I wrote a blog last month on Forgiveness
This recounted how I had to let go of a very negative bullying experience caused by a highly critical and punishing teacher at my middle school. For this true story purposes, I named her “Mrs. Antagonist”.
Writing that blog was very therapeutic. It helped me recall that period of my life in a new light. And let go of a lot of the anger I had festered towards the people I believed did me wrong.
On discussing the blog with a friend, I had a revelation.
Perhaps my biggest discovery in years. Something she said triggered my response. “God! I think I’ve become the bully”. I had internalized how Mrs. Antagonist had related to me, but I was being a hell of a lot worse. My inner dialogue was far more critical than she ever was. Until that moment I hadn’t been aware of how hard, and unkind I was being on myself. Since this discovery, I have been paying much closer attention to my thoughts. I am writing this blog to share some of the tools I’ve been using to lessen the inner critic and improve my relationship with myself.
The key habit of our personality is to think we’re not enough.
There’s a period in our adolescence when we are both highly sensitive to criticism, and fitting in. We’re much more susceptible to believe other peoples opinions, whether or not they’re accurate, we make them true, and they often stick.
I look back at some of those first moments in my life when I felt like I didn’t fit in, and I told myself - “What is wrong with you?” “God, you’re so stupid”. They’ve stuck with me ever since.
Everyone has some sort of negative memory that has shaped his or her inner critic. This inner critic isn’t our friend. It damages us, it stops our ability to move forward. It takes away our self-esteem, self-compassion, self understanding - and it makes us feel small. It supports our personality into thinking we’re not enough.
Research show’s that we have around 60 thousand thoughts per day, and 60% of them are negative. Studies show that obsessive perfectionism is strongly linked to depression.
How can we work to slow down these self-critical and paranoid thoughts so we can be kinder to ourselves, and not let the negative thoughts affect our actions?
We think we need to be better looking, more successful, smarter, braver or more liked.
These kinds of thoughts can plague us every day.
“Look at you!
“You don't have it.’
“You’re always late”
“You’re too fat (or too skinny).”
“You’ll never make it.”
“You’re not smart.”
“You’re not talented enough.”
“Why should I even bother?”
“I’m not attractive.”
“Why doesn’t he/she text me back?”
“Nobody wants to be with me.”
“Nobody likes me”
“No one understands me.”
“I’m so lonely.”
“They are talking about me!”
“What do they think of me?”
“I shouldn’t feel happy with all the sadness in the world.”
Speaking for myself, as an actor, the self-critical thoughts can be devastating.
Even when I land an acting job the inner critic is still there, waiting for me to mess up. I get offered a great role, and I’m on cloud nine, and then the little critic comes out and says, “What if they’ve made a big mistake casting you? Maybe you’ll mess it up, and ruin the whole project”. It sounds stupid, but that is a conversation that occurs most times I get a job.
Being artistic is wonderful, but it really has it’s ups and downs, when you’re being creative, everything else can disappear. But when you’re not creating, you can feel completely empty.
To fill that void, I often distract myself by travelling, going out and drinking too much, or seeking validation from other areas in my life, such as romantically or from social media.
When I don’t have as much going on work wise everything is magnified. For example, if I am texting with someone I think I like, and they don’t respond how I want them to, I am really crushed. It’s a little ridiculous. But the smallest things can tick me off.
Since becoming aware of this inner bully, I’m now realizing the best way to deal with him is through kindness.
When those negative voices start racing, we can fixate upon them. They become louder. But rather than fighting back, I am now acknowledging them, letting them in, but responding to them with a caring, more nurturing voice, that is empathetic to them being upset.
It sounds crazy, but it’s working. I’ve been literally talking myself out of a bad mood.
Three tips for dealing with the inner bully.
1. Be kind to yourself
Nurture your vulnerable self. When you’re feeling insecure, try to be kind to yourself, rather than telling yourself you’re wrong for feeling a certain way. We forget that we have an innocent, younger, non rational side, that needs reassurance and affirmation. Send yourself love, compassion and care whenever needed. Pretend you are your best friend, how would you talk to you? Be your own best friend. You can literally talk yourself out of a mood, if you try. Swap your negative statements for positive ones. Take care of your body. Treat yourself to a massage or take yourself on a date. Exercise regularly, no matter how little. The more you appreciate your body and mind; the better each day will end. Those around you will appreciate this as well.
2. Be self-observant
We can’t control our thoughts, but we can choose how we respond to them. Stand back a bit, and observe where any negative thought is coming from. Research says a thought only lasts for up to 90 seconds, so if we allow ourself to just witness the thought, however uncomfortable, we are allowing the truth in. By letting it in, we can release it. By trying to ignore or suppress the thought, we aren’t being truthful. It may sound simple, but the truth will set you free.
3. Reframe your Perspective
See as if you have a new set of eyes. Look at it from a completely different perspective. Maybe use time. Think to yourself, how would I feel about this problem in one month from now? We often let so many little things disrupt our peace of mind and enjoyment of life. If you look at the problem in the big scheme of life, it won’t seem as important.
I hope these tips were helpful. Be aware that you’re only human and you’re doing the best you can, and everyday will be different.
Don't let the inner bully get in the way of blocking your dreams.
When the inner bully returns, knock it out—with kindness ;)
The most important thing in life is peace of mind. Forgiveness is the root to peace.