We all have an inner bully, but the fight to overcome our critical voice can help us remove the obstacles that may be getting in the way of personal happiness. In her new book, Live Your Gift: Discovering Your Authentic Life Through Life Mapping, author Dana Adams gives people strategies to overcome their inner bully to discover their unique purpose and gifts.
Here’s 10 things she says you can do to silence your inner bully:
Recognize that you get to choose. You have an inner bully and an inner cheerleader. Which one will you listen to? That internal bullying voice that so many of us have may even be more powerful than the helping voice—the one that’s wise and trying to guide us to do our best work and be the best we can be. The good news is we can practice silencing the critic and listening to our wise cheerleader instead.
Break up with your inner bully. Pinpoint where the inner critic is coming from so you can detach from it. Did it start from a specific event? Was it a time when you felt like you didn’t fit in or were criticized? When you can identify where it came from and realize it’s not about you and you can let go of it. The negative voice is something that we create; it's a story we tell ourselves. Practice detaching from the inner bully.
Be careful what information you believe. It’s important for all of us to realize that when someone is giving you advice, critiquing you or telling you something about how you're acting, they’re viewing your behavior from their experience and their world. What others say doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with you. Too often, we take what’s said at face value—putting great stock in it—when it’s not even true. Words from others can strike a nerve or hit a trigger point where we might already be insecure, pounding that unhealthy message in even deeper. This impact can hold you back and cause you not to play to your full potential.
Lean toward your wise inner voice more than outside influences. Yes, that bully voice can come from many external sources. It’s common to feel the weight of outside influence from their friends and family who are really important for a sense of acceptance. The critical voice also can come from teachers, coaches, and even us, as parents. Work to see the long-term ramifications of your choices—even when you may only be focusing on what’s right in front of you. (As parents, we can help by walking our kids through potential ramifications of their choices, so they consider the impact on their future on a much bigger scale.)
Don’t live for the approval of others. One of the biggest ways the inner bully can hold you back is when you become more concerned about how you’re showing up, and what you look like—not only in your appearance, but in the way you act. When your start filtering everything through whether people are going to approve or disapprove of something you might try—even if it’s something you love—you might suddenly change your mind and not do anything at all. When we aren’t willing to express ourselves in ways we are meant to, these roadblocks can show up suddenly. This can result in not getting the approval we want, and suddenly we change our mind about doing something.
Protect yourself from your insecurities. The inner critic starts its chatter on your insecurities. So, where you don't feel as confident, you are more likely to hear the chatter of:
Are you really sure you want to try that?
What if you look dumb?
What if people make fun of you?
What if you fail?
You don’t have any experience in this yet. This is when you have the choice to recognize that this is just the critic speaking and you don’t have to listen to the critic. Be aware that the inner bully can go straight for your insecurities, so that’s when you have to fight back the hardest to not listen and choose your positive voice and path instead.
Realize life is learning. Insecure chatter is unfortunate because it can stop people. Instead, we need to realize that this is how we learn, by trying and experimenting. This is how we begin to understand what we do well, or what excites us. When we allow ourselves to discover our interests, we can choose to spend more time enjoying them. If we don't even try because the voice inside is stopping us, then it really becomes a problem—it’s a dream crusher.
The critic doesn’t speak the truth. The reality is that so much of that critic lives up in our head. It’s not the truth. Replace that inner bully voice with the wise words. How would the older, wiser you guide your younger self?
Realize setbacks give you valuable information to get you ahead. Our insecurities and inner critic are all wrapped up with our fears. When you fail or things don’t work out as you hoped, ask yourself: What did I learn? This information becomes powerful moving forward. When we don’t get the result we want, we can realize that the experience still moved us ahead because of what we learned. Then we can ask: What can I do differently in the future? And, we also can say: You know what? Good job for trying in the first place.
Inspire others to defeat their inner bully. Another powerful impact of courageously trying something new is it gives other people around us the permission to do the same. When we are more confident in our own choices, we can calm that bully voice and say: You know, that’s not real. That’s a fear-based voice. And instead say:
I am capable.
I can do this.
I am ready.