Sadly, bullying is a reality for many people every day – both young and old. Yet, one related topic that is not talked about as frequently is self-bullying and it can be just as harmful to mental health.
If you remember your time in school, chances are you saw bullying in action. Perhaps you were even a victim of bullying yourself. If so, you may also remember how much it hurt. Hearing negative things and being criticized constantly takes its toll on your self-esteem. No matter how hard you try, you eventually start to see the hurtful comments as true and accept them as a characteristic of who you are. Today, the internet makes bullying even worse by making these comments relentless, there is no escape.
Your mind is like that as well.
While we all want to believe we are kind, caring people, the truth is some of us are bullies and don’t even realize it. That’s because this self-depreciating behavior becomes second nature to us and we don’t even notice it is happening.
Have you ever stopped and listened to the way you talk to yourself? If you saw someone saying the things you say to yourself, chances are you would step in and tell them to stop. You would call them a bully and you would be angry and hurt. Yet, you say hurtful things to yourself all the time without doing anything to stop it.
Self-criticism is something that most of us do. It is found in many of the little statements we say to ourselves hundreds of times a day. Simple things like ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m such an idiot’ or ‘what’s wrong with me?’ all have negative undertones that wear us down over time.
Imagine if someone else was saying these things, out-loud, to you all the time. You would feel terrible, you might even cry. Well, these unconscious acts of self-bullying behavior are exactly the same, just more subtle, and they must be stopped.
Changing something that has become a second nature is not easy. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work, but it is worth it. Healthy self-talk is associated with reduced rates of depression and anxiety, stronger social ties, and greater levels of happiness.
You wouldn’t tell your friend she looks ugly or that she is stupid, so why do you say these things to yourself?
The good news is, once you notice the behavior you can begin to control it. All it takes is motivation and a little work.
5 Ways to Stop Self-Bullying
- Listen to yourself – Pay attention to the kinds of words you use when you are talking (or thinking) about yourself. Are the words you’re using abusive and harsh? If you’re unsure ask yourself, ‘would I say this to someone else?’
- Edit the script – Once you begin to listen to the words you use, you can start to change them. Each time you catch yourself saying or thinking something negative replace it with something positive. Do this every single time you notice a negative statement, whether it is out loud or in your head. Make positive self-talk your new second nature and kick self-bullying to the curb.
- Make a self-love list – It may help to create a list of all the things that you love about yourself and all your accomplishments. These can be anything at all. You can list things like, I am a good listener, a good friend, I work hard, I am funny, I have great hair, etc. List anything positive you can think of about yourself and leave room to add to it. Next time you notice negative self-talk or self-bullying behavior, take out the list and have a look at it. Having these things in writing can often help lift your spirits and make them feel more real.
- Become your own best friend – We often rely on others to validate our feelings or to encourage and support us, but it is us who should be doing these things for ourselves. One big part of the process of ending self-bullying is to treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend. You deserve love, laughter, and respect from everyone, including yourself. Learn to be your own biggest fan and to have fun with yourself.
- Challenge yourself – Next time you notice self-bullying behavior challenge the statement. Are you assuming someone else’s thoughts (e.g. She hates me) or exaggerating the consequences of your actions (e.g. I’m such a clumsy loser)?
Some of the most common forms of self-bullying include:
- Predicting negative outcomes while ignoring other possibilities. This is an extremely common form of self-bullying. Not everything that happens will be a catastrophic event. Consider all the possible outcomes, not just that bad ones.
- Seeing things as only good or bad without leaving room for anything else. Although it would make things easier, life isn’t black and white, there are a lot of grey areas that deserve attention and consideration.
- Assuming you know what others think. You are not a mind reader, no matter how much you wish you were.
- Using only your emotions to guide you. Just because you feel like something is true doesn’t mean that it is true.
Self-bullying can be a difficult obstacle to overcome but once you begin to see the behavior it loses its power over you. If you stay self-aware and motivated, you will soon find that your self-bullying behavior happens less frequently. One day soon you will realize that you are the truly amazing person that others already see.
Note: Putting an end to self-bullying is a long-term project but if you find yourself struggling with this on your own, it may be helpful to find a counselor that you trust, to get to the root of your anger with yourself so you can begin to let go and live the happier, more fulfilling life that you deserve.
Until Next Time,
Stand-up for yourself.