I have a confession to make. I used to have a terrible habit.
I was a bully.
I told a very kind person that she was worthless. I told her she was fat and ugly. When she did make mistakes, I caught them right away, because I was watching for it, so that I could get on her case as soon as possible. I reminded her of everything she had done wrong in her past, and I judged her for every imperfection she had. I told her that she was annoying and nobody would love her, if they knew what she was really like.
Because she was being bullied, and because her confidence was so low, this person was not at her best. I saw her limit herself more and more, as I continued to harass her. Her self-esteem tanked, and she became “stuck” in a situation that made her unhappy.
Do you hear a bit of yourself in this story? Do you see the same patterns in your life?
Are you bullying yourself as well?
Culturally, socially, we’re praised for being hard on ourselves. We keep careful tabs on ourselves, so that we can be beyond the criticism of others. We fear rejection, we fear failure. So we strive for an impossible ideal, then beat ourselves up when we fall short.
Being hard on ourselves, we feel like we’re staying ahead of the game. But self-bullying is actually quite limiting. Trust me, I know. I bullied myself from early adolescence (possibly earlier), and I’ve only stopped recently.
These are the ways that self-bullying limited me:
- I was afraid to try new experiences, because I feared failure.
- My ideas were often not heard, because I was afraid to speak up, or to be wrong.
- I settled for a lifestyle the didn’t work for me, because I lacked the confidence to take a risk.
- I lacked close friendships, because I assumed everyone would not like me.
- My stress levels were high, leading to all the physical problems that cortisol overload causes.
- I wasted a lot of energy, trying to make myself perfect and worrying about what other people thought.
Self-bullying is toxic and wasteful. I knew this for years, before I was able to break the cycle. Why didn’t I stop sooner? The self-talk, the thoughts, because a deeply ingrained pattern. Stopping took a little work.
Here are some suggestions, for stopping the bullying:
- Recognize that you are a part of humanity. We’re told that people are separated into two categories: “others” and “ourselves.” Does that really make any sense? We think that we’re supposed to put the needs of others above our own needs, but why? If we regard all of humanity equally, we’ll see why it is important to break the cycle, of treating ourselves with such cruelty. You are a person, too. Really!
- Make it a priority. We don’t like to work on ourselves. It can feel like wasted energy, that could be spent helping someone else. But it IS important. We are a part of humanity. We all know the Golden Rule, but what if we made this correlation: Treat yourself the way you would treat others. You know how destructive beating up on yourself is. So make a commitment to stop.
- Enlist some help. Don’t try to go it alone. I know, we don’t like to ask others for support. We worry that we are burdening them, or being too needy. But think about it–do you feel burdened when someone asks you for help? Or do you feel happy that you are able to help them? So go ahead to talk to people who seem at peace with themselves. Pick their brains. Here is a great post one of my friends wrote, about asking for help.
- Start with awareness. Just notice when you’re beating up on yourself. Don’t judge your thoughts as good or bad, and, for heaven’s sake, please don’t beat up on yourself for beating up on yourself. That’s too complicated! But notice what you are doing, and paraphrase it to yourself. Say something like, “All right. I am telling myself that I am an idiot and everybody is going to hate me, because I burned breakfast.” 99% of the time, the spiral will stop with this step.
- Question your thoughts. Remember, you don’t have to believe everything that you think! So, if the feelings and thoughts don’t go away with awareness, ask yourself, “Why do I believe this?” “Why should it be true?” and “Would I feel this way about a friend who has done what I did?” Looking deeply, and getting to the root of your thoughts, will often help you to see how useless they are.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Changing thought patterns takes a lot of work, and a lot of time. Sometimes you’ll believe what you think, and fall back into the pattern. Just recognize it, and move on.
Learning to be kind to yourself takes practice, but you will find that it makes life infinitely better!
A housekeeping note: I am once again revisiting my posting schedule. I have enjoyed the discussions that have resulted from posting fewer times a week, and I think that aspect would be improved if I went down to two posts a week. I will post on Monday, and then on Friday, when I do a second post.