It doesn’t matter if you’re the most confident, fly woman in the neighborhood or in the office, slaying each and every day, I’m pretty sure that you’ve heard that little voice in the back of your mind, I look so bloated in this outfit. Why did I wear it? I’m so fat and ugly. My hair is a mess today. Ugh. It’ll never look as good as [insert name here]’s hair. I can’t stand myself sometimes. You are not alone as it happens to all of us.
As women, the little voice in our heads keeps a running narrative throughout the day, and more often than not, that voice is rarely positive. In fact, sometimes that little voice can be downright critical and mean. Personally, I’ve tried to understand why I do it to myself. Do I talk to myself that way as a defense mechanism, almost as if I’m preparing myself for the comments I think I’m going to hear? Do I really believe that I look as terrible as that little voice allows me to believe? What makes me talk to myself that way? I still don’t have the answers. Nevertheless, the truth is that when we allow these comments to mount and grow in our minds, we are engaging in self-bullying.
What is self-bullying? Simply, all the things a bully does to other people–criticize, intimidate, pressure, threaten, force–except, sadly, you are the bully and the victim is also you.
How do you know that you’re bullying yourself? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you comparing yourself to others and always coming up short?
- Is your inner voice really critical, negative, and setting standards no one can reach?
- Are the things you say to yourself about your personal appearance/weight/looks/hair/abilities getting worse and worse?
If you said “yes” to one or any of those questions, please first know that again, you’re not alone. I’ve had conversations with friends and other women and have found that most of us have this critical inner voice in common. We can’t seem to turn it off. But we have to! Just like the devastating effects that bullying can cause in general, doing it to yourself is destructive. Confidence grows weaker; positive self-image becomes distorted. How can we turn it around and turn off that critical, judgmental inner voice?
Psychology Today outlines four steps to do this. Let’s review and break these steps down for a full understanding of how truly helpful they can be to eliminating self-bullying.
Try to identify what your critical inner voice is telling you. Acknowledge that this thought process is separate from your real point of view. Remember that your critical inner voice is not a reflection of reality. It is a viewpoint you adopted based on destructive early life experiences and attitudes directed toward you that you’ve internalized as your own point of view.
Let’s break it down – Our past sometimes determines are present and our points-of-view. Let’s say you grew up suffering from extremely low self-esteem when you were younger. Now, in perhaps stressful times, all the work you did to overcome the past comes back and you just mentally torture yourself. It’s good to remember that nothing you hear in the back of your mind during those times, as the article states, is a reflection of reality. It’s simply not real.
One way to help you differentiate from your critical inner voice is to write these thoughts down in the second person (as “you” statements). For example, a thought like “I can’t get anything right. I’ll never be successful” should be written as “You can’t get anything right. You’ll never be successful.” This will help you see these thoughts as an alien point of view and not as true statements. Notice how hostile this internal enemy can be.
Let’s break it down – Changing pronouns can help us see how ridiculous the little voice sounds. “I’m the worst person to ever live” becomes “you’re the worst person to ever live.” Then take the time to truly consider that statement. Really? Historically the worst person to ever live? No, you’re not. No, I am not!
You can respond to your inner critic by writing down a more realistic and compassionate evaluation of yourself. Write these responses in the first person (as “I” statements). In response to a thought like, “You’re such an idiot,” you could write, “I may struggle at times, but I am smart and competent in many ways.” This exercise isn’t meant to build you up or boost your ego but to show a kinder, more honest attitude toward yourself.
Let’s break it down – This step resonated with me because I’m a big believer in journaling and writing things down. When you can see things on paper with your own eyes, it can do a great deal of good. In this case, switch back the pronouns that I mentioned in Step 2. “You can’t do anything right” becomes “I’m certainly not perfect but I work really hard to achieve my goals.”
Remember not to act on the directives of your inner critic. Take actions that represent your own point of view, who you want to be and what you aim to achieve. Your critical inner voice may get louder, telling you to stay in line or not to take chances. However, by identifying, separating from, and acting against this destructive thought process, you will grow stronger, while your inner critic grows weaker.
Let’s break it down – Remember that you’re stronger than that little voice! Identify the voice, Separate yourself from it, and Act against it. It won’t be easy, but most women know how to kick down doors, don’t we? Including the ones we create in our minds.
That little voice may not go away. It may even refuse to allow you to silence it. Nevertheless, you can counteract its effects by remembering what you can do, all the things you continue to get right, and how utterly amazing you, dear woman, are.
Thanks for reading! What steps do you take to mute that inner critic? Please share them in the comments below!
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