Counseling Resource Blog

4 Steps to STOP Self-Bullying

Many of us know what bullying is. Chances are that most of us have experienced it at one point or another throughout our lives. It’s a painful experience that can have lasting effects. Currently, many efforts go toward raising awareness about bullying, particularly in schools. These programs encourage those being bullied as well as those who witness bullying, to stand up and join the fight against it.

Some great resources include websites such as :

Text-A-Tip is offered to students of traditional high schools in Douglas County (among others) to anonymously report bullying to law enforcement. But, what if your bully, is YOU?

What is self-bullying and why is it an issue?

Self-bullying is when we criticize and nitpick about a vast array of issues, from the smallest, insignificant details of our flaws to the bigger things we don’t like about ourselves. We do this in the worst way possible: direct and often cruel, on-going self-talk that includes statements that we would probably never, ever, say to a loved one or even a stranger. Most people don’t realize it, but they engage in self-criticism several times a day. However, some people may be doing it much, much more than that. Self-bullying can begin in childhood and brew into an acute issue by becoming pervasive in one’s life (in varying severity), negatively impacting school performance, work performance, and relationships. No one is immune. It is an epidemic that affects people of all ages, gender, intelligence, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds. In my practice, I often see it occurring with high achievers that tend to have perfectionist characteristics.

You might identify with one of these self-bullying scenarios:

  1. You’re the only one that knows it is happening (you bully yourself often, but no one would ever know it because you act like everything is fine).
  2. You might not realize you’re doing it or not be aware of the frequency/severity of the situation.
  3. You realize it, but do not know how to stop the persistent, judgmental automatic thoughts.

So many things in life are out of our control, which can leave us feeling stressed out and helpless. The good news is self-bullying is not one of them! A vital part to stopping this self-defeating behavior is to first acknowledge that it is happening and then taking accountability (which entails accepting that you have a choice whether or not to engage in it). Upon building awareness and taking accountability, you hold all the power to stop it.

Are you still debating whether you bully yourself or just engage in harmless self-criticism? Becoming the best version of ourselves is a lifelong task and is best attained with positive, encouraging, self-motivating behaviors. Ask yourself if you engage in any of the following:

  • Unkind statements regarding one’s failure to perform at an expected level in various settings (such as an exam at school, a project/presentation at work, or social interactions)
  • Overly critical thoughts/statements regarding specific parts of one’s body
  • Harsh thoughts/statements about one’s skills, intelligence, and/or overall self-worth

Repetitive negative thoughts during the course of your day can influence your behavior, self-esteem and self-image, preventing you from accomplishing your goals and enjoying a fulfilling life. If you are ready to take a stand against self-bullying, try the following steps:

Start becoming mindful of your thoughts. Upon experiencing a self-defeating thought, observe and notice you are being critical of yourself, without judging yourself further for doing so.

Think about what you just said to yourself. Say it out loud. How would you respond if someone you love said that about themselves? How would that make you feel? What would you say or do in that situation?

Offer yourself the same courtesy you would to others. Make a conscious effort to notice the positive. Make a list of attributes, characteristics, accomplishments, and your abilities of which you are proud. (Things your body does for you on a daily basis OR academic, personal, or business accomplishments you have achieved throughout your life).

Place your energy into encouraging and motivating yourself to achieve self-acceptance. If you are unhappy with how a situation turned out, you will gain much more from the experience by learning from it, than belittling yourself for it. Focus on your strengths and use your list of affirmations to help keep you motivated.

Most importantly, give yourself time. It’s a process to become aware of negative automatic thoughts and influence your mindset to stimulate positive automatic thoughts. Every day that goes by, you will get better at mindfully redirecting your mind to positive thoughts, while reducing negative ones. Every person and situation is unique. If you are struggling with these steps, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. A therapist can help guide and support you as you incorporate these changes to your conscious thoughts. Keep in mind- you possess everything you need to achieve this goal. Be patient with yourself and seize as many opportunities as possible to practice mindfulness.

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