I’m a victim of abuse. My own abuse.

My inner voice – the one that governs my self-esteem – is a bully. Here’s my story.

For years, I’ve been bullied, insulted, mocked, and beaten down. I’ve been made to feel incompetent, stupid, worthless, and at times – like trash. No one else made me feel this way. My inner voice did.

This voice has all of the qualities of the quintessential sadist, the quintessential abuser. It tells me not to trust anyone but itself, as literally everyone else around me is a threat that has the potential to harm me in some shape or form. It insults me by telling me that I’m incapable of making or sustaining friendships, that I’m the ugliest thing to walk on the face of this earth, that I can’t and won’t be capable of making something of myself. It controls my attempts to assert my individuality, my independence – I’m not to raise my hand in class because I’ll be laughed at. I’m not to reach out to so-and-so because I’m a burden and they’d never want to spend time with me in the first place. I’m not to try and wear things that make me feel like me – I’ll be laughed at.

For years I tried to make excuses to justify its’ behaviour. Maybe it was my fault that I was so unprepared, obviously those people would want to laugh at me. Maybe I am in fact one of the stupidest, ugliest, most vile creatures to walk on the face of this earth. Why else would I be telling myself this? Surely there was some evidence to back this statement up. It was out to protect me, it couldn’t help being the way that it was, it was shaped by negative experiences. Only now did I realise how sadistic, sick, and abusive my inner voice has been to me all of these years.

I don’t know how many experiences, potential friends and relationships, social media posts, and opportunities its’ had me lose. It’s eaten into my life. I’ve lost tons of time simply worrying, I’ve probably aged my heart more than it should be aged at this point (really sorry if that’s the case, poor heart). The signs were all there, I guess I was overtaken by denial, or perhaps a lack of trust in other people (creating a “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” situation).

Perhaps the normalisation of a lack of self-esteem also prevented me from confronting this sick abuser. Society still doesn’t consider an individual’s lack of self-esteem to be a major problem. The struggle for self-esteem is denied, mocked, and often forced into larger, more niche labels like the body positive movement, or yoga classes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that there isn’t a single, encompassing label for an individual who struggles with self-esteem, when a lack of self-esteem is often at the source of major mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and can impact not just the mental health of an individual, but their physical health and their entire quality of life. Like Amy Schumer said in one of her sketches “there’s an elephant in the room, and it staaanks”! A lack of self-esteem is the elephant in each individual’s room when they struggle with some mental disorders, with forming serious, lasting friendships, when they struggle to just be happy with themselves.

Now that I’ve acknowledged and shared that I’ve been bullied and abused by my own inner voice for years, I want to move onto the next step: cutting this abuse out of my life for good. This will take time and effort (not to mention a lot of patience), but is a worthwhile journey in which I’ll lose the toxic side to my inner voice and hopefully meet an inner voice that is empowering, nurturing, and supportive.