I have discovered that I am a bully. I’m getting better, but I still find myself sliding back into old habits every so often. No, I don’t steal lunch money from my co-workers or kick sand in people’s face at the beach, the only person I bully is myself. Since I repeatedly bet myself up over things I’ve said or done however, it is just as harmful. This type of self-bullying, where we criticize ourselves more harshly than we ever would others is difficult to overcome, but it can be done. While some self-criticism is necessary in order to better ourselves, it shouldn’t be taken to extremes. If you constantly rehash every mistake and rarely focus on the good, it’s time to stop beating yourself up. Here are some of the ways that I’ve found helpful in overcoming the bully that lives inside of us all.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Everyone has goals, and that’s a good thing. What isn’t good however, is constantly putting yourself down over the things you haven’t achieved. Make a conscious effort to recognize negative self-talk for what it is and focus instead on how you can change things. Each night, I found that making a list of at least 3 things that I did well that day, that I’m proud of, or things that simply made me happy, helped a great deal. Make a list and read it out loud to yourself. It won’t make every negative thought disappear, but it can help you focus on the positive and keep you energized.
Be Kind to Yourself
It is just as important to be kind to yourself as it is to others. If you wouldn’t say something to another person, you shouldn’t say it to yourself either. When you start to criticize yourself, stop and imagine how it would affect someone else if you said it to them. Whether you realize it or not, it is affecting you the same way. Everyone makes mistakes and if you would forgive someone else for their mistakes, you should be forgiving of yourself as well.
Don’t Compare yourself to Others
No one is perfect. There will always be someone who is better at something than you are. There will also be people who aren’t good at things that you do well. When you find yourself saying things like “He/she is thinner, more successful, more athletic, etc. stop yourself and think of something that you do very well. Sometime making comparisons is a good thing, but only if it prompts you to better yourself, such as learning a new skill. In today’s society, we wear many hats and trying to be the best at everything is a losing battle. Like everyone, you have strengths and weaknesses. Being able to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and focusing on achieving your personal best will lead to a happier you.
Turn Mistakes into a Learning Opportunity
Life is a constant process of learning and growing and making mistakes is part of that process. Each life is truly a journey and like any road trip, some wrong turns are inevitable even if you think you have your route mapped perfectly. When you take a wrong turn during an actual road trip, you often find yourself learning more about the area that you are driving in. Apply that same principle to the wrong turn is the journey of life. Making mistakes can show you where your strengths and weakness lie so that you can take steps to become a better you. I’ve taught myself to focus not on the mistake, but why it happened. If you can analyze your actions and pinpoint where you went wrong, you won’t make the same mistake twice and will have gained valuable knowledge about yourself.
Have Patience with Yourself
Habits that have taken a lifetime to develop aren’t going to go away overnight, particularly something as deeply rooted as self-criticism. A considerable amount of time and effort is needed to alter the way that you thing and to nurture positive self-talk in order to find the reasonable, calm person underneath. You would have patience with others who were trying to change, so have patience with yourself as well. I find that taking time to do something positive for myself every day, even if it’s nothing more than taking a walk, helps to build positive energy. Practice being good to yourself until it becomes second nature. Above all, learn from your mistakes, but let them live in the past where they belong and instead focus on becoming more accepting of yourself as you are.