On Negative Self-Talk: STOP IT.

My entire life has been filled with bullies.

In Elementary school, the girl I referred to as my Arch-Nemesis would follow me around the playground calling me a “fat dyke” and continually asking me if I was going to cry in this maniacal baby voice, until I did cry, and then she would laugh at my weakness in front of everyone.

When I was in junior high, I used to pull my hair out (apparently there’s a name for that ‘disorder’; it’s called Trichotillomania) and these two older girls followed me around and taunted me for my bald spot and called me an ‘old man’. I was made fun of by all the girls in my class because I changed in the bathroom stall and not in public like everyone else.

In grade nine, I was teased relentlessly for, of all things, being a huge fan of the Beatles. These girls in my class were taking suggestions for songs to give to the DJ prior to our upcoming school dance and one of them said to me, “Well you don’t get to pick because if it was up to you, we’d just hear shitty old music.”

In high school, this guy in my class, Brian, made me cry in front of everyone in our Biology class; he was calling my friend a “cradle robber” because her boyfriend was a couple of years younger than her and I stood up for her and then he went on this huge rant about how useless women were and how she, nor I, nor any other woman, was useful or contributing. Essentially, he was an idiot. But with teenage emotions running high, for the first time in my life I was actually offended (very little offends me) and I ran out into the hallway crying.

In my second year of university, I was shunned by all my floormates – especially the girls who were all crushing on and sleeping with all the guys on our floor and asking my friend and me why we were even there in the first place. Why were we there? Because we were paid to be; we were students; we were entitled to live under a drama and scrutiny-free roof. But instead, we were left totally ignored and disliked for a miserable eight months.

At my last job, half of my job title was “Event Assistant” and what this entailed was doing extraordinarily unpleasant donkey work for a 24-year old anti-Christ who was rude, condescending, bossy, and conniving. I’ve never, ever worked with someone so unpleasant and discouraging. Everything I did was totally wrong, but I received no training, encouragement or know-how from her whatsoever. She was the definition of this newly discussed phenomenon of the ‘workplace bully’.

I’m sure that many, many other people’s lives are not too dissimilar to mine; the passive-aggressive neighbour, the snide boyfriend you should dump, that friend who creates rapports with people entirely based on sarcasm and ‘gentle’ ribbing, the rude coworker, your overly-strict and nosy parents, etc. The world is filled with bullies. The world is filled with people whose sole pleasures are to bring you down a peg, make you feel small, disable you and disempower you. Maybe you too, have been in a position where you are continuously disempowering someone. Maybe that someone is yourself.

It has been said many, many times that “we’re our own worst critics” or “we’re our own worst enemies”; this very often is true. But the thing I’d like to know is why is it true? Why do we compare ourselves to others? Why do we put ourselves down? Why are we recirculating and reiterating this culture of bullying and bullies within ourselves as well?

If you were a bullied kid, you probably came home from school discouraged and hurt, and asked yourself, and your parents, “Why is So-and-So picking on me?!” and there was no answer. Maybe your parents said something like, “Because they’re just mean” or “Because they’re jealous of you”, but really… these answers aren’t really that logical, there’s no way to prove their veracity, nor do they take away the pain of being bullied at a constant. How come it’s okay to ask these questions of others but not ourselves?

Why do you put yourself down?

Is it because it makes you feel good? That’s impossible to believe. If it doesn’t ‘feel good’ when someone else does it, why does it make you feel good when you do it? If people are scrutinizing your weight and then you go and scrutinize your own weight, you’re being just as bad as they are, and I guarantee you they’re not making you feel good.

Is it because you’re consoling your own dissatisfaction? Well that’s a piss-poor attitude, isn’t it? Think about it: Something didn’t work out for you. Or you’re not as pretty or lucky in the gene pool as some A-Lister on the cover of People magazine who you don’t know, and never will. So you’re going to say, “Well – that’s it. I’m a terrible, ugly, awful, awkward hideous human being”? COME ON. Society has set some sort of unattainable standards that we can’t match up to and this has become an inherent truth about the world. But do you really want to let yourself contribute to the ‘norm’ being to hate yourself for not being able to reach those goals? Wouldn’t you rather be part of an empowering solution?

