Children on the playground are mean. This is a truth that has not changed since I was in school. The other day I was walking by some pre-teens who were calling each other horrible names like cow, fatso, and a bunch I dare not print. Atrocious!
As I marveled at this scenario, I found myself pondering where these kids first heard these terms. I wondered if they felt this way about themselves. You see, we have a way of pointing out in others what we don’t like about ourselves. We are mean to ourselves.
This is one of the sources of bullying. A person with low self-esteem attacks a person who reflects the flaws the bully does not like about himself. Amazingly to me, the worst bully we will ever encounter is the reflection in the mirror. We are awful to ourselves.
Could it be our drive to be perfect or normal which forces us to compare ourselves to a standard that can never be met? Could we still be seeking the approval from a parent? Maybe we want an excuse to explain our unfulfilling and meaningless lives? Or, possibly, we observe and scrutinize our apparent failings to befuddle the more rancid beliefs we are unlovable, worthless or frauds. We are shifty and spiteful towards ourselves.
So here we sit being cruel and appalling at our reflection. Some of us will heap shame onto our terrible thoughts, which reinforce our negative self-beliefs. Others will project their feelings onto other people, never confronting the underlying reasons for their behavior, which reinforces the negative self-beliefs. It is a beautiful cycle of self-destruction that must stop.
Fortunately, there are three ways we can intervene to stop self-abuse. Reframe, Rent and Accept.
Each negative self-belief is rooted in a story. Something happened to you as a child or at school or with a parent. We experienced life and we are reliving the experience. However, we are not meant to relive experiences; we are meant to assimilate our experiences into lessons and blessings. Look at your story and reframe it to allow yourself to learn something from it. In my reframed story, people are capable of doing bad things and people who need help are not helpless. If you reframed your stories, you get to own the lesson, not the specifics.
When we own our stories, we create a fabrication that becomes part of our identity. Instead of owning the specifics, rent them for short periods of time to help put things into perspective. Also, remember our memories are flawed. Our memories are not movies or TV shows or exact replicas of life. Our memories are filtered flashes of experiences that are subject to manipulation and reinterpretation. If you own a story, you are owning a filtered, flawed version of life. Rent the experience so you can learn from it and then walk away from it.
Oftentimes, it is hard to let go our perceived experiences. Many times, we cannot ignore an underlying truth. For example, when you look in the mirror and you see an overweight person looking back at you, there may be some truth in the statement. Notice I used overweight and not fat. Why? Some words have a judgment behind them. Remove the judgment and accept the truth. Yes, you may be overweight. So what! Yes, you are older. Yep, you may have more wrinkles, but that does not mean anything other than you may be overweight and older. Life happens.
Acceptance goes one step further when it comes to other types of self-abuse. When you created a belief about yourself, there may have been a point in time when it was true, but it does not mean it is true now. If we accept a past truth as being part of the past and allow ourselves to redefine ourselves in the now, we are eliminating the source of self-abuse and starting the process of self-love.
The place to start is with a bear hug. You have been through a battle. Stop. Give yourself a hug, and start the process of reframing, renting, and accepting. If you can’t hug yourself, find me. My arms are wide open.