How to meet self-critique
“You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” -Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver
Say goodbye to the bully inside!
How many thoughts do you think in a single day? Researchers put the number between 35,000-75,000. Every single day. That’s a lot of chitter-chatter from dusk to dawn. And check this: most thoughts are the same ones you had yesterday, last week, even 10 years ago. Mind-boggling.
Now, take a look at yourself in the mirror and listen to your thoughts. Ask yourself this: Are you judging yourself? What does that sound like? Maybe something like this: Those circles under my eyes are nasty. My teeth are so yellow – I should drink less coffee. I’m so flabby – time to dust off the gym pass. Sometimes judgemental thoughts take on the role of a cheerleader. Like this: Come on, you’re hot! Stop worrying about those wrinkles. You’re gorgeous. Thinning hair? Whatever. Bald is the new black. Whichever tone they’re taking, thoughts tell you what’s right, what’s wrong, and how far you are from feeling OK.
Most of these thoughts are subconscious. Huh? Basically, thoughts you don’t hear. Why bother with stuff I can’t even hear? Well, these thoughts affect you – big time. You don’t hear them because you identify with them. They are you. When I am ugly, fat, stupid, uninteresting, slow, untalented is no longer a thought but instead a personal truth, you act according to it. You do exactly what the bully inside tells you to do – and don’t question it. No one doubts a bully, right?
Back up. You calling me a bully?
It’s actually a pretty simple concept. Cognitive psychology puts it like this. First comes thought. Thought turns into body sensation (aka feeling). Body feels sad, angry, upset, freaked out, unsettled, uncomfortable? You’ve learned those are bad feelings, and your body kicks into defense mode. Remove this feeling from me, it shouts. You do all you can – through your actions – to not feel sad, angry, or scared. Cue… enter bully.
Basically, every time you feel something you don’t want to feel, it started with a thought that threatened you in some way. Maybe you didn’t feel appreciated. Or recognized. Or understood. When this happens, the bully steps in to protect you. The bully tells you to judge, control, belittle, and criticize others – after doing a good job on yourself first. You play the victim. You escape the situation, the relationship, the city. Remember those 35-75,000 thoughts a day? The ways you defend ourselves from them are just as many. The bully is a master of deception.
By building up defense mechanisms – certain behavior – the bully protects you from the thoughts you identify with. I’m ugly is the thought. Ugh, yuck is the feeling. Don’t look at me I’m hiding beneath this big hat is the behavior. The bully starts making your decisions for you, doing the shopping, choosing your friends, turning down opportunities where you’d be seen (uh-oh, what if they see how ugly I am! Yuck. Hide.) The bully helps you avoid feeling bad feelings.
Your bully criticizes you. And others. Because come on, it must be someone else’s fault. Damn, look how big her ass is! He is such an idiot! The train is always late – this city is such a shithole. The bully protects you from your own feelings of inadequacy by pointing the finger. I can’t possibly be the problem – little helpless me.
When the bully isn’t busy cutting you down or shit-talking everyone and everything else, then it’s bragging. Bullies love to brag. I am way too smart for all these idiots. I am so beyond everyone here – get me out of here! By separating you from everyone else, the bully hides your flaws. Let the bully steer long enough and you’ll find you belong nowhere, with no one. And belonging, friends, is the biggest human need of all.
How can you shut the bully down? By removing yourself from it. It’s not you. Your thoughts aren’t you – and the bully, after all, is created by those thousands of thoughts (not smart/hot/rich/talented enough) that become feelings (scared, angry, defensive) that drive behavior (I’m outta here).
Bully bullshit is abundant. Most of us swim in it. But we are not the bullies. We are beautiful, messy human beings. And at the EQ Gym, we think this a damn fine way of being. But enough of this bully BS. Let’s get to work, exercising out the bully and making way for the real, awesome, pure, totally great you.
Visit my brand new website, https://theeqgym.com/, and join my meditation sessions at Zoom.
This is a guest post. Any opinions expressed are the writer’s own.