How not to talk to yourself when you’re hurting

Have you ever noticed who bullies choose to pick on? They always go after the most vulnerable—those who are already hurting, isolated, or alone—and tear them down even further.

Most of us have bullies in our heads that do the exact same thing to us. Oh, those internal bullies may be critical all the time, but when we are hurting and feel most vulnerable and alone, they go into their most viscous overdrive mode to tear us to shreds.

These internal bullies tell us (often in the most hateful ways) of our unworthiness, our insecurities, our fears, and our failures. They magnify our every fault (real or imagined) until that’s all we can see of ourselves. They drone on and on about how we don’t deserve support or happiness or good things.

In the process, they take our pain and vulnerability and magnify it hundreds of times over while simultaneously adding to our suffering with their lies.

Being already at our most vulnerable, we are even less likely to resist or talk back to our internal bullies at times like this, so we are tricked into believing that they tell us the truth about ourselves.

As we fall into that trap, our ability to heal, to reach out for support, or to take other actions that might help us deal with our pain are diminished.

Despite any claims that our internal bullies may make to be telling us the “truth” about ourselves (possibly even claiming that they are doing it for our own good), the result is unequivocally not helpful in any way. In fact, it’s downright damaging.

What we often forget when we’re in these hurting spaces, though, is that we don’t have to listen to our internal bullies. Yes, they may talk a lot inside our own heads, making it hard to escape them, but that doesn’t mean have to pay attention to them. We definitely don’t need to believe them.

The best way I’ve found to do that at times like this is drop any judgement of whether they are telling the truth because I know that my assessment of myself is impaired when I’m hurting and vulnerable.

I’m better off focusing on whether or not a particular message is helpful. Does it help me heal to pay attention to this particular thought or feeling? That’s the question that matters.

When my inner bully tells me about my unworthiness, I side-step the question of whether or not it’s “true.” I already know I’m not capable of accurately assessing that when I’m hurting. I choose instead to ask myself whether strengthening a belief in my unworthiness is helpful for my healing and growth. Does it help me strengthen any feelings of unworthiness?

Inevitably the answer is no. It’s not helpful at all.

Then I give myself permission to ignore that particular message from my inner bully and focus on bolstering my sense of worthiness instead.

When my inner bully obsesses about my weaknesses and failures, I ask whether that focus is helpful. It’s not, of course, and I’m not in the best place to learn from any weaknesses that might truly exist at that point, so I can ignore those messages for now as well.

I choose instead to focus on reminding myself of my strengths and my successes to empower my ability to do what I need to do to heal.

There will be plenty of time later to look at any failures, weaknesses, or faults that might actually need to be addressed when I am able to do so from a better place.

This choice to focus on whether or not a particular message about myself is helpful for my healing and growth instead of trying to decipher what’s true about my inner bully’s messages keeps me from getting sucked into a quagmire that keeps me stuck in my pain. Choosing to focus on what’s helpful keeps me on solid ground that I can use to re-build and heal instead.

It sounds like a subtle shift, but it’s a powerful one!

What does your inner bully say to you when you are hurting and vulnerable? Does it serve you to believe those messages? Are their messages helpful?

What might help you shift your focus to listening only to what is helpful? What might it look like to drop the need to assess “truth” and only look at whether a message is helpful?

How might choosing to focus only on strengthening helpful thoughts and feelings serve you when you are hurting? Would you be willing to give that a try?


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