The Well

The Inner Bully

by Andrew Shaw on Feb.08, 2010, under Recent Posts

I’m not good-enough.  I should have done better.  I screwed it up.  I shouldn’t make any mistakes.  I’m stupid.  I’m lazy.  I’m no-good.  I’m… fill-in-the-blank.  Does any of this sound familiar?  If you’re like many others, you have an inner bully that can be awfully pushy, mean, critical, and judging.   So many of us (myself definitely included) have a tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves, highly self-critical, unforgiving of our mistakes, and unrealistic with our expectations for ourselves.   This vicious and vocal inner bully is so harmful to our mental health and well-being—it’s important to find ways to stand up to it or quiet it down.   

Awareness-  Before doing anything else, you must first bring awareness to your negative voice; to acknowledge that it’s there, to understand where it came from, and to recognize it when it returns again and again.  Simply being aware of the inner bully may begin to take away some of its power.  Whenever you notice negative thoughts, self-criticism or self-doubt, try labeling it by giving it a name (i.e. the critic, the bully, the judge, etc.).  This will gradually help you to see it almost as something separate from yourself and as something that can be too harsh and not always helpful.

Dispute- Be fair, balanced, objective in your judgment of yourself.  There may have been some things you could have done differently or you can improve upon.  But given the circumstances, did you do the best you could?  After you’re more aware of the negative voice, then you may need to start questioning it.  Is the bully speaking the whole truth?  Are all those negative thoughts completely accurate?  What might your inner critic be missing?  Look at both sides, not just the negative; what were the positives, what were the things you did well?  We all need to congratulate ourselves more and celebrate our successes rather than just punishing ourselves for our perceived mistakes and failures.

Self-Kindness- Be gentle and kind to yourself.  When you practice self-compassion, you accept yourself the way you are. You tend to see yourself as basically good and worthy. If you make a mistake, you forgive yourself. You have reasonable expectations of yourself and you set attainable goals.  The next time you hear your inner critic chastising you about something you did or did not do, counter this negativity by telling yourself something like, I did a lot well or I’m doing the best I can.  I’m proud of myself.  I don’t need to be perfect.  I did pretty well and I am good-enough.

Be Well

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