How many of the thoughts that you dedicate to yourself can be considered bullying? I'm talking about the smack talk that goes on in your head, from the moment you are aware that it's a brand new day. Think about it: you start your day complaining about all the crazy things in your calendar and telling yourself that you are too tired to get them all done. Then you look at yourself in the mirror and that's when you pick things up a notch. What's up with the nasty bags under your eyes, and that new fricking wrinkle and your hair is... ugh!
Then you strip off your pajamas and briefly scan your body. "I'm never gonna lose the weight," you say to yourself. "I've tried a dozen times before and I just know it won't happen. As soon as I get hungry again, I'll give up, like the weak idiot that I am." Between this moment and the moment you get to work, you will most likely have a few hundred thoughts, some of them about you, and most of those negative and self-sabotaging. And that's just the first few hours of the day.
The way most of us think about ourselves is so negative, that it can be considered downright nasty. Some of the talk smack is so bad indeed that if you were to say it to another person out loud, you could be accused of bullying or worst yet, verbal assault. Think about it! "You're such an idiot." "What is wrong with you?" "You are impossible." "You can't fit anywhere, you loser." Imagine what it does to your emotional state and your self-esteem to constantly be attacked in this way.
The reason why we do this are as varied as they are complex. You may have failed before and the experience may have scarred you into believing that you could never rise above. Perhaps you have a need to be in control or feelings of unworthiness. There is also a big chance that you have been a victim of your own poor habits. You may have slowly (and perhaps unconsciously) built a library of negative thoughts and phrases that you repeated to yourself over and over for years and now they have become part of your psyche.
How Do you break a self-bullying cycle?
Most of us don't really mean to be bullies to ourselves. It's not really something that you consciously and willingly decide to do. In fact, you may recognize these habits and wonder why are you doing this to yourself. Do not despair! You weren't born in a self-sabotaging state, which means that you acquired those habits and behaviors. And if you learn to self-hate, you can learn to self-love.
Start with a love letter:
In my practice as a wellness coach, I often ask my clients to write a love letter to themselves. It sounds silly at first, and chances are it feels that way because it is not as easy at it seems. The part of your brain that is used to the self-bullying will start to play tricks with you but if you stick to this first step, it can actually become a powerful tool. Write a page-long letter explaining what is beautiful about you, how you make yourself happy and why you love yourself. It is also very useful to learn more about yourself.
Create a list of affirmations:
Make this a short list of phrases, in the present tense only, that you can memorize with relative ease. The phrases can be generic in nature like: "I feel strong and healthy," or "I am worthy of the very best in life," or you can create phrases that speak to your own specific needs and desire. Why memorize them? Because you want to slowly start replacing all the negative ones that you have been repeating yourself for years with these new, positive, empowering ones. Use them like a mantra and repeat them in your mind as often as you can.
Use a "snap out of it" phrase or word:
This is a technique that coaches and motivational speakers use quite often, with different names. The premise it's simple: every time you consciously hear a negative or bullying thought in your head, use a phrase, like "thank you" or "unlock" (I use unlock personally, but you can use whatever you'd like) to bring awareness to yourself, start recognizing when the thoughts creep in and become aware of the hear and now. As you do this throughout your day, you will use that phrase to bring yourself back to a state of conscious awareness, where it will become easier to replace the negative bullying talk with positive, more empowering one.
Practice "I love you":
When was the last time you said to yourself "I love you"? Seriously, be honest! As soon as you are done reading this article, walk to the nearest mirror, look at yourself and say "I love you." This is much harder to do that it may sound. Even the most confident person will have a moment of hesitation doing something considered so "silly." At first, you may not mean it but if you repeat this phrase to your image in the mirror long enough, eventually you will start to believe it.
Repeat, repeat, repeat:
Speaking of repeating things long enough, for these techniques to be effective, you must incorporate them into your daily habits. And, since we now know that it takes the average person 21 to 28 days to build a new habit, repetition is key. None of them will require too much time preparing or even executing, only a few seconds of brain power each time. But if it becomes too much, start with one and repeat it several times a day for a month before moving on to the next one. Let them become second nature and they will become part of you.
If nothing works, get help!
In my experience, these simple tools can make a significant difference in your state of mind and your outlook in life. But if you have honestly tried them and they don't seem to work, you might want to look deeper into the reasons for your self-sabotaging. Perhaps the issues you are facing are deep-rooted enough or maybe they are hard to be handled alone. It is better if you recognize and agree that help is needed than to become part of the "wait and see game." Get help from a coach or from a health care professional as soon as you can.