How many times have you bullied yourself?

In a recent interview, singer Melanie C describes therapy as ‘bloody great’. She’s dead right.

During therapy, one of my biggest epiphanies was uncovering the link between my early life experiences and inner critic, then taking action to break the pattern.

Let’s face it: we all trash talk ourselves. Everyone has an inner dialogue, both positive and negative. Most the time we’re in a good place and our narrative ambles along happily. But during stress, adversity or setbacks a daemon appears and unleashes merry hell.

The attacks can be irritating. Exhausting, even. Understanding this can be complex, but our native discourse usually comes from an emotional place.

For me, it stretches back to the dim and distant past and my parents’ separation. I vividly remember the day it happened and how I felt. I was convinced their break-up was my fault. In the aftermath my inner critic settled in and made herself at home.

Revisiting and reexamining those emotions are hard; I find it easy to write about it. Talking about it? Not so much. When I describe that day I feel small, childlike, and become upset. Maybe you relate.

As difficult as it is, it’s also liberating. It pinpoints the roots so you can cultivate solutions and allow new behaviours to grow.

Perception vs reality: We mistakenly believe negative self-talk is fact. Hey, guess what? It’s fake news! Sometimes we’re skewed by our own bias and can’t see outside ourselves. What you need right now is a gentle reminder of your strengths from someone who cares.

Check, mate: Learn to notice when you’re being hard on yourself so you can begin to stop. Ask yourself: would you say these things to a good mate? If not, work towards shutting it down.

Watch your language: If you catch yourself in the midst of verbal masochism, try changing the tone. Instead of ‘I can’t/I’m not good enough’ say ‘This is tough going/a challenge’. Remind yourself you can only do your best. Zap those negative vibes.

Stop. Don’t stop: We can’t switch off emotions and it is futile to think we can. It’s not easy but sometimes you gotta feel. There’s no use telling yourself to stop feeling this way so don’t try to control it – learn to manage it. As a friend of mine says ‘sit with it for a while.’

Good vs bad: When I find myself stuck in a critical whirligig I swap the bad for good. I figure we do these for external behaviours – giving up booze, fags and junk food – so it’s applicable to internal processes too. Like forming a new habit, it gets easier as you go.

Be your own best buddy… Instead of your own worst enemy.

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I'm a writer, journalist and communications officer based in the South West of England. I write about wellbeing, the outdoors and life in a rural playground.

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