There’s an interesting thing about being bullied. It doesn’t matter whether it’s others in your life who are bullying you or your own INNER bully, the impact can be so similar.
In March of 6th grade, I transferred to a new school. But here’s the catch: I went back into the 5th grade. Why? Because there was no room left in the 6th grade that late in the year. Oy. I hated having to repeat part of 5th grade!! I hated being so tall compared to the other kids. I hated that I was the only one wearing a bra.
But you know what I hated even more? The bullies I met in my new class.
It started with small things like stealing my fancy pencils and little note pads and throwing them into the toilet. After a week or so, these girls began climbing over the top of the toilet stall to taunt me. Or they circled around me during recess and asked why I was 12 when everyone else was 10 or 11. They laughed and suggested it meant I was stupid. The ring leader repeatedly informed me that her mom thought I was a dog.
I’d never before experienced bullying, but it quickly impacted every aspect of my life. My posture became stooped as I tried to fade into the background. I was suddenly shy and quiet, two things I’m not normally accused of. My confidence plummeted and my sense of self took a huge hit. It was a hard time!
But there’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed about being bullied. It doesn’t matter whether it’s others in your life who are bullying you or your own INNER bully, the impact can be so similar.
Yeah, that’s right. You know that inner voice that shows up and has a regular torrent of mean things to say to you? We’ve ALL got this part and it really CAN be an inner bully.
It shows up saying things like, “What’s wrong with you? Why the hell did you do that? What, are you an idiot? Would you just get your shit together? Ughhh! God, look at you…you’re so fat…ugly…stupid. Why can’t you look more like that girl? You’re such a shitty mom. You’re such a loser, etc.”
And when you hear that voice inside, it can feel the same as it does facing an outside bully in your life. The only difference is that this inner bully goes everywhere with you! Oy.
Here’s the thing I want you to understand. Your inner bully is just one small part of you.
But it still feels AWFUL when that inner bully part of you gets going, right?! And what do you likely do when it shows up? You try to push those thoughts away or get rid of them, all while a growing worry builds in the background telling you that the words might be true. In fact, it often feels like you’re in a war with this inner voice…and then with yourself, too, yes?
Many of my clients ask me what they need to do to get rid of their inner bully. And ohhhh, do I get it! I battled mine for a long time. But here’s what I’ve learned.
Fighting against your inner bully doesn’t actually get rid of it. In fact, if anything, this ultimately makes it louder.
But guess what? Becoming curious about what’s REALLY driving your inner bully beneath all the mean words and judgments? Now that’s a game-changer.
For eons, my inner bully spent endless energy telling me my outfits or my hair weren’t perfect. Or that someone hadn’t smiled back at me because I hadn’t smiled the right way at them and they no longer liked me. Or that someone was obviously mad at me because they hadn’t returned my call or because I hadn’t helped them the right way. When I took these words seriously, they left me feeling terrible! And desperate to be different than I was in my appearance, behaviors, or person. I suspect you can relate in some way.
Yet curiosity changed this experience for me. It invited me to look beneath the words and wonder why this part of me wanted my hair or outfits to be perfect in the first place? Why was this part so worried that someone might be mad at me? Why was it scared I might have smiled the wrong way?
This repeatedly led me back to the same discovery. My inner bully believed if I didn’t look or behave a certain way, others wouldn’t like me or they would go away altogether. It believed perfection was what made me worthy of others’ love and presence.
Realizing this offered me a surprisingly fresh perspective. I suddenly understood why my inner bully worked so hard to point out and critique my ‘imperfections’. A strange appreciation crept in for the commitment this bully displayed as it repeatedly attempted to ‘protect’ me in the only way it knew how. It was trying to prevent me from being abandoned by others.
Intrigued? I hope so because it’s equally possible for you to update your relationship and experience with your inner bully. If you’re ready to do this, play with the following steps:
- Invite yourself to notice when your inner bully is present. Often, it’s been spewing mean words and judgments in the background for so long that it’s easy to become numb to its presence. Yet its words continue to take a toll. In the beginning, there will be many times when you fail to recognize its presence so celebrate the times when you do notice it.
- Welcome curiosity to the scene. Notice the words your inner bully is spewing. Then look beneath the words and invite yourself to look beyond the face value of your inner bully’s words and become curious about what might be driving those words in the first place. Wonder what feeling(s) it might be trying to protect you from with its words or judgments. For example, if it’s telling you you can’t possibly accomplish a dream you have because you’re not smart enough, it may believe these words will prevent you from taking a risk that could lead to failure. Perhaps it believes failure will lead others to discover how wrong and unworthy you really are. Remember, the inner bully’s goal is to protect us from experiencing even more unbearable feelings than what it’s spewing.
- Appreciate your inner bully’s commitment to protecting you, even if you hate the way it’s doing it. Give yourself time to become comfortable with this step. There’s a reason I didn’t list this as the first step! Yet it’s stunning how responsive the inner bully is to feeling acknowledged for how hard it’s been working and appreciated for its commitment. Believe it or not, these inner bullies are often exhausted and would love a different role, but never before knew this was a possibility! What can this sound like? “Oh, hey. I want you to know I hear you. I recognize that you’re working hard to try to protect me right now. I appreciate how committed you are.” It is not necessary to offer appreciation for how it is trying to protect you!
As you gently play with these three steps over time, you will likely begin to notice an updated relationship forming between you and your inner bully. You’ll become less quick to take your bully’s words at face value. It will become easier to take micro-moment pauses to wonder what’s driving your bully. And shockingly, you may even find yourself appreciating how committed your bully has been to trying to ‘protect’ you all this time. And that is where the magic happens and your inner bully begins to soften as it feels your appreciation for its intentions. Now isn’t that worth exploring?! ❤️
P.S. Know a loved one or friend who is looking for relief in THIS moment? Share my free MICRO-MOMENT RESET with them so they can move into relief, feel more ease, and find more clarity without having to work so hard to make it all happen.
P.P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, follow me on Facebook (Emily Colwell), Instagram (dr.emily_colwell), and Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh1EqJz3wcFJfICkN60krnQ) . I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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