Banishing The Bully
We all know him/her.
The little negative internal voice that pops up just when we are about to face a challenge. Whatever the challenge, whatever the history and whatever the words, the overall message is the same: “Nope. Whatever you want to do/know/see/feel/be gets a big smug no.”
I call it the little hater (and by I, I mean Ill Doctrine)
That little hater is a gosh darn bully.
Standing up to that bully takes whole load of courage, and a pinch of mindfulness; And that kind of self care takes more than saying encouraging things to oneself.
The one thing this post is not about, is positive affirmations. I’m not a pusher of replacing a negative tape with a fake smile.
I’m here to talk about getting your dukes up, with yourself.
A bully doesn’t back down easily. Especially not one that has grown insidiously within you.
To banish a bully, we need to see clearly how it operates within us - to disempower it.
There are two parts to this relationship within:
1. The ruthless voice inside, and
2. The passive voice that enables the bully to fester.
Neither passive acceptance nor cruel critique are productive for change and growth.
The words of internal bullies are often too harsh to even state or say out loud – so I won’t place them here. They are full of criticism, sarcasm, and self-condemnation. You know your own bully’s script well. But, as an example of the messages delivered:
- You don’t deserve this.
- You deserved that.
- What you have to say has no value.
- You will never…
- Of course you did/didn’t.
- It’s your fault.
- You can’t.
These emotional hits are often combined with passive acceptance that sums up as:
“Yes, I guess you are correct”
“It must be true, no one else really knows me as well as my little hater”.
If you have spent years being an accomplice to your bully, the passive acceptance quietly turns into servitude – We begin to move in the world as if the bully is the boss.
If we can call out the atrocity of this master/servant relationship – either established or on its way – we (the growing person within) can step in to abolish the relationship; and learn how to resist when inklings of self-cruelty come back. Long lasting change requires diligence.
Four steps to banishing the bully:
1. LISTEN UP!
Often we have lived with our bully for so long that we barely hear it anymore. Finding out what it has been saying to you is the first step. Watch yourself in challenging situations, or times when your emotions become extreme in response to a situation. These are often the places where the little hater has put you on auto-pilot. Shine a light on it, and really figure out what it is saying. Make a list of what it says so you can expose it (but don’t stop at this step or you’ll feel terrible. This is a no-turn-backs journey) If you already hear clearly what your bully says, move on to step two.
2. DON’T FLATTER YOURSELF (read: don’t feed your bully)
Bullies thrive on keeping you narrow minded. They want you to think any failure is all on you. But we know life is more complex than that. There are confounding factors to any situation; a situation rarely revolves entirely around your actions. When you over-apologize/over-attribute your contribution to a situation, you feed your bully. You end up focusing your time on self-admonishment. Dwelling on self critique actually takes you away from making the changes that might help you or your situation –exactly what your little hater intends.
So, don’t give yourself so much credit. It’s not all on you. Step back and recognize that there is a world of dynamics that are in place that have created the situation you are in. Remind your bully that you can see the bigger picture, and that you won’t accept his/her limited perspective. Acknowledge your role in a situation, take the necessary actions for your responsibility and move on. That’s how you silence a bully. Once you’ve got this in your pocket, move on to step three.
3. DECLARE WHAT YOU WANT
State it, Write it, Do it. Whatever impetus the bully is holding back in us – it holds more power because we rarely try to prove it wrong. Declaring what you want to change/face takes courage and a willingness to fail.
Bullies want you to believe failure is worse than self-doubt. I wager the opposite.
Declaring these changes in yourself doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it is the start to carving out the difference between you and your bully. Start drawing lines in the sand. “This is my space. This is your space”. Recognize when the little hater tries to loudspeaker into your life. It takes energy to hold up this front, as it is tempting to slide back into the familiarity of the negative internal voice.
Occasionally that boundary between bully and self will drop and if it does, don’t get hung up on this flip of power – just pick yourself up and draw those lines again. Practice differentiating from the bully, repeatedly.
Drawing boundaries is not a one-time cure all.
It is a journey where hopefully – after many years of practice – the bully’s voice will become a distant whisper. Disempowering your little hater is accomplished by leaving it in a space where no one can hear it, including you.
This step & the next are a constant dance.
4. BE KIND TO YOURSELF!
This is where positive thoughts and words of encouragement work well. After you have identified your bully and stood up to it – it is tiring to hold a strong face to a bully – Now, you can rest and be gentle with yourself. Being tough only gets us through the storm – being kind gets us through the rest of life. Use strong statements that remind you that you are capable of whatever change you want to see in yourself. If you have trouble crafting a statement that encourages you, go back to step one, and change those statements into an opposite.
Remember that critical feedback for growth is distinct from the deep doubt of self-capacity. Distinguish the difference and appreciate the good intentions of the former. Take what helps you grow and leave the rest.