Growing up, I remember being so grateful and aware that I was never bullied by other kids in my school. Sure I was teased sometimes by the boys and had my share of fights with my friends, but no one ever bullied me. Or at least that is what I thought was true when I was growing up.
Many years later, when I started working at The Path of Self Love School, I realized I was bullied for decades by the one bully that lurks everywhere I go – the one bully no one can escape – the inner bully.
What is self-bullying?
Simply put, self-bullying is when you are mean to yourself. You say mean things to yourself, are hard on yourself, and put an overwhelming amount of pressure on yourself to be perfect, fit in, and meet everyone else’s expectations. Sound familiar?
Christine Arylo, the founder of The Path of Self Love School, defines self-bullying is “the act of pushing and pressuring yourself to take self-sabotaging acts and make self-sabotaging choices that are not in your best interest or that compromise your well-being. Self-bullying is the act of saying negative and hurtful things to yourself or judging yourself in ways that make you feel inferior, ineffective, unlovable, unworthy or in any way bad about yourself”.
And unfortunately, self-bullying starts as early as 7 years old and can continue for a lifetime until you learn how to deal with and transform this inner bullying force, known as the “Inner Mean Girl” or “Inner Mean Guy”. When I was younger, I didn’t have the awareness of how horribly mean I was to myself. I have endless dairies filled with years of self-bullying. I would tell myself “You are so fat and ugly.” “No one is ever going to want to date you.” “Why are you so stupid?”
The voice of my inner bully was on autopilot for most of my life without me realizing it. Saying negative things to myself and silently beating myself up was just something I did. I grew up thinking everyone was prettier than me, everyone was thinner than me, and everyone had better hair than me. “If I was only prettier and skinnier, than I would have ______”. Fill in the blank and that was my answer for everything.
Now I know self-love is the answer to everything.
It wasn’t until I accidentally started my self-love journey back in 2009 that I realized just how much my Inner Mean Girl was in control, leading me to make self-sabotaging and self-sacrificing choices, including working 65+ hours a week as a Fortune 100 HR consultant in a company that was suffocating my soul (my inner bully told me that was the definition of success).
That was also when I realized just how much my inner bully was modeling self-judgement and self-induced stress and pressure for my two young children. So in 2010, based on proven self-love tools from Reform Your Inner Mean Girl, I slowly began to shift my own self-criticism and self-bullying behavior and now proudly model being more kind, gentle, patient, and understanding with myself in front of my children.
No parent wants their children to be bullied. And what I now know is that some of the worst bullying is the self-bullying our children do to themselves, which can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Is your child self-bullying?
Here are some signs your children are self-bullying (based on internationally acclaimed Reform Your Inner Mean Girl programs that have helped thousands of women & girls work with the two inner forces within - the 'inner mean girl' + 'the inner wisdom').
Children are self-bullying when they:
- Compare themselves to others – feeling inferior or like they will only be good enough if they can do the things others do. Instead of valuing and excelling at their gifts, kids judge their self-worth based on what the ‘smart’ or ‘popular’ kids do, and so never feel like they are doing or being enough.
- Obsessively worry or think about what could go wrong. Instead of trusting things will be okay even if they aren’t perfect, kids run worse case scenarios through their mind about everything bad that could happen – with friends, school, families – leading to anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, and depression.
- Pressure themselves to be perfect. Instead of feeling great about doing the best they can, kids pressure themselves to get the perfect grade, play perfectly at the game, say the perfect thing to get into the right school, etc. When things don’t work out perfectly – which they never do – they internalize this as a personal failure, leading to stress, anxiety and lack of self-care.
- Say yes even when they know inside they should say no. Kids face tremendous amounts of peer pressure. Without strong self-trust, at the mercy of their inner bully, a kid will go against their internal knowing to fit in, be liked or not look stupid, leading to choices that could affect their entire lives.
- Are busy and trying to do everything, with no down time. Over-scheduled just like adults, kids start to equate their self-worth with how busy they are or how much they achieve, they develop inner task master bullies that can’t stop doing or achieving, leading to exhaustion, unhappiness and burn out.
Where does self-bullying come from?
The culprit behind self-bullying is the Inner Mean Girl/Inner Mean Guy. This self-sabotaging force pushes, cajoles, manipulates, confuses, criticizes, puts down, procrastinates, judges, and instills fear. This is an inner force (that we all have) that fills your children’s heads with negative self-talk and can push them to think and do things that aren’t in their best interest.
How can you help your children stop self-bullying?
The best way to stop self-bullying is to lower the volume of their Inner Mean Girl/Guy and raise the volume of the the other force that lives inside of them – their Inner Wisdom. Just like a best friend, their Inner Wisdom is always kind, loving and compassionate to them and is here to help them make the best choices for themselves.
This kind and loving inner force is like their own inner guidance system, their inner GPS, attuned to the truth of who they are. It can guide them to the actions that are best for them, and gives them the courage to be true to themselves, even if it means doing something different from what their friends are doing.
When your children know how to access, listen to and follow their Inner Wisdom, it can keep them safe, tell them the loving truth, and be compassionate instead of critical when they make mistakes or are having a hard day.
Self-Love Tool for Quieting the Inner Mean Girl/Guy and Accessing Inner Wisdom
Use this simple, proven, self-love tool to help your children turn down the volume on their Inner Mean Girl/Guy (fear, judgment, shame) and turn up the volume on their wise, honest, compassionate Inner Wisdom (loving truth).
Note: The intention of this tool is to teach your children to be aware of their Inner Mean Girl/Guy and Inner Wisdom (even if they roll their eyes, they are still listening). It also helps them distinguish between the voice/guidance of their Inner Mean Girl/Guy and their Inner Wisdom.
When you notice your children being hard on themselves, use the following tool to hold space for them with unconditional love.
- Invite your children's Inner Mean Girl/Guy to rant by asking them “What is your Inner Mean Girl/Guy saying?”
- Invite them to close their eyes, take a deep breath, and then ask them one of the following questions: What does your Inner Wisdom know is true? Or what would you tell your best friend if she/he was being so hard on her/himself right now?
- Repeat back their Inner Wisdom’s truth.
- Invite them to take a deep breath and really FEEL the compassion, letting the words penetrate into their hearts.
When your children can tell the difference between these two forces within them and trust the guidance of their Inner Wisdom, they can make better choices for themselves, transform negative self-talk into positive supportive self-talk, and put an end to toxic habits like comparing themselves, trying to be perfect, succumbing to peer pressure.
Three things I know for sure: Self-love is the answer to everything, some of the worst bullying is the self-bullying we do to ourselves, and the truth of our Inner Wisdom is always there, waiting to set us free.