“I have done it again. I have been here many times before / Hurt myself again today / And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame.” Breathe Me. Sia
‘You’re fat. You’re looking old. Oh my God, you’re so looking so old. Look at your lines. Who do you think you are? Seriously? Everyone thinks you’re pathetic.’
In this third in my series of blogs on bullying we say ‘hello’ to an inner bully.
Oh yes. This lovely little madam isn’t at high school, she isn’t an internet troll. She’s not working in an office, fiercely polishing her nails as she plots and seeks to control her own fear by picking on others. She lives inside a woman. And pretty amazing woman at that.
This particular inner bully lives with a highly articulate, career-loving queen of multi-tasking who has achieved in just about everything she touches; from her ‘oh I don’t like to talk about it’ charity work to her beautiful family.
And she’s not alone. I work with women who win multiple awards, have their own successful businesses or jobs, lovely homes… in short, on paper, look like shining beacons of ‘having it all’. But what they also have is an inner bitch.
Why is this woman so hard on herself? Would she think this or say this about anyone else? Not even if that woman were jabber-the-hut proportioned and 2,000 years old. But it’s ok to say this to yourself.
So what’s going on?
If this scenario is familiar to you. Then I expect you’ve been living with an inner critic for years and I bet you bumped along with yours for years before you noticed the condemning look from the mirror. From the reflection in the shop window. In the eyes of the waitress at the restaurant.
When you hear this bully making her presence known, remember this:
- Her presence is not your fault.
- She is using everything in the book to keep you small. It’s not true.
- You need to hear the very opposite of her crap but you also need to do some homework first
- A bit like in a fairy tale, when you understand her and disarm her, her witch power starts to evaporate.
So where did this little madam come from?
A common thread I see amongst the women I work with is they have, at some point, been shamed by a parent. Usually the mother and/or mother-figure in the house is the one whose actions are at the root of this.
Now we all do things wrong as children and we all get punished for our misdeeds, or we annoy the living daylights out of a parent and they use harsh words or actions in the moment. And of course there are the parents who are unfit parents and they will mess up their children deliberately, but by the large, this is not deliberate child sabotage.
They can’t or just forget to tell the child that regardless of their misdeed they love the child unconditionally and completely. Perhaps they don’t value themselves enough to realise how important they are in their child’s growth. Perhaps they do believe love is conditional and can be justifiably withheld. When the parent doesn’t sit down with the child and emphasise how loveable they are, regardless of what has happened, the child starts to focus on being defined by the perceived weakness.
Women constantly look to their mothers for cues on how they should grow and consider themselves. They may admire their mother’s strength and resilience and so they take on board their mother’s criticism and hold it in their hearts where it sits, echoing its mantra of self-criticism year after year after year…
Want to shut her up?
If you’ve woken up to your inner bully then you’ll have probably come across the idea of positive affirmations. You might even have stood in front of the mirror and tried telling yourself the opposite of what you’ve been calling yourself. And then felt a bit ridiculous. Then thought ‘oh it doesn’t work for me because I am fat/old/ugly/different’ (whatever your poison of choice is, insert here).
Swamp her with understanding
Understanding where this inner bully comes from is a huge step in dealing with her poison. If you can understand where this all began (and working with an RTT Therapist can be hugely effective in achieving this because your subconscious is completely immersed in the process with you) then you can know on a deep level that this hate mantra she spouts isn’t true.
I’ve seen sea-change behaviour shifts in clients. In a matter of weeks they’ve moved from ‘I can’t go to a yoga class because everyone will think I’m fat’ to ‘oh I love it, I could go on my own. Actually, I’ve noticed I’m more flexible than other women in the class. And not everyone’s thin either.’ Change is possible.
The ‘you’re fat’ mantra comes up a lot. It’s not actually true though, is it. No one is literally fat. You are a mass of cells arranged in the shape of a human being. You are not literally ‘fat’. You may have fat cells, but you have many other types of cell too. Disarming the words’ power as playground name-calling is a start. Showing kindness to the inner bully, acknowledging she’s got it wrong and that you do have the power to change anything, including your own body, if you want to, quietens her. Because that is the truth. You have the power.
Listen for the quieter voice that speaks up when you’ve done well. Turn up her volume. Hear her admiration for your achievements. Your cleverness. Your capacity for nurturing and loving. For others and for you.
Becoming a loving parent to yourself
There are theories in psychology that we have within us our child self, our parent self and our adults self. Sometimes, in order to live fully as adults we need to practice parenting ourselves. Daily. Connecting to the child we were and making space to hear the words we longed to hear, from us. Who better to do the job now?
I keep a photograph of myself as a two year old out in my bedroom. I pass it everyday. My grandad’s arms are around me. He’s looking down at me. I can see he’s smiling. I’m looking up. I know, in that moment, I am so loved. If you believe that love is an energy and that energy never dies then surely that love lives on in me. I keep it alive. So when I pass that photo and think ‘I love you’, yes I am talking to my grandad, but I am also talking to myself.