“You have no business talking to her. She’s way out of your league.”
“You’re an idiot. You’re going to look and sound like an idiot and no one is going to like your presentation.”
“A comedy writer? Seriously? That’s impossible. You’re never going to be able to do that for a living. Just go to law school.”
“You always mess everything up. No wonder you broke up. You’ll never be happy again.”
“F*ck you, you piece of shit. You have no friends and no one likes you. You might as well just hang yourself with those Christmas lights.”
I’ve been bullied my whole life. In grade school and high school, I had to put up with all of the creative modifications people came up with for my last name. I had to deal with the repeated accusations that I was gay when I’m not (okay, maybe I set myself up with the pink and turquoise double popped collar). I remember being given the Stone Cold Stunner and being put in the Sharpshooter at recess in 5th grade, but I stopped being bullied by other people in high school. If you don’t know me, I have a pretty easygoing personality and I try to make other people laugh every chance I get, so this demeanor caused the external bullying to naturally dissipate. All of the lines in quotations at the beginning of this piece? In case you didn’t read the title, they were all said to me by me over and over again throughout my life. What a dick. Fortunately, I have trained myself to listen to my thoughts and challenge the ones that sound like this. Whenever I hear myself being a dick to myself, I ask myself the following question: “Is it true? Is it true that she’s way out of my league? Only if I don’t talk to her. Is it true that no one is going to like my presentation? Only if I perform with that underlying belief. Is it true that being a comedy writer for a living is impossible? Only if I don’t try because I think it’s impossible. Is it true that I’m never going to be happy again? Only if I listen and look for all of the reasons why I won’t be happy. Is it true that I’m a piece of shit that no one likes? …I have at least three friends.
Internal bullying, or self-depriciating self-talk, is the skier that starts the avalanche. One of the most important things I have ever learned is in the book “What to Say When You Talk to Your Self” by Shad Helmstetter: Our repeated thoughts become our programming. Our programming creates our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, whether they’re actually true or not. Our beliefs color our perspectives, or attitudes. Our attitudes make us feel a certain way. Our feelings directly influence our actions. Our results come from our actions.
If we’re not getting the results we want, trace them all the way back to the words we use when we talk to ourselves. If something doesn’t go as planned for me, I listen to the words I tell myself and correct the ones that aren’t serving me so that next time, I get a better result. Self-bullying with negative or limiting thoughts is like shooting yourself in both legs before a marathon and expecting to finish first – it stops us before anyone or anything else even has a chance. Even if anyone or anything else tries to stop you, it’s your thoughts about that thing that can either stop you or propel you to success. No matter if you have re-programmed your brain to think positive, you’re still going to get that asshole bully voice popping up in your thoughts to suggest that your big sales pitch tomorrow is going to end with you losing your job, your wife leaving you, and your brother finding your body hanging by a strand of blinking Christmas lights from a support beam in your basement. Think for yourself, not against yourself, and remember to ask, “Is it really true?” If the thought is negative, chances are it’s that bully again, and the only way to give a bully power is to give truth to the words you say to yourself.
Instead, train that bully to be the coach who will support you and expect the best out of everything that you do.