For Self-care Sunday this month we’ll be talking about all things back-to-school. One of the most important back-to-school topics we need to understand is what to do with a bully. Especially when we discover how close to home the bully might live. The link to the book is an affiliate link.
Listening to Myself
As I walked on the dirt road behind our house I chastised myself. “Why didn’t you start preparing for this presentation sooner? You can act so irresponsibly some times.”
The other part of me whined, “Because I’ve had a busy summer.”
“That’s no excuse! You present at that conference in TWO days! It seems like you do this every. Single. Time. You wait until the last minute to do everything. No wonder you feel stressed!”
I shook my head in defeat. My steps slowed with the weight of all I needed to accomplish in a few short hours. My inner voice had caught me again.
But then I stopped in my tracks.
I had planned on writing a back-to-school post about bullying. Maybe what I needed was a stiff talk to myself about facing down my biggest bully—ME.
I would NEVER use that tone of voice or those words with my students—whatever in the world made me think it was ok to use them on ME?
The Bully Inside Us
We all bully ourselves from time to time—it’s known as negative self-talk or rumination. When that voice in your head chastises you non-stop and you start to feel hopeless—you have a bully problem.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2014, one way to distance yourself from negative self-talk is to think of yourself in the third person.
Instead of saying, “I always mess up and procrastinate,” I should say “Anita always messes up and procrastinates.”
Just typing those two sentences helps me see the absurdity of the statement. In most situations I am on time. In fact, I have things completed before the due date, and I actually enjoy doing things ahead of time.
Boom! Bully silenced just like that.
I also realize that although I have left some things to the last minute, I have also constantly worked on the presentations in my head over the past four months. When doing other tasks, my mind has wandered to what I want to say, how I want to say it, and visuals of me standing in front of an audience delivering the words. In essence, I have drafted my two presentations and lead myself through visualization exercises. Just because I didn’t write those things down months ago does not mean that I haven’t been working on them.
Henry Ford said it best (ok, it’s credited to Henry Ford, but others have said essentially the same thing): Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.
Cognitive Distortions and You
In his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. Burns outlines ten cognitive distortions (ten negative thought patterns) that people struggle with. I call them the ten bullies.
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking (you categorize yourself as either all good or all bad).
2. Overgeneralization (you conclude that if you act a certain way once, you are destined to act that way forever).
3. Mental Filter (you choose one negative aspect of yourself or an event and filter all information through this negative light).
4. Disqualifying the Positive (you turn positive things into negative things).
5. Jumping to Conclusions (you assign thoughts to other people that might not be true or you imagine that something bad WILL happen).
6. Magnification and Minimization (you either blow things out of proportion or ignore them).
7. Emotional Reasoning (you confuse your feelings about yourself with reality).
8. Should Statements (you create longs lists of things you should or ought to do and use them to pressure yourself into doing things—and you berate yourself when you fail).
9. Labeling and Mislabeling (this is an extreme, irrational form of overgeneralization).
10. Personalization (you take responsibility for negative events that you actually have no control over).
Hopefully, you don’t have to contend with all ten bullies at once!
Steps to Fight the Bullies
We ALL indulge in negative self-talk at times. Likewise, we all encourage ourselves with positive self-talk, too. Learning how to turn the negative into positive will help us feel less hopeless and discouraged.
Note: If you feel discouraged to the point of depression, make an appointment with a mental health professional as soon as possible. If you feel suicidal, seek medical attention immediately: Call 1-800-273-8255. There is NO SHAME in seeking help. A person experiencing a heart attack wouldn’t feel embarrassed for rushing to the hospital.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:39 to “love your neighbors as yourself.” Therefore, as Christians we have a mandate to learn how to love ourselves so that we can love others.
If you struggle with your inner bullies, I challenge you to grab a piece of paper the next time a bully pops up in your brain. Fold the paper in half, and on the left side, write down what the bully has to say.
Now, open the paper up and on the left side, rephrase each of those statements using the third person. Under the third-person restatement, use a different colored pen to write the truth.
When we bully ourselves, we usually do so out of anger. But we need to deal with our self-anger in the same way that we deal with anger at other people.
When we go through exercises that help us love ourselves, we, in essence, offer forgiveness and grace to ourselves. By doing this, we take Paul’s advice to not ‘give the devil a foothold’ in our lives (Ephesians 4:27).Don't let the devil have a foothold in your life! Learn to silence your inner bully. #bully #backtoschool Click To Tweet
Above all, remember that Jesus values you so much that he gave his life in exchange for yours. He wants you to live a free and abundant life—and that’s difficult to do when you’re hauling around a bagful of inner bullies.
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