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Are you your own worst critic? It's easy to do since you're right there as you live your life. You know all the ins and outs. You know about all the things you did and didn't do. You think you know about all the ways you could, should, or would have done better, if only...
Yet imagine having a typical high-school bully by your side day in and day out. It's clearly the worst possible way to move forward in your life. Every perceived misstep becomes a torture and cause for ridicule.
You stop taking risks, you stop expressing yourself, you stop daring to be different. Worse, when you have a bully inside your own head then big brother is always watching you, ready to pounce....from the inside.
Not exactly a success kick-starter now is it?
Here's 9 essential keys to start to bust the hold of that inner bully:
1. Accept that life is much bigger and more complex than you (or anyone else) can comprehend.
There is no straightforward cause-effect model that allows you to say: "totally my fault!" Sorry, you're just not that powerful.
2. Understand that beating yourself up is ineffective.
It's something we tend to do when we lack control. Beating yourself up can give the illusion that you're doing something to improve things. Yet more accurately, you're just making it harder to have any control at all. It's hard to focus when you get obsessed with “musts”, “shoulds” and “can'ts.” When you're bullying yourself, ask: Is this helping?
3. Don't beat yourself up for beating yourself up.
Don't worry, we all do it. Now it's time to bring some awareness to it and choose a different response whenever you find yourself being mean to yourself. Imagine: if a dear friend were standing in your shoes, what would you say to her?
4. Allow yourself to feel hurt and disappointed.
Beating yourself up is often a cover for deeper painful emotions. Learn to be with the underlying emotions instead. Shit happens, there's no use in aggressive daydreaming about how something shouldn't have happened. When you get real about how you feel, it becomes easier to move on.
5. Know that a successful life is not a perfect one.
A successful life is one where you graciously support yourself through any challenge that comes your way. Self-compassion is the key to a fulfilling and effective life. Start noticing how much more effective you are when you start supporting and complimenting yourself instead of being mean.
6. Don't take all of this personally.
You are living in a society in which most people are raised with competition and ridicule as a way to be “kept in check.” We all internalize those models in an attempt to “do well.” Yet, when you continue to attack your own “faults” more and more fiercely, you tend to lose your joy and authenticity somewhere along the way.
Many people just perpetuate that pattern. So instead, notice how your inner bully is just a reflection of behaviour that was modeled to you by others. Then decide to start breaking that pattern by treating yourself lovingly.
7. Know that when inner-bullying is familiar, it will feel strange not to engage in it.
Allow yourself to feel weird about being nice to yourself no matter what. Also know that – no matter what the inner bully may be yelling about – you do have a choice as to how to respond. You need to claim that choice. Put your foot down and say to yourself: 'I'm choosing to be nice to me!'
8. Make a habit of being nice to yourself no matter what.
The myth of the inner bully is that it helps you to “toughen up”. Yet, what it actually does is (over time) make you so fragile and hurt on the inside, that you can hardly stomach the most gentle kind of supportive criticism from others.
Inner bullying actually leads to a negative kind of over-sensitivity to other people's reactions. When you start to make a habit of being nice to yourself no matter what, then you discover that being nice to yourself is actually the best way to toughen up.
9. Define success on your own terms.
When you stop trying to live up to other people's standards and instead start asking: “What does success mean to me?” you'll find that you are uniquely suited to achieve your own kind of success. You're built to be good at who you are.