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Are you a Bully?

I asked one of my clients the other day “would you consider yourself to be a bully”? They were horrified and said indignantly “Of course not, I’m not that kind of person at all!”

“Hmm…..So why do you talk to yourself like that then?”

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Well you constantly berate yourself for making mistakes and when you look in the mirror you tell yourself how bad you look – that sounds like bullying to me”.


She got it. How on earth could she feel good about herself with the verbal self-abuse she subjected herself to everyday. I asked her how she would feel if someone at school was talking to her daughter the way she was talking to herself – more silence.

Once you notice your internal dialogue – the constant chatter that goes on in your head all day long – see what you make of it. Is it inspiring and uplifting? Or is it damning and a stick with which to beat yourself? The best question to ask yourself is – would I speak to anyone else this way? If not then you need to change it. Notice it, acknowledge it but change it. You may have got into a life-long habit of criticizing yourself – it might be the critical voice of a parent, teacher or caregiver – there will no doubt be a reason or somewhere or someone you got this from. You were not born with your internal narrative – you learned it. But it’s important to remember it’s just words – the things you tell yourself are not true nor are they helpful.

Kirsten Neff is one of the world’s leading expert on self-compassion. She says there are three parts to self- compassion. Firstly treating yourself kindly, with the same kindness that you would a dear friend. Secondly having a sense of common humanity and an understanding that as humans we suffer and we all need compassion and kindness. A sense of all being in this together. And lastly mindfulness – being aware and noticing our emotions and thoughts and sitting with them rather than trying to get rid of them. Observing our thoughts and emotions rather than becoming them.

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all whoever said you were supposed to be perfect”.

So an appeal to all out there – be nicer to yourselves. Treat yourselves with kindness and love, and if you notice you are not doing that have a word with that little voice and tell it politely to shut up and then move on. We all do it – the trick is to catch yourself in the act and re-direct.

If you want to know more about self-compassion head to Dr Neff’s website for the latest research, information and some ways to increase your self-compassion –

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