Self-compassion: How to silence your inner bully

We all have an internal voice, the voice inside our mind that shapes our thoughts and how we see ourselves. For some that voice speaks kindness, encouragement and pride at who we are and what we have accomplished but, for many of us, that voice can be negative, critical, judgemental, harsh and well, a bully!


Often this critical voice begins to affect what we think of ourselves, we never feel good enough or successful enough and there is always a feeling of needing to push harder and achieve more to prove ourselves. The problem with this is that we are fighting a losing battle, paddling upstream against the current but not actually going anywhere, meanwhile, we are using all of our energy and feeling exhausted as this critical voice gets louder.

But there is a way to silence this inner bully, to change the way that we speak to ourselves and in turn, change our relationship with ourselves and our concept of own self-worth.

How to silence your inner bully

Tune in

The critical voice that we have inside our head often appears without us realising, it is a learned behaviour, almost like ‘auto pilot’ and we are unconscious of it. One way to change this is to ‘tune in’ to when those negative thoughts start appearing and become more conscious of them.

A good exercise is to write them down, then next to them write something to contradict them for example “You did such a bad job at the presentation at work today, what were you thinking?!” to “You did your best and whatever happens you can learn from the experience and move on”. The more that the inner bully goes unnoticed the more permission you are giving it to get louder and stronger, take time to turn the volume down!

Try to understand where it comes from

One of the great things about counselling is that you can take the time to explore why these learned behaviours are there in the first place. When did this inner bully begin to take hold and why? Understanding the WHY helps us to work through the root cause of the issue and begin to move forward in a more positive way.

Be your own best friend 

Yes I know it sounds cheesy but it really does work! Consider how a friend would speak to you if you told them that you made a mistake or missed the mark on something. A good friend would offer you understanding, compassion and empathy so why not try to offer some of that to yourself?

Realise that it’s ineffective 

Beating yourself up can create a negative spiral which can be very difficult to climb out of, it is ineffective and causes your self-esteem to become incredibly low affecting your mood and contributing to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. With time, self-compassion and kindness towards yourself opens the door for greater self-acceptance, a feeling of being good enough and a drive to want to keep going every day.

There is a grey area

You may feel like the critical voice inside your mind provides you with a push, a drive to work harder and excel at whatever you do. Working hard and being driven is a positive quality, however, there is a tipping point where that encouragement and drive turns into punishment when you don’t quite get there. The truth is that there can be a healthy balance but so often this balance starts by addressing the imbalance and gifting yourself with an acceptance of being enough.

Take a minute today to consider your inner voice, what is it saying? Is it compassionate, understanding and kind or is it telling you that you’re not enough? Make a commitment to yourself to turn down the volume of that inner bully!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY
Written by Amy Fokkens, Dip.Couns. MBACP Therapeutic Counsellor
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY

Amy is a Therapeutic Counsellor and member of the BACP with a passion for helping those with low self esteem and anxiety. She has experience of working with the charity 'Mind' and a local refuge for women who have survived domestic abuse. Her practice is called 'Crown Counselling' and offers online sessions, she is based in Milton Keynes

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