We voraciously work to stomp out bullying at school. We do not accept harsh words, criticism, or taunting in our classrooms. We have a zero-tolerance policy for cruelty and harmful behavior. But guys, the truth is, we allow all of it into our own internal dialogue.
That’s right. The negative self-talk, the self-criticism…we’re bullying ourselves. And it’s not okay. If you wouldn’t allow it in your classroom, you shouldn’t allow it in your mind. It’s time to take a stand, build up your self-esteem, and show yourself some compassion.
Self-talk isn’t all bad
Most of us talk to ourselves. This self-talk is a constant, streaming narration and we’re usually totally unaware that it’s even happening. Healthy self-talk is based in reality. It’s a beneficial critique to help us improve, to stop poor choices in the future, and motivate us to reach goals. Bullying self-talk distorts reality. It exaggerates the consequences, makes irrational statements, and warps any possibilities for growth.
Write it down
The first step to changing bullying self-talk is acknowledging that it’s happening. Recognizing when normal, even helpful, criticism is turning toward unnecessarily critical can help you end it.
Start tracking your thoughts to begin changing your negative self-talk. Record your thoughts and what happened as honestly as possible. When you make a habit of this, you’ll begin to notice some patterns. Do you tell yourself certain things over and over? Do certain thoughts arise because of similar circumstances? Do you bully yourself for having difficult emotions?
How are you bullying yourself?
Negative self-talk comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some things to look out for:
- Catastrophizing: Do you tell yourself that something is far worse than it actually is? Generally, catastrophizing happens when you make a current situation, or imagine making a future situation, a catastrophe. Sentencing yourself to these negative outcomes tends to eliminate your ability to see other possibilities.
- Black and white thinking: Does your inner bully tell you things are either all good or all bad? Black and white thinking is thinking in extremes, rather than recognizing that most situations fall somewhere in the middle. This sort of thinking tends to keep you from seeing the complexities of the world as they really are.
- Mind-reading: Are you assuming you know what other people are thinking about you, about what you’ve done, or who you are? Mind-reading is imagining what is going on in someone else’s head without any real evidence. But really, it’s a failure of imagination. Mind-reading tends to push thoughts toward the negative without considering the many neutral or positive possibilities.
- Emotional reasoning: Do your emotions make decisions over reason or values? Emotional reasoning is the habit of believing something is true because it feels true. Using emotions as the only evidence for your thoughts can result in depression and procrastination.
Make the change
Once you’ve recognized your brand of negative self-talk and you’ve identified specific patterns, it’s time to make some changes.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Separate yourself. Try to separate what you do from who you are. When you make a bad choice, it is not evidence that you are a bad person. Reframe what happened by evaluating all the factors of the situation. It’s okay to feel what you feel. You can’t always control your feelings. What you can control are your responses and reactions to your feelings. Don’t judge your feelings, just acknowledge them as something you are experiencing — not who you are.
- List options. Sometimes negative self-talk can limit the possibilities to see other sides to the situation. Prepare yourself by creating a list of as many other options you can imagine happening or existing because of this situation.
- Remind yourself of reality. When you find yourself unable to think beyond the negative thoughts in your mind, say or write factual statements such as: There is more than one way to solve this, If I get more information, I can make a better decision, or Maybe we are both right.
- Find the evidence. Take another look at what happened, but this time try to distance yourself. If the evidence doesn’t support your self-talk, tell yourself so — again and again and again. Recognize your negative self-talk and rein in your fears by putting them into a more realistic perspective.
- Be your own friend. Imagine the thoughts you would offer a friend were they in your situation. Then say those words to yourself. They are just as true when you tell them to yourself as if you were saying them to someone else.
- Recognize the good. When you move outside your comfort zone or find yourself in a difficult moment, remember the positive qualities you possess. You have done wonderful things. Don’t let negative self-talk overshadow all the good.
You are in control
The things you say to yourself are powerful. And the best part is, you do have control over what you say. You get to decide if you are going to bully yourself or be kind and gentle to real feelings. So make the decision today to get into the habit of changing your inner dialogue — and put an end to the bullying once and for all.
Ashley is an award-winning copywriter and content expert with more than a decade of proven results for national and local clients. From brainstorming high-end conceptual content to styling sentences that engage and convert, she’s got a knack for shattering the status quo. When she’s not in full-on writing mode, she’s hanging out with her rascal of a puppy and discussing the plausibility of unicorns with her 8-year-old daughter.