How to Face Your Inner Critic

I have a bully in my life. This bully has been verbally attacking me for a very long time. Fortunately, there’s research out there about dealing with bullies, so there are lots of tools from which to choose. But there’s no chance of ever getting away from this bully. Why? I am the bully.

Yes, I have been bullying myself for decades. This past weekend was no exception. Despite all my personal development work, coach training, and mindfulness efforts, I still bully myself relentlessly from time to time.

Why am I using such a charged word to describe what most people just call the inner critic? Well, I looked up the definition for bully. Here it is:

bul·ly /ˈbo͝olē/ a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

Okay. Maybe I don’t SEEK to habitually harm and intimidate myself. Except I do at certain times. I start bullying myself when I am feeling the most insecure about myself.

There are a few reasons why bullies bully. Often, they bully because they are feeling neglected. Or they are being bullied themselves by a sibling, a parent, or someone else in their social circle. And they get emotional relief by taking it out on others.

Given those reasons, let’s play with that for a moment. I have been feeling neglected as of late. It’s been a busy time of getting ready for the new school year. I had a performance last weekend that required travel. Time to just connect in with myself has been at a premium. Like a child who isn’t being given the attention they need, I have been craving some time with myself! Humans, if they’re not getting the attention they need in positive ways, will inevitably resort to negative attention. Not a good solution, but a solution never-the-less.

Now, let’s look at the next reason bullies exist- because they are being bullied. Well, I can’t say that anyone in my external life is bullying me, thankfully! But I realize that I have been bullying myself for quite a while. Like, my whole life. Awareness of my inner critic has evolved gradually and with effort. The sound of my own voice in my head can be so compelling, especially when it’s so negative. Why wouldn’t I believe myself? When I hear myself say things like, “you always mess things up,” and then I have the feelings to back that up, how could I not believe it?!

Finally, bullies bully because they get relief by taking their own feelings out on others. I do recognize that when I start saying mean things that are validated by emotion, I get a form of relief. It’s horribly validating. It’s as if I’m saying, “I told you so.” But it’s also not relieving because it fuels a fire in the pit of my stomach, and I can’t get away from that.

Have you engaged in bullying behavior toward yourself? How interested are you in facing your inner critic/bully and standing up to it? Using the lens of bullying, I offer a new perspective on the inner critic in this episode of Growing in Uncertainty. You will gain some insights and tools for turning your inner bully into an inner ally.

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