Controversial statement I know. But in truth, we are.
And I don’t mean the ‘bully’ associated with playground pushing around, or gang abuse on the streets or the irritating boss that pushes unfairly to get results.
I’m talking about how we bully ourselves.
I’m talking about the bully inside of us that speaks with a harsh, exasperated tone that drips with annoyance and disappointment. The one that no matter what we do, it always seems to surface. Some people have a natural mind-set where the bully sits quietly most of the time but I think if we really admit it to ourselves, that bully rears its ugly head most days and for some, most minutes.
Due to my diagnosis of bipolar my bully can soften its tone but then jump out and treat me with such detest I wish I could report it to the highest level of authority and get its knuckles rapped. However, I usually recognise that when the plaguing voice never quietens and I am treated as a worthless nothing – depression is normally on the horizon.
So why do we do it so much?
“Oh shit, I forgot to send that letter” equals “I am unreliable.”
“I’m tired and I don’t feel up to seeing my friends tonight” equals “I’m a let-down.”
“I’ve shouted at my partner and said some terrible things” equals “I am unforgivable.”
“He didn’t text me back after our date” equals “I am unattractive, un-dateable and unloved.”
I could go on and on and on.
And I know you can relate to at least one of those.
So I repeat the question. Why do we bully ourselves so much? Did it start when we were kids, were our parents too critical? We all know that good behaviour and achievement receives commendations but does that mean every time we didn’t attain our goals we perceived ourselves as immediate failures? I look around and see parents push and shove their child in the direction of ‘success’ and it’s obvious they do it with love to give them a better life but at what cost?
What does ‘being the best’ actually mean? What does ‘success’ really symbolise? If I close my eyes the automatic thought is driven towards hope, acceptance, financial stability, strong relationships but ultimately a career that makes me ‘somebody’. Is this all really true?
Has anyone ever felt that feeling of needing to be ‘someone’ and needing to feel good enough?
I was a few weeks away from getting my promotion to Account Director in a Branding and Design agency when my mental breakdown prevented me from working. I was twenty-six years old and by the age of twenty-seven I was medically retired from that job role with a letter from a top psychiatrist clearly stating that it was highly likely I would never be able to function in a role like that again. Being punched in the stomach and then grieving the pain doesn’t cover it.
However, when I forced my mind back pre-mental health breakdown, I never felt good enough anyway. Every goal I had was tripled with every completion. I bought a flat, I had a lovely car and I moved quickly up the ranks in the business. Yes, there were beautiful moments of pride and happiness from delivering impressive workloads and receiving amazing feedback. However, nothing was ever enough.
The trauma in my life shattered my beliefs and values and over the last seven years they have done a complete 180 degree turn. Facing life, death, medication, side effects, battling your mind, living in and out of hospitals and impacting every person you ever loved changes you. Anyone who has ever had a life experience that crashes into their timeline and scars your heart knows there is a huge crater of impact where overtime, the pain lessens yet the scars never disappear.
I have learnt through experiencing my diagnosis of bipolar and working with many doctors and therapists that you’re best really is good enough.
You can only ever do your best.
It is great to have focus and drive but it’s all about being realistic and specific and on completion of goals STOPPING.
You must stop to reflect and appreciate your journey and what you have overcome. You need self-compassion to pat yourself on the back and say ‘well done’. After all, that’s what we do for others, no? Why should we treat ourselves any differently?
I have no interest in comparing myself to anyone else. Yes, it’s difficult at times. I don’t have what I once had and I am in no way in the strongest position financially but my health comes first. If I complete even the smallest of tasks I remind myself of the work I did. If it isn’t ‘perfect’ I couldn’t care less in all honesty. What is perfect to you may not be perfect to me! I strive to do my best but it is to the best of my ability and that is enough. I have also learnt that what some perceive as ‘imperfections’ are actually the best bits that truly reflect the person inside.
I accept the state I find myself. The great bits (humour), annoying bits (forgetfulness) and the bits I wish I was better at (maths). I am bruised enough for kicking myself at never being good enough but as my knowledge increases on how I can help myself, those bruises will heal.
We shouldn’t bully ourselves because life is hard already. We need to be kinder to ourselves and accept different and challenging lives that we have. If we don’t, we’re at risk of feeding that demoralising critical voice and as it gets louder, our mental health only worsens.
And I’m all for stopping that from happening.
First port of call is speaking to your GP and don’t be afraid to ask for talking therapy. For more information use the following websites – there is lots of support out there I promise!
Self-compassion recommended author:
http://www.youngminds.org.uk/ – For young people with parent helpline.
The Samaritans are a non-judgemental ear where you can talk confidentially about anything
Here is a fantastic carers package if you are supporting someone with mental health problems: