The Bullies in the Park

Imagine you’re out and about, strolling through the park, walking the dog, shopping in the mall … and you see a child or young person being bullied. Mean kids are calling them names, laughing at them, telling them what a loser they are …

How does it make you feel?

My guess is that, like me, you’ll be angry and outraged. You’ll want to intervene, to send the bullies packing with a flea in their ear. And then you’ll want to sit down with the victim and reassure her or him, buck them up, give them tools with which to repair the damage done by the lies and taunts they’ve endured. Am I right?

And yet, every day, we allow certain bullies to get away with it, to carry on with their nasty taunts, their mean words and their cheap jibes. ‘Who do you think you are? That’ll never work. You’re such a failure. People will think you’re a fool. You’re a total eejit. You can’t do that. What are you like? You’re so rubbish …’

These bullies don’t have a face though. They’re not easy to identify. Because they’re the voices in our heads. And they’re relentless. After all, they’ve been there a long time.

Perhaps the reason why sometimes we let the bullies we encounter in real life get away with dominating and belittling us, is because their words echo and reinforce the bully voice inside our own heads. Their message of ‘You aren’t good enough’ resonates because it’s what we say to ourselves on a daily basis. So it somehow sticks, like Velcro.

And when we hear compliments, praise and affirmation, they slide off us as if we’re Teflon coated. We discount and disregard them because they find no mirror or match inside our own heads.

Here are my 10 top tips for dealing with the bullies.

  1. Recognise them for what they are. They’re just thoughts. They’re not real. Nobody else can hear them. They may feel horrifyingly real to you, and they mayhave been around for a long time, but you can learn to evict them from your headspace, with a little practise.
  2. Give a face to the voice in your head, whether it’s a gremlin or a cartoon character, a comic book villain or a frightened child in a monster mask. Recognise it for what it is — full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
  3. Don’t confuse the critical voice in your head with ‘everybody’ (as in ‘everybody will think …). It’s an easy mistake to make. It’s hard for our brain to grasp the hugeness of ‘everybody’. What we’re probably thinking of is actually only a handful of people — people whose opinions we don’t even share or respect (a parent, a teacher, a disapproving uncle, the mean kid next door) — people who imposed their beliefs on us in the past, usually under the guise of ‘this is for your own good’.
  4. Consciously pick your own ‘everybody’ group. People you admire, people who inspire you, people not motivated by fear, people who don’t project their own ‘stuff’ on to you, people who will always have your true best interests at heart, people who will be a stand for your greatness. Maybe you know them already. Maybe they’re famous, or fictional, or even mythical. Your coach, the Dalai Lama, Buffy the vampire slayer, Elizabeth Gilbert, Dumbledore, Tony Robbins, Mother Earth. You choose.
  5. Call on your new, hand-picked ‘everybody’ regularly, for advice, counsel, reassurance, encouragement. They are wise, remember. That’s why you picked them. They’ve got your back. Use them!
  6. The next time that a frightening or painful or ugly thought starts nagging at you, question its veracity. True or false? And if not true, then what could be a more helpful truth instead. Replace ‘This is bound to go horribly wrong’ with ‘There’s a possibility that this could all go wonderfully right.’ There — doesn’t that feel better?
  7. Ask yourself: ‘Is this really the kind of energy I want ricocheting around in my head? Filling my waking hours? Haunting my dreams? No. No no NO.’ And then calmly state something that IS true (unlike the bullying thought). ‘I do deserve this. I AM good enough. I can do this. And even if it doesn’t work out, the world won’t end and I’ll have learnt and grown from the experience.’
  8. Talk to yourself like you would talk to that bullied kid in the playground. Reassure and comfort. Remind yourself that the bullies are scaredy cats themselves and not worth paying attention to. If you can’t find the words yourself, imagine what your handpicked ‘everybody’ would say.
  9. When your head gets confused, as heads so often do (what with all those shouting bully voices) then say thank you (yes, even to the bullies!) and tune in instead to what your body is telling you. Your body speaks a different kind of language. Butterflies in your tummy? Perhaps that’s excitement, not fear. A feeling of lightness, of expansion, of opening up? That’s a good sign. Tiredness, closing down, clenching up — not so good. Check in and trust your instincts. Go with your gut. However kerfuffled your head feels, your body will never lie to you. It’s far too clever.
  10. Know that, however loud and mean and bullish those voices in your head get, they are not real, and THEY ARE NOT WHO YOU ARE. You know this already, even if you forgot it long ago. You were born knowing it. Who you are, who I am, who we all are, is something so much huger, more magnificent, more connected to the Divine. So practice tuning out the bullies and tuning in to the quiet whisper of truth. You’ll recognise it when you hear it (think love and light, not monsters in the dark).