ARE YOU YOUR OWN BULLY?
Bullying is not okay. No matter who it’s directed towards.
In other words,
• Are you excessively self-critical?
• Do you notice negative self-talk?
• Do you put yourself down or label yourself?
• Do you use unfair generalised language like ‘I always...” or “I never...”
• Do you only focus on your flaws or mistakes thinking you should be doing better?
Your thinking pattern may have been present throughout your life, maybe due to negative early EXPERIENCES. These experiences may include bullying at school, criticism from your parents/teachers or maybe even a lack of consistent support from others. Often the absence of feedback can be perceived as negative rather than neutral.
Or maybe your self-criticism is not actually from negative experiences but rather excessive praise for success in your life. This may lead to hyper-critical, high expectations when your believe your self-worth is reliant on achievement and approval.
Do you feel you’re good enough?
If you've got used to the running negative commentary, it’s time for change. It’s time to increase your self-esteem, one step at a time.
You can’t necessarily change which thoughts INITIALLY pop into your mind BUT you can can do something about them once you notice them. The more you CHALLENGE your self-critical thoughts, the less frequently they will enter your mind... and they’ll be less emotionally intense (because you’ll believe the thoughts less!). Phew! Abstract I know but trust the process.
Need motivation to challenge your self-criticism? Think of the POSITIVE OUTCOMES.
You will be less likely to:
• engage in unhelpful behaviours such as overcompensating & striving for perfection by working too hard at work/study,
• avoid taking risks for fear of failure
• seek reassurance and approval from others
• fall into the trap of ‘mind-reading’ in social situations, which is assuming others are judging you
• compare with others as much
Instead, you will accept that you have some positive qualities and work with them, rather than excessively focus on your areas that are not your strengths.
Well worth the effort! So, HOW do you challenge self-critical thoughts?
First, be aware of your TRIGGERING situations (e.g., event with your in-laws, antenatal meetings, coffee groups, thinking about returning to work, completing an assignment)...
Then, LABEL that self-bullying thought!
Once you’ve identified the self-critical thinking pattern, ASK yourself:
• Is that thought HELPFUL?
• Would you talk to a FRIEND like that?
• Would you like your CHILD to talk to themselves like that? (it’s always great to use your role modelling as motivation!)
You DON’T need to recite overly POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS as they’re often opposite to what you believe. Try for something even slightly more self-compassionate, moderately okay and BALANCED.
e.g., instead of telling yourself “I’m a bad mother”, you could say, “I try my best and my kids are well-loved” or “I do a pretty good job most of the time”
If you’re not quite convinced, gather some EVIDENCE to back it up. Start noticing situations and examples that support your positive qualities. For example, for the belief “I’m a good mother most of the time”, you may reflect on a specific recent situation where despite feeling frustrated at bathtime when the kids splashed water everywhere and fought, you still continued the bedtime routine with bedtime book and cuddles = this shows you can persevere and you care and love them. OR you called on your partner to ‘tag in’, which also showed self-awareness for what’s best for your kids & is good role-modelling of a calming technique.
One change you can start making is to try not to PERSONALISE things.
Made a MISTAKE? Don’t judge your whole personality or ability, view the behaviour in CONTEXT. For example, instead of saying “I’m a failure”, you could say, “no wonder I’m making silly mistakes since I’m tired and haven’t had a break” - this gives you permission to still be frustrated and/or judge the task, “that was tough juggling the kids this morning in the rain”.
Along the same lines, how do you view SUCCESS (eg., good grade in study or your friend praising your child’s manners)? Do you just attribute success to external factors such as luck? Can you instead take some credit by acknowledging internal factors (eg., determination, hard work and thoughtful parenting)?
We certainly have to prop ourselves up because our MODEST KIWI CULTURE does not often involve praising others regularly. We are accustomed to pushing on. Don’t just wait for others to acknowledge your strengths. However, when possible, let’s try to change the culture of praising. PRAISE your friend, a family member or even a stranger when you think something positive about them - say it out loud to them! It could make their day! ... this will give you PRACTICE to notice the positives in others ... and then practice this with yourself.
Modesty is overrated when you’re trying to build up your self-esteem - so praise away. 🙌👏👍👌🤗
If you are a mum struggling with your self-esteem. you're welcome to join me in the Psychology For Mums VIP Group. In this supportive group, I can help you apply evidence-based coping strategies to improve your happiness and reduce stress and overwhelm. To sign up, go the main page of this website (only $10 per month). Sarah.