworthy, etc. The interesting thing I found about that input is that it tends to fade when you remove the external voices that support it.

    I’m glad it’s not just me who does things like with the am and pm!

    I tell myself it’s because my mind is so obviously on higher things 😀 lol

    Hi Jen,

    I know – it was easy for my mum to just focus on the idea of me being organized and then see the truth of it. I always think you can see the truth of anything if you focus on it enough! Thanks for your comment.

  9. Hi Xavier,

    Thanks for your input. That is sad about your mum, it’s good that you know where it comes from though.

    You’re right on in your observation, I think my mum does use that perception to encourage me to be productive where she thinks I might be slacking off. But that’s more likely to de-motivate me then motivate me. That used to be the case at University as well, I found that when my tutors gave me negative feedback to motivate me, it’d have the opposite effect! Whereas when I positive input, I feel really encouraged!

    Hi Bunny – thanks! :)

  10. Rose Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you could relate to this. Yes, it is so important to surround ourselves with people who see good things in others.

    Hi David,

    Ahh the micro-managing. I don’t like it when people say things to me like ‘have you got X, Y and Z?’ Don’t forget this, get going you’ll be late, etc etc. I feel like I’m five years old again.

    My mum does that a lot and I just said to her in a non-nasty way that I don’t like being micromanaged. We laughed about it and she does it less now. I think it’s OK to gently express to people that you are not keen on the way they express their love, especially if it’s something that actively annoys you.

    Yeah, I like the 24 hour clock. Although they use that in France and I was even more confused over there by time. Had to keep doing calculations.

  11. Thank you so much for writing this article, Anna! Ironically, I needed to hear someone say that I didn’t need to listen to anyone. ;p

    Recently my mother said that her children are lazy.
    I pointed out where I’ve actually been quite industrious.

    She said she was only joking, I said her jokes were hurtful, she said I was being “defensive”, I said I was merely pointing out where she had been OFFensive–

    and THEN she agreed. She would proudly continue being offensive, in the spirit of free speech.

    Fortunately, I’ve exorcised quite a few negative thoughtforms, and have developed enough to negate unwanted energies as they come, but as for person-to-person dynamic… Any other way to deal with this? :(

  12. Anna,

    Oh yes, the micro-managing! That’s the word!

    Anyway I think you’re right, the best thing would be to politely just explain that I don’t like it and how it makes me feel. I’ll try to remember that when the time is right!

  13. Good one (as always), Anna.

    From the offender’s side: often, one says diminishing things because at core you don’t feel that your words have any effect on people…that it’s OK to joke or “bust balls” or criticize because surely the other person knows that you’re marginally important to them and that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

    So, besides all the mumbo about finding your own faults in others, much damage can be attributed to low self-esteem and lack of empowerment on the part of the offending party. This is especially true for parents and others close to you, and the best defense is to make sure they know how much their opinion means to you – next time they’ll think twice, and you won’t need to go around with your fingers in your ears…lalalalalalalalalalala! :)
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Lightworker/Darkworker – Bullshit =-.

  14. @Micaela:

    This reminds me so much of my own mother! For example she’d make mean comments about my overweight and how ugly it is or how it would drive all men away… and then come up with “I’m just joking!”. II told her that her comments weren’t helpful, she replied “I’m just being honest. Do you want me to lie?”.

    In the name of free speech or honesty, people can say very mean things.

    Based on my experience I find it more efficient NOT to point out that their beliefs aren’t accurate, or to cite examples of how we are not what they think we are. If you justify, explain, or argument against what they said, if you even react to it in the first place, it means that on *some level* you think they could be right.

    Imagine someone telling you that your blue hair is ugly, and you know you have no blue hair. You would just raise your eyebrows and think they are weird. Why would you need to explain that blue hair is not ugly, or to cite examples of all the times when you had no blue hair, if you know for sure your hair is not blue?

    It’s the same with being lazy etc. If we feel the need to defend ourselves, then it’s because there is some truth in it, or at least we believe that. What others say can only hurt us if on some level, it resonates with something that we think about ourselves.

    So instead of factually replying to my mom’s comments, now I prefer to use some verbal self-defense techniques and to not justify, demonstrate or explain anything. I don’t know if it’s the right way of dealing with it, but it makes me feel much better.

    @Michael: But nobody’s ever really just kidding. If deep down they didn’t think it, they would not even have the idea of saying it in the first place! Nevertheless, I agree with you that it’s a lot about low self-esteem. Why would someone think bad of others if they didn’t think bad of themselves to begin with?
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Anti-Manipulation Techniques =-.

