Are You Your Own Bully?

Negative Self-Talk - Voices In My HeadBullying is a serious problem. It’s no joking matter when someone gets picked on.

If it’s ever happened to you – if you’ve ever been the victim of a bully, then you know how much name-calling and mean words can hurt.

As a child, I had my own brush with a bully, and it was not fun.

You’re fat!” The little boy hissed at me as I walked down the aisle to the chalkboard.

He managed to say it just loudly enough so that I could hear it and the students at nearby desks could hear it, but the teacher could not. Then the little boy stuck his foot out as I passed his desk and I tripped, falling face down in the aisle.

You’re even too fat to walk down the aisle” the little boy whispered. Nearby students giggled.

The odd thing about those bullying words was that they weren’t true. They felt true at the time, of course. But my childhood photos actually reveal a skinny, almost bony, little girl.

That’s the way it is with bullying, though – it often isn’t true, although it may feel true.

Negative Self-Talk

As freelance professionals, though, sometimes we are our own worst bullies. The things that we tell to ourselves can be much meaner and far more hurtful than anything anyone else would ever tell us.

I’m talking about self-talk – specifically, negative self-talk.

Self-talk refers to the thoughts and attitudes that you have about yourself. It is expressed primarily in thought form. Negative self-talk can be a form of bullying yourself. Like external bullying, it’s unfair and it’s usually not true.

Paying attention to self-talk is important because what you tell yourself makes a difference in your professional success. Too much negative self-talk can sabotage your career before it even gets a real start. The damage we do to ourselves is as real as the damage that any external bully could do.

How To Recognize Negative Self-Talk

The first step to overcoming negative self-talk is to recognize that it is happening.

Sometimes we engage in negative self-talk without even realizing it. Here are five ways to recognize negative self-talk:

  • Use of the word “can’t” – When you are considering your own work, how often do you use this word? If you find that you are using this word often, ask yourself how accurate you are being. Can you truly not do the task? Could the truth be that you really could do the task if you applied yourself and learned a few new skills?

  • Unfavorable comparisons – It’s a good thing to learn from what others are doing. However, if learning from others leads to constant comparison and you always feel that you come up short, then it can be a bad thing. Remember this before you compare unfavorably to someone else – in most cases you don’t know the other person’s circumstances.

  • Is your reality negative? – Some of us walk around with a “glass half full” attitude. Everyone experiences a streak of bad luck from time to time, but if bad things always seem to happen to you then it’s time to take a look at yourself honestly and discover if your attitude is your true problem.

  • Out-of control perfectionism – Do you have trouble completing work because you feel that what you’ve done is never really good enough? Is your work full of flaws that only you can see? If so, you may be an out-of-control perfectionist. Attention to details is good for many careers, but perfectionism is attention to details run amuck.

  • Giving up easily – If obstacles stop you in your tracks and you give up on your projects too easily, then negative self-talk could be the true culprit. Success often depends on perseverance. If you quit too often, then you’ll miss out on many opportunities in life and in your career.

Tools to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

Most people can stop bullying themselves by putting a few simple techniques into practice. Here are some tools to help you overcome negative self-talk:

  • Develop good habits – Often negative-self talk is just another bad habit. You can practice thinking positive things about yourself. Make it a point to focus on at least one positive aspect about yourself and your work for at least one minute every day for thirty days. If you catch yourself being negative during the day, correct yourself immediately. 

  • Find a friend – Friends can often paint a more objective picture of our abilities. If you are in doubt about whether or not you have done a good job, why not ask for someone else’s opinion? You can provide the same objectivity to your friend when they need your input.

  • What advice would you give to another person? – Often, we are much harder on ourselves than we would be on other people. When you are faced with a project or task that you feel is hopeless, ask yourself “what advice would I give to someone else if they were faced with this same situation?”

  • Paint a positive mental picture – A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. When it comes to combating negative self-talk, the saying is true. If you are struggling with a project or task, imagine yourself after you have already successfully completed the project.

  • See a professional – I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. If nothing you do seems to help you overcome your negative self-talk, then you may need to seek out professional help. Remember, everybody needs help sometimes, and there’s no shame in seeking it out.

Share Your Success

Many freelancers struggle with negative self-talk. If this is your problem, then know that you are not alone.

Have you overcome a habit of bullying yourself? If so, congratulations!

Why not share the techniques and tools that you used to overcome negative self-talk here, in the comments to this post? :)



About the author: Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 18 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts.