Would you agree with me if I said bullying was wrong? To deliberately pick on someone, single them out, physically or mentally, or maybe both, because there’s something about them that you just don’t like, or understand?
I think most people would agree that bullying is unkind, uncalled for and can have long-lasting detrimental effects for the victims, who often find it hard to move beyond the trauma and misery of being harassed and ridiculed. Even in later life, they might struggle to trust people, open up about their experiences, have meaningful relationships or learn to accept and love themselves for who they truly are.
So if we know and accept that bullying is so wrong, and detrimental to a person’s wellbeing, why do so many of us do it to ourselves? Why do we speak in a way that undermines us and makes us feel unworthy?
What am I going on about?
Well, we wouldn’t speak to friends in the unkind way we often speak to ourselves, OK we might want to on occasion, but I’m not sure how good or longlasting that friendship would be! You know the sort of thing I’m talking about, you make a mistake, so you’re “stupid”, you forget to do something so you call yourself “an idiot” or worse.
How many of us fall into the trap of scrolling through social media and comparing our circumstances to complete strangers. Convinced they’re everything (you think) you’re lacking. Great looking, loads of money, a wonderful career, confidence by the bucket load, perfectly well behaved children, an ideal family who enjoy exotic holidays to places you can only dream of …
Whatever insecurity you have, you’re bound to find someone online who will make you feel utterly miserable when you compare yourselves to them.
If you’re feeling low, social media might not be the best place to go, unless it’s to speak to people and take your mind off your worries.
The truth is, most people, even online influencers, have their own private insecurities, but they only post things they want others to believe about them, all through a heavily filtered lens. It’s very rare that we get to peep behind the camera and see what their life is really like without the bright lights and picture perfect scenery.
Psychologists tell us that we have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. How many of those thoughts are used to praise ourselves? Compared to how many used to put ourselves down?
When was the last time you stepped back and looked at something you’ve done with a sense of accomplishment? Or looked in the mirror and thought, yeah, I feel happy with myself today?
Just as important as it is to work out our body, to keep it fit and healthy, we have to train our minds to do what we want, and not to run away with damaging thoughts.
Intrusive thoughts will pop into our minds at the least helpful moments, thoughts that derail our confidence and can increase anxiety and self-doubt. Preventing us from doing the things we’d like to achieve, going for a promotion at work, meeting new people, joining a gym, writing a book, whatever dream you secretly have, because that little voice in your head whispers “you can’t do that, you’re not good enough.”
The reason is usually because the brain wants to keep you safe and out of harm’s way, that means keeping you in a comfortable bubble of what you already know, not expanding and trying new things.
Every time you ask yourself a disempowering question, you’ll get a disempowering answer, instead of saying to yourself “Why am I so stupid, why can’t I do this?” try, “How can I do this better? What can I do differently?”
Each time you catch yourself in a negative pattern of thinking, see how you can switch it up to be less unhelpful.
I’m not saying that you can or should get rid of every negative thought you have, that would be exhausting, and sometimes it’s important to see things that require improvement or change, but if that means putting yourself down, being unhappy or knocking your confidence in the process, then it’s worthwhile considering another way.
Here are 3 top tips to improving self-talk
1 Using alcohol or drugs to silence intrusive thoughts rarely works, in fact it can make them darker and more sinister. It’s also likely to increase anxiety in the days that follow, which will increase the momentum of the thoughts and emotions.
2 If you’re struggling with intrusive thoughts and your confidence is suffering as a result. Think about what you’d say to someone you love, if they were saying what you say, about themselves. We are often much harder on ourselves than we are on others.
3 If thoughts in your head are preventing you from fulfilling the things you desire in life, being happy and productive, it might be time to share them with a trusted friend or family member. Getting them out in the open can be a good way of letting them go. If you don’t have someone you want to confide in, you could always write your thoughts down on paper and then rip it up afterwards.
Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows and it’s natural for moods to fluctuate, but it’s not natural to feel a continual lack of self-worth or self-esteem. It’s not something that we often talk about, because why would we? thoughts are private and nobody has to know. It’s often easier to pretend to be happy or outgoing even when that’s not how you really feel.
If this article resonates with you, or someone you know, then please consider having a chat with your GP or seeking support, you’re not alone.
Shannon Humphrey is a Youth and Adult First Aid for Mental Health Instructor. She specialises in anxiety, stress, overwhelm and burnout. www.pathwaysforpositivity.com