  15. LOL…Rose, you’ve never been a victim of my sense of humor. I have a good imagination. :)

    My point was not that they think bad about themselves in general, it’s a matter of self-esteem in regard to their thinking their words don’t carry weight.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Lightworker/Darkworker – Bullshit =-.

  16. Hi Anna,

    I just discovered your website today 😉 and so many things now make more sense to me, thank you.

    Just a little comment about your mother… I feel there may also be another side to the story:
    that she perceived you as disorganised, because you were mirroring this aspect of herself which she doesn’t accept. She probably, deep down, believes she is disorganised in some side of her life that no one notices, and it is hard for her to be ok with herself, especially as she is known to be so well organised otherwise…

    My mother “accused” me of being a perfectionist.. only at age 40 did I suddenly realise that she was the one making her own life difficult because of her need for perfection…

    How does the saying go? “It’s easy to see the straw in another person, and be blind to the log in one’s own eye…”

    Thank you, thank you so much for this lovely website, words are not enough.
    In gratefulness,

  17. I am an adult. I have worked and supported myself, not asking money from relatives etc. Not a drug user, or promiscuoius, not in any debt atc. But yet, still am totally micromanaged and labeled in negative ways by my mom and family, whatever is it I do. How do I get them to stop? For example buying token x-mas gifts for co-workers means I am a dangerous shopaholic, and need to be stopped and “have lost it” gone crazy!. Mind you, I am the only one IN MY FAMILY not in debt. And I am the only one who is constantly questioned and seconded guessed about every little thing I do! The people who are 30,000 in debt or more in my family, get not a word or “advice” or criticism. It makes me so angry!

  18. I’ve just found this and I have to say that I agree. My family have tended to label me as a selfish, rude, unhappy, angry etc etc. Instead of go-getting, idealistic and a hard worker. The same as some of the so-called friends that I got rid of who had every negative word in the dictionary for myself and yet I was willing to give them loving, kind words.

    It is true that their words become who you are, I spent most of 2010 and the beginning of this year believing all they had said instead of actually asking myself who and what I actually am!

    Since I haven’t had those people around any more I actually believe in myself a lot more now. I hear a lot more positive words from new friends and certain family members. Although there are some who still use those words and call me negative and a person who sees the glass as half full.

    But believing in yourself is the best thing that a person can do and no longer believe the words of those who are ‘jealous’ (I put that in inverted commas because it isn’t always the case but there is no other way to describe it) and who like to put some people down. Then again there are those who are just well meaning and don’t realise the problems in their words.

    Blessings. xx

  19. That is good advice, explain why they are wrong, and then prove them wrong by keeping up your good work.
    Thanks, good article

  20. I generally just nod my head, agree with whatever said people choose to define me as, and then SHOW them WHO I am through my actions, rather than getting into some argument with them… Just as I have a right to my opinion, I suppose they do as well… It’s never good to ingest those things people try to feed you, but it doesn’t hurt for you to accept it from them, and then bring them something better later on… That way it’s their own words that “condemn” (I only use that term because it fits… not in a negative context tho… please understand me) them, rather than mine… It’s much easier to subdue your “enemies” by letting them fight against themselves rather than getting yourself involved at all… Imho anyway… :)

  21. My top tip for releasing yourself from someone’s label is to privately do something small and harmless that proves to yourself that you ARE this label. I don’t know why, but for me, arguing and proving wrong doesn’t really work… I’ll always find some way of twisting the ‘evidence’ to prove I am the negative quality I’ve been cast as. So now, if my deluded brother calls me ‘spoilt’ (he loves that, makes me step out of the way so he can help himself to more), I use it as a signpost that it’s time to spoil myself. If someone puts me down, I tend to either act the part (so I realise that it’s no big deal to be that thing… I just don’t do this in front of the person accusing me for obvious reasons) or it just prompts me to buy myself a magazine or make myself something nice to drink/eat or run myself a bubble bath, light some candles and watch a feel good film… because I deserve it! Works a treat. Balances me out from criticism and allows me to let it go.

  22. On another level this is probably more of an issue for people like us because we see deeply into others. Am I right that everyone here has certain abilities and insights and forgets at times that other people don’t have these, so possibly take criticisms, judgements, personal comments more seriously than other types of people? Most of the time the majority of people are telling you about themselves when they label you. The fact that they are criticising shows a lack of empathy at that moment… and empathy is essential to reading a person correctly right? Think about it… :-)


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