There’s a lot of talk these days about bullying. As we know, it’s a pervasive problem that many kids in school face. And if the traditional bully isn’t bad enough, now we have a new threat: the cyberbully. When I hear about the blatant meanness some kids endure at the hands of their peers, I am angry, sad, and frankly flabbergasted.
But there’s a different kind of bullying that happens. It’s a subtle version, and one that persists through our adult lives. While perhaps not as obviously traumatic as the kind of bullying we are familiar with, this kind of bullying can have the same sort of lasting and devastating effects.
This kind of bullying can destroy our happiness, ruin relationships, hold us back from achieving things, damage our self-worth, and sabotage everything we do. The kind of bullying I’m talking about is so common that I would be very surprised if you, dear reader, have not suffered at the hands of this cold-hearted bully. Make no mistake, this bully is no stranger. This bully is someone you know very well.
The bully is you.
This bully wears lots of disguises and shows up in many different forms. Sometimes it sounds like a parent or authority figure from our past. Most often, it takes the form of an inner voice that delivers extremely critical and toxic “self talk.” It’s the voice inside that tells you things like…
- “Just give up, you’ll never succeed anyway.”
- “What makes you think you deserve this relationship?”
- “You’re going to screw up like you always do.”
- “You’re such a loser!”
- “Nobody wants to hear what you have to say so just shut up.”
- “You have nothing of value to share.”
Pretty harsh, isn’t it? Yet most of us have heard our inner bully say things like this to us and haven’t lifted a finger to stop it. In fact some people hear these kinds of things day after day and all day long while barely even noticing.
Do we ignore this bully?
Most of the time we do our best to ignore this inner bullying and try to go about our day as usual. Yet the voice persists and, over time, we learn to simply accept it. Perhaps that’s the most tragic aspect of this situation – that this kind of negative self talk is so pervasive that it just becomes a natural part of our experience of life.
Pervasive or not, this unconscious toxic self-talk can have a very real impact on our conscious, tangible lives.
The inner bully has more influence than you might think. It can:
- keep you from some of the most fulfilling experiences in life
- stop you from finding and keeping a healthy, loving relationship
- hinder your ability to prosper and find financial stability
- undermine creative endeavors
- cause you to develop bad habits and give in to unhealthy choices
- keep you stuck in your seat when you’d rather be up dancing
This inner bully can throw a wet blanket over every aspect of your happiness and joy.
So where did this vile bully come from? The bully–this inner voice that always wants to bring us down, make us feel badly about ourselves, criticize everything we do–is often a collection or amalgam of many different voices. Many of these voices can come from childhood.
It can seem sometimes like there just isn’t any escape from this inner bully. After all, you can’t outrun what is a part of you, can you? So are we doomed to listen to the constant criticisms and fault-finding commentary?
The Bullies Secret Weakness
As it turns out, the inner bully does, in fact, have a secret weakness. Despite what it might feel like, there is a way to silence that bully, to get that critical voice to back off and let you live your life.
By paying attention to it.
I know what you’re saying, “why in the world would I want to pay attention to this mean and cruel inner bully? Shouldn’t we try to ignore it instead?” Well, good luck with that.
Ignoring it doesn’t work. In fact ignoring it often strengthens the bully. Bear in mind that this particular bully–like other kinds of evildoers–thrives in the darkness. It lives most comfortably on the outskirts of your awareness, just out of reach, just beyond your conscious control.
It’s there that this bully does its dirty work.
However, once you turn your awareness toward this voice, it weakens. Paying attention means focusing your awareness on it and becoming mindful of it. Like shining a spotlight on a cat burglar, the inner bully runs away as soon as you stop and allow yourself to become fully aware of the nonsense this bully is spewing at you.
To put it simply: Awareness is what allows you to make conscious and intentional choices. Choices that silence the controlling parent and inner bully.
This is but one more in a long list of reasons why a healthy, happy life depends upon our mindful awareness. Nearly all major problems in life can be traced in some way or another, to a lack of awareness.
And the cure for the poison that your inner bully keeps feeding you is nothing other than to cultivate a life of mindful awareness in every way you possibly can.
Now in fairness, I think there are hundreds of things you can do to improve your awareness. Sometimes just a good walk along the beach can help, at least for the moment. But if you’re after a proven method that creates lasting changes, then you already know what I’m going to say. I’m going to suggest that you try meditation.
Have you heard enough nonsense from your inner bully?
You don’t need to let that bully push you around anymore. Stand up to it by cultivating mindful awareness. Use that awareness to silence the bully by making conscious choices that yield healthy, happy, resourceful outcomes.
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: