I’m a bully … and so are you!
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 @ 6:01 AM
Elaine Taylor-Klaus in Tips, bully, compassion, curiosity, gremlin, saboteur, self talk, should

Bullying is one of those themes that starts in childhood and persists throughout our lives. No matter how mature we get, it never seems to disappear completely. We know it under euphemisms such as Road Rage and workplace Anger Management.

But the most egregious bully of all is the one who dwells within.

So, here’s my true confession: I’m a bully. Not generally to my family (I try hard not to be, anyway), or to my friends (who definitely get the most caring me). I don’t raise my voice much, and I try not to be too controlling (though that one is a real struggle, sometimes). That’s not the kind of bully I’m talking about.

But I definitely struggle with a lack of compassion for myself. If I spoke to my friends or family the way I speak to myself when I’m not careful about it, I’d be avoided or feared, with good reason.

So, I’m a bully. So are you. A really dangerous bully, actually. There is a silver lining, though: you are the ONLY bully you can actually do something to change!

Most of us live with an inner critic, the ultimate gremlin voice that tells us what we’re doing wrong, and that we can do no right. It seems that I am constantly encouraging my clients to “Put Down the Stick” and show themselves some kindness.

Have you ever noticed how much time you spend hitting yourself over the head?

Do any of these voices sound familiar?

Not only do you probably recognize them, but you know how to use them at just that weak moment when they’ll hit a vulnerable spot. Why wait for others to push our buttons when we can do it for ourselves, right?

Of course, the bully is not a solo practitioner. Like a mob boss and his goons, the internal bully is protected and energized by the world of popular culture  — television, movies, magazines, etc.

Consider the pop culture messages: you should be… sexier, smoother, thinner, smarter. It doesn’t matter what the result, our inner critic only wants to remind you that you are not all that!

That inner critic internalizes social images and then cruelly turns them back on us like pushing the button on a bomb—it’s going to explode, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

So how do you manage the bully within?

First, acknowledge it. Listen for the messages you tell yourself.  If you notice yourself saying things you’d never say to someone you love, then stop.  What’s true? Are you really stupid, or did you make an honest mistake?  Don’t let your bully get away with spreading lies and operating as if they’re the gospel truth.

Second, make failing forward a fundamental principle of your life. When you commit to learn from your mistakes without making yourself “bad,” you’ll dis-arm the bully within. Cut yourself some slack. Mistakes are a critical part of the learning process.

Third, avoid blaming or making excuses. Take responsibility for your words and deeds. When you “own your stuff,” you’ll earn greater respect from others, and you’ll naturally start to put the stick down. Mistakes are part of life and learning: accept life’s “woops” factor.

Fourth, try curiosity to stand up to pop culture’s bullying influence. Ask yourself, “Is it REALLY true that everyone else is thinner and smarter than I am?” Challenge whatever stereotypes you’ve convinced yourself make you somehow less than ideal. Pay attention to where the messages honestly come from, and get curious about their source.

The bottom line is that there’s a part of you who has always wanted to stand up to the bullies in your life. So, what are you waiting for? When you call a playground brawl with the bully within, you can stand up for yourself without threat of getting beaten up. THAT’s the kind of playground fight worth cheering on from the sidelines!

Article originally appeared on Touchstone Coaching clients overcome the overwhelm of growing a business & growing a family. (http://www.touchstonecoaching.com/).
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