I used to be my own worst enemy. Forget Regina George — I had the ultimate mean girl living in my mind.
My brain was an endless loop of hateful, negative thoughts, all directed at yours truly. “You’re disgusting,” “You’ll never be pretty enough,” “Nobody likes you,” “You’re lazy,” “You should just die already,” and so on and so forth all day, every day.
This went on for years. YEARS. Long-term emotional abuse in the extreme. But eventually I learned that happiness and self-loathing cannot coincide. So I started turning that vile voice in my head into my own personal cheerleader. These days, she’s way more pleasant to be around. And so am I.
If you’re living with a bully in your brain, here are seven ways to stop the self-inflicted misery and be your own best friend, instead:
7. Establish a healthy new habit.
Find a practice that makes those negative thoughts subside — even just a little — and do it daily. Whether it’s writing a list of stuff you’re grateful for or doing sun salutations in a park — find something and stick with it come hell or high water. Habits are powerful, and you’ll be setting the stage for more positivity to come.
6. Ditch the mirrors.
Not everyone is highly critical of their physical appearance, but if you are, mirrors can make your life a living Hell. If you’re using full length mirrors, magnifying makeup mirrors or the back of a spoon to constantly pick your appearance apart — get rid of (most of) as many reflective surfaces as possible. I’m not suggesting you get dressed in the dark. But having fewer mirrors around will help take the negative attention off of your appearance … at least until you start adopting a kinder attitude towards yourself. Fewer mirrors = fewer opportunities for self-shaming.
5. Face up to your own unrealistic expectations.
Sit down and write out a list of what you actually expect from yourself. If you’re honest, it’s likely you’ll have a lengthy list of near-impossibilities. Then pose a couple of questions: whose expectations are these? Are these the goals you truly value? Do you really think these achievements or possessions or acquisitions will make you happier? Break it down and listen to your heart. If you find out you’ve been beating yourself into a grisly mess over objectives someone else instilled in you, it’ll be an eye-opener.
4. Write a positive script.
Your debate class skills could come in handy here. Sometimes the key to getting rid of nasty thoughts is just knowing how to pose a logical argument against them. Make a list of the most common insults you’re hurling at yourself. Then, find rational, compelling arguments against them. Use evidence, examples, testimonials from loved ones and good-feeling thoughts to convince yourself that your condemnations aren’t true. Then, when your brain starts in on the attacks, you’ll know exactly what to say in response.
3. Learn to meditate.
By learning to quiet your mind, you’ll automatically become more gentle with yourself, and the ceaseless stream of self-criticism will slow. A loving kindness meditation is especially applicable, since it’ll help you adopt a nicer attitude towards yourself — and, in turn, every other living thing in the universe. Start with a few minutes a day and work your way up to more.
2. Look to the masters.
The most spiritually advanced people throughout history have been masters of self love and acceptance. Remind yourself of their teachings.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“When you’re at peace with yourself and love your self, it is virtually impossible to do things to yourself that are destructive.” – Wayne W. Dyer
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss (Yes, Dr. Suess was a spiritual guru. Clearly!)
“If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.” – The Dalai Lama
1. Ask yourself what you would say to a loved one in the same scenario.
If your friend or your daughter or your father came to you, talking about themselves the way you talk to yourself, what would you say? Undoubtedly, you’d be horrified. You know, inherently, that no one deserves that kind of abuse. Then, you’d turn to them with kindness and love and tell them all the reasons why they’re amazing. Why can’t you do the same for yourself? You don’t deserve a mental fist to the face any more than they do.
Our inner dialogues should be our ultimate support system, bestie and life coach. Is yours?