The Bully I Can’t Shake (and am not sure I want to).

I am sweet, warm and kind. I flash my smile to everyone I meet and for the most part, it’s genuine. (Admittedly, there are times I hide behind my smile, but overall, I’m a relentless optimist.)

Lurking within me, however, is a bully. She is critical and harsh, frowning often and raising a proverbial eyebrow in disdain. She can find the negative in anything (including my optimism — you’re too nice! Too trusting! Too naive! Man up!). Yeah, she’s a bitch.

You may know me for years and never meet her, but if you live with me it’s inevitable, and if you are me it’s torture.

My inner critic is mean to heights that my outer critic can only aspire to. The problem with my bully is that she’s so familiar with me. She’s got a dossier on me that is thicker and more complicated than Carrie’s walls on Homeland. She knows what will hook me, starting conversations behind words like responsibility or honesty or self-awareness. Like when my teenager throws my lessons back at me: I’m allowed to have my feelings!! And my feelings right now are that I hate you!!!

My critic is best at shaming: diminishing my self-worth and slashing my self-confidence. She will yell Get your butt off this couch and go to the gym!! so nastily that I am paralyzed on the couch. Or how could you have eaten that?!? with so much judgement that it’s all I can do to eat some more. And why on Earth would you write that?!? so snarkily that I wonder why on Earth I would ever write anything again.

Yeah, it’s rough in here.

Over the years I have learned ways to quiet her and get her monkey grip off my back. I work in stages, escalating as needed.

  1. Sssshhhh (out loud - if you hear me shushing - I am talking to her).

  2. Let’s shelf this (I’ll offer her to discuss it later - not right now when I’m in the middle of something).

  3. Hey! Cut it out! (When she persists - I persist.)

  4. BTFO. (That’s my don’t mess with me moment. Back. The. Fuck. Off. Mic drop.)

I don’t want her to disappear forever, just to lower her voice so that I can listen for what I need: A nap? A workout? Some time with my hubby? A talk with my bestie? To get some work done? I can’t hear it if she’s buzzing in my ear. And chances are, if she’s buzzing in my ear, I need one or more of those things to feel my self again.

That’s the catch with my critic, she’s a part of me. She’s got the inside scoop on my self-esteem. She doesn’t come in to bring me down, she just has easy access when I’m feeling low (‘I told you so’ is her favorite expression). Instead of banishing my bully I use her as a bitch-o-meter. My own built-in barometer that lets me know when I am low on self-care. I thank her kindly and turn my attention back to my very sweet self. Hello, you! What do you need? I ask, with a curiosity and kindness that leaves me smiling.

What do you do when your inner critic gets going? Please leave your tips below or on social. I can’t wait to hear (and borrow) them.