Stop bullying yourself

Distancing ourselves from bullies and toxic people is a wise decision.

But letting go of toxic others is not enough; we also have to let go of our toxic selves. 

The biggest bully and source of our suffering is often own minds. Most people would never be as mean and cruel to another person as they are to themselves.  

We all have an inner critic that can help us grow and become better, but it’s easy for it to get carried away.

When the inner critic runs rampant, we can endure hours of self-torture, going over-and-over every perceived fault, reviewing and magnifying mistakes, conversations, and mis-steps. 

We can engage in self-name-calling, telling ourselves we are stupid, lazy, or useless, and inflating small blunders or mistakes to catastrophic proportions.

The more we engage in this type of thinking, the stronger the tendency becomes, because, according to mindfulness teacher Shauna Shapiro, what we practice grows stronger. It becomes an addictive habit-of-mind. 

As we ignore our good qualities and magnify our quirks and challenges, we’re engaging in self-abuse.

The pervasive cultural trend of minimizing what’s good about ourselves and amplifying our quirks and flaws, is destructive to our health and happiness, leading to anxiety or depression.

It negatively affects our over-all physical health and quality of life. 

We’d never do this to another person, yet we often do it to ourselves.

While we may think we keep this self-abuse private, it often reveals itself in the way we speak about ourselves.

I cringe when I hear wonderful people say things about themselves that are unkind, cruel, and not true. 

We often don’t hear the words we’re speaking, or really think about the meaning of these words, but they carry an impact. 

While we may not hear what we’re saying, our bodies are always listening, following suit, and agreeing with the mind.

It’s so easy and so human to get drawn into the virtual reality of our minds and the thoughts we’ve practiced again-and-again. One challenging thought quickly pulls us down the rabbit hole of negativity. It can feel hard to pull ourselves out.

We may be so used to the negative narrative that we don’t hear it. Researchers estimate 80% of our 50,000-70,000 daily thoughts are negative.

Just because we think a thought doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s important we question our own thinking. Mindfulness and awareness are key.

Waking up, and listening to ourselves, the words we speak, and observing the nature of our thoughts is a powerful practice. Remembering many of our thoughts are not true and are just stories we make up in our minds is important. 

Over the years, I noticed I didn’t have just one inner critic, I had a committee. This group of characters, who lived only in my head, used to call regular meetings and I attended every one and entertained them all.

Heck, I even invited them for sleep overs. They were mean, and I used to listen to and agree with everything they said without debate.  It was torture.

No more. Why would I do that to myself? If they were real people, I’d never hang out with them or consider their advice.

It was empowering to name the cast of characters and see them for what they were. There’s:

  • Polly the perfectionist
  • Nancy the nag
  • Beulah the bully
  • Woeful worrier.

You get the idea.

This strategy brought some humour to the situation, and it helped me to gain some mental distance from the dialogue.

Another strategy I often suggest to people is the powerful practice of becoming your own best friend. Start noticing your negative self-talk, and consider what you’d say to someone you love and care about who’s in the same situation.

Would you heap on more abuse, reminding them of everything from the past, or would you reassure them, and remind them of their strengths and good qualities? 

Holding ourselves with the same care and concern as a loved one allows us to grow in healthy ways.

We’re not ignoring those places where we need to grow and evolve, we’re finding a better way.

Becoming mindful, and learning to be gentle, patient, and kind with ourselves allows us to make positive changes when needed, and it supports our health.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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