As a kid, I was always warned about “mean girls,” and “bullies.” I was told that they’re negative people who tear others down for various reasons. I was shown how to deal with them in various ways, and told that I shouldn’t take what they said to heart.
After realizing bullies and mean girls exist outside of school and in the real world, I had to find different ways of handling them and carrying on, but I managed. “Kill them with kindness,” “they’re just jealous,” yaddyaddyadda. I have a whole series of pep talks I can give myself when dealing with nasty people in life now.
But the one thing nobody ever told me is that sometimes, I’m the meanest mean girl; the biggest bully. The way I rip myself apart for each and every perceived flaw far outstrips the petty insults of middle school girls who had cuter clothes or a boyfriend. Bullies always seem to know what gets to you the most; whether it’s insulting your looks, your friends, your brains, or just calling you names, they have an uncanny ability to smell weakness. Because I am me, I am intimately aware of my vulnerabilities and insecurities–chinks in my armor that I’ve learned to protect from exterior mean girls. But because I am my own worst bully, I know how to dig at those chinks like no one else.
I can bounce back when someone says I’m too short or I’m a bitch or I’m not good at my job. I know I’m small and abrasive and that I’m probably better at my job than they are. However, it’s a lot harder to bounce back when I’m the one saying those things to myself, because I’m saying them out of a place of belief. When I tell myself I’m unattractive or dumb or pathetic or annoying, I say it because I believe it, and the more I say it, the more I believe it. I feed the self-bully by believing it.
Much like with the mean girls in middle school, ignoring my negativity has not helped–if anything, my feigned dismissal has just allowed it to grow and strengthen. The little worm just keeps growing and eating away at my self-image and confidence. I let it stomp all over my soul and leave a disaster in its wake, passively agreeing with it by ignoring its lies.
Back then, I just told the mean people that what they were saying was inappropriate and not how I would tolerate being treated. (I also did punch one person. However, I learned that physical violence is not the answer, even if it did shut her up.) Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to tell yourself to say nice things or nothing at all in reference to yourself. I say it’s harder, but I’m not actually sure, as I have yet to actually try doing so, and am currently trapped in a place of humorless self deprecation. I was never afraid to tell the bullies to stop because I expected to be treated humanely, but I seem to have a mental block when it comes to treating myself with the same courtesy.
I guess I just never expected to have to tell myself to be nicer to myself. Nobody told me the worst mean girl out there would be in my head.