Christine Arylo says she can never forget the day she found out that she had a mean girl living in her head. You know, that inner voice that drives you to self-sabotage, overthink, overwork, and over-do-everything-else? I can relate to hearing those self-limiting voices, and perhaps you can too.
If you didn’t already know, that harsh voice in your head is self-bullying (or internal bullying), and it’s not age-specific. It can also affect your teens and even younger kids. Worse still, it can make them susceptible to external bullying, just as bullying from others can trigger self-bullying. So, it becomes a destructive vicious bullying cycle that keeps worsening.
Since low self-esteem is its principal driver, there’s no better time to address it than right now— in Teen Self-Esteem Month. I believe that by drawing more attention to this topic, we can help our teens (and ourselves) overcome it. So, if you have a teen dealing with self-esteem and bullying, this article is for you.
Remember, the tips in this article help you deal with your self-bullying too.
What’s Internal Bullying?
” I never thought I was a bully until I heard how I speak to myself. I think I owe myself an apology.” —Zen to Zany
We all talk to ourselves, and that’s such a good thing. Healthy self-talk helps us understand reality, live in the moment, make the right decisions concerning our future, and smash our goals. It’s the inner critique that pushes us to be the best version of ourselves every day.
Unfortunately, not all self-talk is healthy, especially when we judge and pressure ourselves in a way that hurts our feelings. That’s where self-bullying comes in. It’s all that bad and harsh self-talk that drives us to self-sabotage, and it can manifest in the following ways:
- Making your challenge look bigger than they really are
- Thinking in extremes, thinking everything is black or white
- Trying to read other people’s minds
- Picking on your looks
- Emotional reasoning—letting your emotions close your reason
- Over internalizing
Why Do We Bully Ourselves?
Two things make us internal bullies — low self-esteem and poor mental health, and they’re both related terms. While low self-esteem isn’t a mental condition, it can trigger and feed mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Anxiety and depression can manifest as negative self-talk and trigger low self-esteem too. As such, they’re all closely linked. Talk about another vicious cycle!
Self-esteem refers to how well we think about ourselves. When your self-esteem is low, you may:
- Believe you’re not good enough
- Dislike yourself
- Find it difficult to make decisions and assert yourself
- Be unkind to yourself and judge yourself too harshly
- Seek validation from others
- Think you don’t deserve happiness, etc.
Some low self-esteem triggers include:
- Bullying or abuse
- Relationship problems
- Low grades at school
- Worries about appearance and many more
Helping your teen deal with self-esteem and mental health issues is one sure way to eliminate their self-bullying. If you’re confused about how to help your child, I’ve got you covered in my blog article: Five Essential Steps to Help Your Teen Achieve Mental Wellness.
Taking Action: It All Starts With Self-Awareness
Preventing and dealing with internal bullying starts with our self-awareness. When you take time to know and accept yourself, you become familiar with your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll also be objective and rational in your thinking.
So, when negative voices come in, you’re fully aware of what they represent, and are well-equipped to fight them. Self-awareness helps you realize that any negative thoughts about yourself are lies.
Apart from self-awareness, here’s how to stop bullying yourself:
- Externalize your negative talks by giving them a name and speaking to them. For example, you can call your perfectionism, “hey, little Mr. Perfect, my best is good enough for me.”
- Love yourself as you would a stranger. Be kind and gentle to yourself.
- Acknowledge your feelings, but exercise control over them by rationalizing your reactions and responses. Don’t let them define you.
- Define what makes you worthy and oust any thought that doesn’t align with such beliefs immediately
- Understand your strengths and highlight them always
If you’re looking for motivation to fight self-bullying in you and your teen, here’s my favorite of all time:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Are you fired up already? That’s amazing! Now, take this newfound enthusiasm with positive affirmations and be the change you wish to see in yourself and your precious child.
Talking about affirmations…
Instilling positive affirmations in your teen can work wonders on their self-esteem. Everyone has a voice in their head that they listen to. So, constantly filling your child’s head with positive affirmations can help to drown self-bullying voices. Also, remember that you can say them to yourself too.
These are some affirmations I constantly say to my child:
- “You’re a valuable person”
- “I believe in you”
- “Your best is enough, you’re enough”
- “You’re in charge”
- “Your future is bright”
- “You can overcome the obstacles that come your way”
- “You’re stronger than your fears”
- “You’re beautiful”
- “You’re in control of your emotions”
- “You don’t have to stay around people that make you unhappy”
There’s no limit to affirmations for you and your kid, so be generous with them. If you’re looking for more affirmations, I’ve got you. You can check out the list on “Being Me: Empower Kids With Powerful Positive Affirmations.”
You’re in Control; You’ve Got This
No one says dealing with low self-esteem and internal bullying would be easy. But I know that it’s possible to overcome them for yourself and your kid by just kick-starting the process and never looking back.
What’s a better time to take action than now, in teen’s self-esteem month? Plus, you have a fantastic community of supportive parents in ” I’m Just Me,” lucky you!