One of the worst enemies of serenity is beating ourselves up for our mistakes. Even though we’re taught that “everyone is human and makes mistakes,” many of us do not believe it. Instead, we have bought into the illusion of perfection, in which we can only be happy if we meet standards that remain forever just out of reach.
Then, when we make that all too human mistake, the inner bully lowers the boom:
- You messed up again!
- Why did you do that, you should have learned your lesson the last time!
- Now you’ll never achieve your goal.
- You are such a loser.
- You might as well give up now, you’ll never get it.
The inner bully thrives on:
- Negative self-talk (see above)
- Self-destructive behavior (from as simple as from chewing fingernails all the way to suicide)
- Hopelessness and despair
- Beating yourself up for beating yourself up
If you’re ready to stop that bully in its tracks, try these ideas.
1. Call on Your True Self
We all have a true self buried inside, someone who knows our strengths and weaknesses and accepts them. The true self does not judge, merely observes and works always toward a happier state. Mistakes are fodder for growth, nothing to cause alarm.
The inner bully is not your true self. Learn to detach from its messages – watch them, but don’t take them on. Listen for your true self underneath all the hullabaloo – you’ll find a steady, knowing presence. Tune in and listen to your own inner wisdom.
2. Kill it with Kindness
We have many inner voices, but some are kinder than others. The inner bully is part of us, but it focuses on punishment and judgment as a motivating force. That doesn’t work for most of us. What does work is kindness.
If you’ve got some mental bullying going on, see if you can find another voice – the one that gives you the benefit of the doubt in the situation, that suggests you can learn and do better the next time. Support your kind voices until they drown out the bully.
3. Welcome Mistakes
There really is no such thing as a mistake. As long as we learn from it. Every perceived misstep, misstatement, mistake, is an opportunity to see where we want to improve ourselves and our performance.
If we focus on accepting our humanness, and our intention to become better people for all our shortfalls, we can move on more quickly from situations that might have previously sent us into a tailspin. For the inner bully, welcoming mistakes is like pouring water on the Wicked Witch of the West.
4. Just Stop It!
Sometimes we can stop the cycle before it can really begin. Practice awareness of the habit as it arises, and nip it in the bud by focusing on other more positive thoughts and activities. Rather than descending into negativity, have a list of alternatives – things you like to do, that are good for you, and give yourself permission to pick one, then bring your whole mind to the activity. You’ll have no room left for the inner bully.
Check out this hilarious video clip of Bob Newhart on Mad TV on the power of just stopping it.