Is it because you want to put yourself down before others can put you down? Have others put you down ever? Are you that mistrusting of mankind that you feel the need to bring yourself down to make mankind’s plague on you easier on yourself? Also, do you really feel that putting yourself down first is going to stop the bullies of the world from casting cruel, judgmental eyes on your weary, un-confident soul? They will. And then you’re getting this BS from them, and from yourself.

Is it because you really believe that what you’re saying about yourself is true?

I understand. I’ve been there  (maybe I’m even still there) and I know what it feels like to legitimately feel inadequate; to feel you’re a lesser person than everyone else, to believe that what others are saying to you is true. Even so though, don’t the people who care about you tell you otherwise? Why do you disregard the positive things they’re saying about you but count your enemies’ opinions as valid reflections of who you are and what you look like? Why do you allow yourself to become part of this myth that’s created about you? Do you really, truly believe that when you walk down the street, everyone is looking at you and pointing and laughing and scrutinizing and judging and saying to themselves s and each other, “Wow, look at her! What a loser! She’s hideous! She’s way less pretty than Kim Kardashian or Kate Winslet or Rachael McAdams…” Um, no. And even if they were, what do you care? You don’t know these people. Their opinions mean less than nothing to you, and why should they? Why should complete strangers ‘opinions about you matter more than your own opinions of yourself, to the point where they affect your opinion of yourself!?

Nobody has the power to take your power away from you. Say this to yourself. Believe it. Read it. Write it like lines on a chalkboard, over and over and over and over until it sinks in, makes sense, is as plain as black and white. NOBODY HAS THE POWER TO TAKE YOUR POWER AWAY FROM YOU. Nobody that is, except for you. You can disempower yourself; you can put yourself down; you can hate yourself until you’re blue in the face and you actually will end up hating yourself, perhaps until you actually are blue in the face if it comes to that. But if you maintain, inside yourself, that you are a worthwhile person who is deserving of love and deserves to feel pretty, smart, wanted, creative, talented and able to achieve your goals… you take back your power.

I know a few people, and I’m sure there are billions that I don’t know – who are charming, funny, witty, smart, caring, beautiful, strong, intelligent and simply put, amazing – but don’t believe at all that they are. And it makes me so sad to see someone who squanders their own power like that for absolutely no reason at all.

So can I empower you for a moment, if I may? I was watching this documentary on TLC the other week about a 13-year old girl who has Progeria, an extremely rare genetic disease that rapidly ages very young children who typically, due to all kinds of complications, don’t live past their mid-twenties.  This girl has alopecia, she dislocated her hip and had to wear a brace so heavy, she was unable to go to school anymore. Life has truly been catastrophically unlucky and unfair to this girl (it is estimated that Progeria occurs 1 in 8 million births and there are only approximately 140 reported cases of the disease in recorded medical history) and as she mentions, all of her friends that she’s met at various get-togethers for kids with Progeria are dying; at one point, she addresses, quite plainly, that she could be next. This young girl wrote a book about her experiences with the disease; she did speeches at major universities to thank medical researchers who are investigating the disease. She is well-spoken, intelligent, and to me, seemed to exist with a quiet confidence well beyond her thirteen years. This girl is on her death bed after challenge after challenge after challenge. Think about this for a moment.

Nobody wears self-deprecation well. It’s annoying; it’s like going to a birthday party as a kid and being the one who gets driven home early, crying because the cake was chocolate instead of vanilla. It’s not attractive, and it doesn’t make sense, and while I firmly, and always have believed that you can’t compare people to other people under any circumstances and we live inside our own experiences to the point that those are all we know, I feel that people take for granted things like their health, family and friends, the fact that they can walk around, scratch their own leg, and sit out in the sun, listen to music, and even just breathe normally without complications. These are things we don’t think about. And hopefully we never have to.

The bottom line is, there is no logic behind negative self-talk. None. None at all. At ALL. You’re only injuring yourself and inviting and welcoming negativity everywhere you go for any reason that you see fit. There’s no reason for being so unkind to yourself whatsoever. It’s unkind to yourself to stab yourself in the heart with a huge machete but are you going to go and do that? Probably not.

So stop. Stop allowing yourself to be one of society’s bullies. Stop perpetuating myths about yourself. Stop taking for granted that which makes you not just special, but human as well. And most certainly, stop allowing it to be okay, socially acceptable, normal, ‘right’, and somehow bettering, to see yourself negatively. Just stop.

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