It was a conversation with my daughter that helped me finally decide.
We were talking about a disagreement between her and a classmate. Both parties were upset; neither understood the other’s point of view. As we talked at dinner that night, my daughter began to understand not only what might have caused the other person to act as they did, but also what caused her to react as she did.
We’ve talked with our daughter about bullying and meanness. We want her to understand how to speak up if she or someone else is being mistreated. But we also want her to understand how important it is not to mistreat someone else. The ability to understand what a person might be feeling that would cause them to be mean is an important skill.
It’s not a new idea. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” It’s good advice.
But do we apply that advice to our treatment of ourselves?
Think about it. We have all heard or even said that we are our own worst critics. We are so apt to find ways to bully ourselves about so many things. But what if we stepped back, and stood in another person’s skin for just a few moments? What if we imagined someone else speaking to us the way we speak to ourselves?
You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re a worthless failure. You’re a bad parent. You’ll never amount to anything in life.
Choose any string of negative self-talk you’ve heaped upon yourself. You know you’ve done it. Recall those words and now imagine someone else saying them to you. Step into that person’s skin. What would make that person speak to you that way? What would motivate them to be so cruel?
Now answer this question: what makes you speak that way to yourself? What motivates your cruelty toward yourself? And it doesn’t have to be limited to words. Our mistreatment of ourselves can come in so many forms – negative self-talk, bad eating habits, physical self-harm…the list goes on.
Ask yourself another question. What If someone mistreated a person you know – a friend, a colleague, a child, or a neighbor. What if someone spoke to that person in words that were intended to hurt? What if someone physically harmed them?
Would you tolerate it? Would you stand by and watch it happen? Or would you try to stop it?
Now ask yourself one more question: If someone mistreated you or spoke to you in words that were intended to hurt, would you allow them? If someone tried to physically harm you, would you allow it to unfold? Or would you fight back?
You know the answers.
So why would you do it to yourself?
Self-bullying is real. People do it every single day. They criticize, tear down, and physically harm themselves. And we minimize it by saying things like “I’m my own worst critic” or “I really beat myself up about that.”
But it is real and it is harmful.
We need to become as intolerant of self-bullying and self-harm as we are when we see it happen to others. The only way to build from that bullying is to tear down the walls. Knock over the structure of meanness and negativity to ourselves. Start to build from there by learning to understand what motivates us to bully ourselves. Then ask someone to work by your side.
Lay a new foundation. Build a better home.
This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a particular focus on Building from Bullying, as well as the broader topic of compassion.
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American Indian Mom, Finding Ninee The Quiet Muse, Chronically Sick Manic Mother, Just Gene’o, Driftwood Gardens,Getting Literal, Head Heart Health, Considerings, Paper,Pen,Pad, Blogitudes, Little Miss Wordy, 1000Speak
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