How To Quiet Your Inner Bully

Hi, I’m Lauren Goldberg. I here to help sensitive leaders like you build your toolkit and strengthen your self-compassion muscles. Book a session with me and we’ll make a plan to help you practice doing that in a way that works for you.

There is power in the way we talk to ourselves.

Many of us are already well-acquainted with the inner voice that nags us, criticizes us, and constantly imagines the worst-case scenario.

When I talk about our inner bullies, I mean the negative self-talk that sometimes dictates more than we want it to. Especially, when it comes to our decisions, self-beliefs, and how to approach the world.

It’s important to note that this voice is NOT us or our personality.

Rather, this voice is fueled by the conditioned beliefs we have been taught. All of the messages we’ve heard from family, teachers, neighbors, friends, bosses, colleagues, etc. in our lives are internalized and stored in our memories as data. This data classifies what we are taught to believe is “good” and “bad.” And it’s hard to let go of those ideas when we’ve also been conditioned to believe things fall into the duality of “good” vs. “bad.” I digress.

This inner voice is our FEAR talking. The fear of not being ”good” or “good enough”. And although it has a loving purpose - to keep us safe from danger - often it’s the anxious over-prepared curmudgeon that keeps us feeling small and doubting ourselves. It leads us to overthink and keeps us from feeling safe being our true selves. 

Our inner bullies affect more than just us.

Growing up in a mainstream culture that teaches us everyone should be striving for standards of “normal” or “good”. But the standards (like those of Toxic Professionalism I often talk about) we’ve been taught to uphold in our lives aren’t necessarily what’s most beneficial to us. They often keep us feeling bad while also upholding systems of oppressive and supremacy culture. This includes patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, capitalism, fatphobia, xenophobia, classism, etc.

So now we know why prioritizing that inner bully voice feels bad and upholds oppression - what’s the alternative?

Practicing self-compassion

The most radical thing we can do is the work that quiets our inner bullies. Note I didn’t say suppress. Instead, we need to acknowledge the voice as a reaction so we can decide to actively turn up the volume of a different voice - a self-compassionate voice. Loving ourselves, or learning to love ourselves, is an act of defiance in a world that taught us that one way or another, no matter how “successful”, money earned, contests won, well-dressed, clear-skinned, able-bodied, thin-bodied, or “good”, etc. we are - it won’t matter to us much unless we see our worthiness of and show ourselves love.  Plus, learning self-compassion also can help be more compassionate towards others. And that’s something the world seriously needs more of!

That inner bully voice is a habit of thought. And like any habit, you can change it. So just like talking down to ourselves is a habit, so is showing ourselves self-compassion. We replace one habit with another. This takes practice. And practice, unlike the popular saying, doesn’t make perfect. Rather, practice makes a habit.

And this, my friends, is a life-long practice.

As anyone prone to depressive states or rejection sensitivity dysphoria can attest, the ease with which you quiet your inner bully and amplify your self-compassion can fluctuate over your life. Which is all the more reason to practice it out loud with people you trust like a coach, mental health professional, friend, support circle, etc. But regardless of what’s going on in your inner or outer world, it’s always a good time to treat yourself how you want to be treated and supported.

As someone has made major shifts from self-hating to self-loving, and witnessing the transformation of others in the same way, I can tell when you show yourself self-compassion and self-respect, it feels good. You feel lighter. It releases tension in your body. The way you communicate, both verbally and through body language changes. And your energy shifts. Most humans have a pretty finely tuned energy radar. People will pick up on it. As social animals, we often feed off each other’s energy. That means self-respect garners respect from others. How you exist in the world affects how others feel and exist with you.

But ultimately, you are the one you’ll spend the most time with in this life. You may as well enjoy that time with yourself, existing in the world with self-delight and not self-destruction.

How can you start to build your self-compassion muscles?

Inner Bully, Meet Your Inner Best Friend

Start with building awareness: recognize when your inner bully is being a bully. The best thing you can do is interrupt those thoughts. If there was ever a time to pretend you are verse-jumping like the characters in Everything Everywhere All At Once by doing something unexpected, this is it. Now, of course, it doesn’t need to be quite as extreme as portrayed in the movie! An interruption could be changing your activity, turning on music, moving your body, or going for a walk. It can also be as simple as taking a few slow deep breaths and exhaling twice as long.

Now for the neuroscience: the interruption of the intrusive thought allows your brain to stop the neural pathway that re-inforces that negative habit of thought. Instead, it creates a new experience and neural pathway in your brain which helps create a new habit.

This also allows you to choose how to respond to the moment. Wouldn’t you rather listen to the kinder voice, the one that shares your inner wisdom? That voice often comes out when we try to support others we love. When a loving friend is struggling and you want to hype them up and remind them how amazing they are. Or perhaps it’s the voice of a loving friend or family member who often reminds you how amazing you are.

This inner best friend, inner super fan, or inner Yoda - you can get to know that voice and let it have the final say. Remember that your inner bully voice is NOT you. As cheese as it sounds, I believe that your self-compassionate inner best friend voice - that voice IS you. Your inner bully may not completely disappear, but when you can turn down the volume on that voice and turn up the volume on your more supportive and compassionate inner BF, it’s a confidence game changer. 

Tips for Starting to Building Self-Compassion Muscles

  1. Some people find it helpful to name their inner bully and imagine giving it a funny voice.
  2. Make a list of the biggest or reoccurring things your inner bully tells you: What’s keeping you from moving forward? What fears are halting you in your tracks? What fears are keeping you from being your authentic self with others? What’s the worst your inner bully says could happen?
  3. Answer for each: What is the underlying belief? Why does my inner bully say these things? Where did this belief come from? Where did it start?
  4. As mentioned above: Who do we often go to for wisdom? Our loving friends. Who comes to us for OUR loving wisdom? Our friends. For each of the items written out as instructed above, write a response from your inner best friend. What would you say to a friend who expressed the same fear for themselves? OR Imagine what your loving friend would say to you? Write to yourself a love note or a pep talk. Spend some time with it.
  5. Often when clients do this exercise they tell me, “I think I could have been even more compassionate with myself”. Repeat step 3 and see if you can practice being even kinder to yourself. It can take practice!
When you get an intrusive thought from your inner bully, interrupt it. Change your activity or imagine the silliest thing that could happen in the situation for which you experience worries. This allows you to choose how to respond to the moment. It also creates new neural pathways in your brain associated with self-compassionate and makes THAT the new habit.