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Why you probably are a bully and how to stop negative self-talk

Are you a bully?

Yes, probably.

Why do I claim that?

Because I didn’t think I was a bully until I heard how I speak to myself.

Old habits to new habits written in the sand
Old habits to new habits

The truth is that we are prone to bullying ourselves. Incessantly.

If we spoke to our friends the way we spoke to ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends.

None. Not one.

After reading an article on Huffington Post titled “How to stop bullying yourself”, I was triggered to consider how I’ve reduced my own self-bullying.

I am not a proponent of the common philosophy that thinking positively or repeating affirmations will make a difference. I believe it is an ongoing effort to treat yourself well. It requires recognition and acceptance of how you feel and habit-changing self-coaching. Every. Single. Day.

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius


Four Agreements as a Guide

My methodology to deal with self-bullying was triggered by The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the premise is that we are the source of our self-limiting beliefs and not only does that create suffering in our life, but it also limits us from being happy.

You are the only one who can change your life because only you can control how you react to things.

You are the difference.

I often refer to The Four Agreements when coaching, as it provides four specific actions that, if applied daily, can change your life.

They are summarized inside the front flap of the book, but I’ll highlight only the pieces related to reducing self-bullying:

Be Impeccable With Your Word

Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.

Don't Take Anything Personally

When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be a victim of needless suffering.

Don't Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want.

Always Do Your Best

Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.


Worst Case Scenario

The situation is never as bad as you conceive.

I believe that you can apply these rules to self-bullying in most cases with the simple question of “Will I care about this in 5 years?”

In other cases, the more effective methodology is what I personally call "worst-case it" (WCI). This means asking yourself - “What is the worst that can happen?”

To clarify here, the ultimate worst case is always death.

No, I’m not kidding.

I almost died in a car accident at 19.

Then was given six months to live after the discovery of a heart aneurysm at 23.

So please trust me when I say the indisputable worst case is death because that cannot be fixed.

Beyond that, it’s all about perspective.

Anyone can find a way to survive and live a fulfilling life, so if no one is dying or getting hurt...

  1. Take a deep breath

  2. Stop bullying yourself

  3. Figure out the worst that can happen in each circumstance

  4. Determine if you can handle that

  5. If you can, you’re going to be okay

  6. I promise


"Worst Case It" in Practice

Let's take a professional example, like admitting to your boss that you feel a bit nervous about presenting and speaking publicly.

Oftentimes, admitting vulnerability leads us down a path of negativity…

Self-bullying inner monologue –

“What a stupid thing to say in front of my boss! Now, he’s going to think I am incapable of doing my job. I’ll lose out on other opportunities, and I definitely won’t get that promotion. I’m so stupid. What an idiot!”

Negative emotions such as regret, fear of failure and disapproval add to the self-defeating and bullying self-talk, and all of this stems from one sentence you said in passing to your boss. It happens.

WCI inner monologue –

“Okay, it’s not the end of the world. No one died. [Hint: This is always the first statement!] I am genuinely feeling anxious about this presentation. What’s the worst-case scenario? I could fall flat on my face, stumble over every word, embarrass myself, and my boss loses all respect for me. Okay. So, how can I prevent that from happening? Who do I know who presents well? How can I get advice or coaching ASAP? I’ll let my boss know I am willing to improve and learn new skills.”

There are always methods to minimize your worst case to avoid damage or embarrassment. By taking a moment to brainstorm and discover ideas of how to do that, you are able to take action and ensure that the worst case is manageable.

Change your habits; coach yourself every day.

These conversations in our heads are an ongoing battle but don’t worry, practice makes perfect and eventually, you will WCI preemptively and reduce the negative talk before it even starts.

Of course, no one is perfect, and I fall prey to bullying myself more often than I would like, but I strive to adhere to The Four Agreements every day and use WCI consistently.

Next time, you are running late, or questioning yourself, or scared of failing.


Breathe. You’re alive. All is well.

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