What do you think of when you think of bullying? Playground taunts? Cyberstalking? Mean girls? Workplace passive-aggressiveness? We’ve been very, very fortunate here in the House of Chaos to have had little bullying come our way. It could have been horrifically life-altering for the boys, and what little we’ve had was quickly ended with a little parental intervention. It was mostly ordinary meanness anyway. But hooboy…coulda been bad. That said, J is heading to middle school this week and who knows what tween horrors await.
My friend Pamela Price recently released her new book on gifted kids and bullying. We’ve talked, off and on, about bullying and what it looks like. I maintain I somehow escaped a lot of bullying growing up, and I suspect she doesn’t entirely believe me. There was a little middle school drama, but nothing life-changing. In high school I lived in the band room and half my friends were guys; I really missed out on a lot of the Mean Girl life (thank.god.). College and grad school and beyond…I can’t think of much. I know my husband had a considerably different bullying experience, but that’s not my story to share.
So maybe I escaped bullying from others growing up, but I sure as hell didn’t escape it entirely.
I bully myself.
If others spoke to me the way I speak to myself in my head…I just can’t imagine. I can’t imagine hearing the humiliating and insulting things I say to myself come from someone else’s talk hole. It may also be known as Impostor Syndrome, but goes a little deeper than that, deep into the very core of me. One is what I do, the other is who I am.
You should really…
Why don’t you…
Why aren’t you…
Why haven’t you…
If you would only…
If you could only…
You slept too late (all of 7:00 am), now you’re behind for the day. No wonder you can’t get anything done.
You got up too early (all of 6:00 am), now you’re going to be exhausted and worthless for the day. No wonder you can’t get anything done.
You overdid it again today. You’re going to pay for that tomorrow and be worthless for the day. No wonder you can’t get anything done.
You didn’t exercise today. No wonder you have 50 pounds to lose. Also? Fifty pounds? Jesus, woman. No wonder you’re tired and achy all the time. How can your husband stand you?
You call yourself a writer? Really? Because there’s not a whole lot of writing going on lately. Sure, you’re managing to get some journaling in most days, but writing? Pfft. You’re a hack. You’ll never be a writer and you’ll have to live with others doing what you want to do, because they were able to get their lives together enough to get words on a page.
You call yourself a flutist? Really? How about you practice for a change? You’re going to get to band next week and piss down your leg. Don’t you remember when that happened in that one orchestra rehearsal, and you were disinvited to return? You want that to happen again?
You’re a homeschooler? HA! Your poor kid. You are screwing him and he’s going to pay for your educational negligence for the rest of his life.
You haven’t been in the official workforce for 15 years and are entirely unemployable. Better hope your son overcomes your educational negligence so he can afford to care for you in your dotage, if you make it that long, you unhealthy bag of meat.
No one likes your humor, you are far too profane for a woman of your age, your best days are behind you, and you’d better just hope you don’t end up alone because who the hell would want to add your metric crapton of baggage to their lives? You lucked out with Tom, better not screw that up.
I’m a riot at parties.
Now, before you worry about me and call the soothing men with the huggy jackets, please know that this isn’t always a running monologue in my head
; sometimes I sleep. Most of the time I am fine, go about my days, rock the hell out of my life, and generally kick ass and take names (see? profane). But that bullying voice knows exactly when and where and how to drive in the knife and twist; it’s when I’m unawares and maybe hurting a bit and a little sensitive, then BAM! Bullies are good like that; they know when to attack for the most satisfying result.
I do my best to ignore it, not give it the attention on which it so obviously thrives, and sometimes I even fight back. I’m getting pretty good at shoving a metaphorical dirty sock into its mouth; it fights back by crying out past the sock that it’s just saying what others are so obviously thinking, so don’t kill the messenger. I wouldn’t believe someone if they actually said these things to me, I’d actually lose respect for someone saying them to me, and I’d probably have a good laugh at that person later. It’s so much harder when it’s your own voice telling you these things. I’m getting better at not believing everything I think, which is a great first (and thirtieth…and four hundredth) step, but it sure ain’t easy.
So what do you think of when you think of bullying? Do you recognize it when you do it to yourself? Because that needs to stop, just as it needs to stop against our kids. We’re worth it too.
Today’s bit of blogging therapy is part of August’s GHF Blog Hop, on the topic of bullying and the gifted/2e population. Take some time and visit the other participants, it’ll be well worth your time.
Great post, Jen. Love the title. It’s an important twist on the topic because I think that self-bullying goes on for a lot of people. I always appreciate your openness, humor and vulnerability. Thanks!
Thank you, Paula! This wasn’t easy to write.
The internal bully. Self-care is so important and negative self-talk can be so damaging. Glad you are usually rocking your days.
This was hard to read, in the sense that it was clear and honest and you showed the mechanisms of self-bullying. I hope your bullying Self and receiving Self share a glass of wine. Bullying directed inward can be some of the toughest to heal. For my own inner dialogue, I can have a tough time parsing out what comes from a longing for learning and growth, and what is plain meanness. As you say, “not believing everything I think” has helped me get the nugget of wisdom without the slap of the hand.
Free-writing journaling has helped a lot in seeing what I hear. Then I can look at it more objectively.
I like the way you interpreted this blog hop topic, Jen. Thank you!
Yes, bullying — in any form — needs to stop. We moms are rocking parenthood and need to own that, just as our kiddos need to own their own quirky selves. Thanks for such an insightful post, Jen.
Oh, I believe you. 😉
I also think that your internal bully has filled the gap–and it’s time to let her go. <3
I agree it’s time for her to go, but the removal will be painful.
Good point! Negative self-talk can be a form of bullying.
I hate that you bully yourself, but I am glad you wrote this. I’m sure we all do a lot of negative self-talk, but to describe it as bullying oneself makes it more clear to me what is really happening. Hopefully, calling it bullying may help me curb my own negative self-talk.
Thanks, Jen, for giving it the perfect name!
My inner bully works in tandem with Imposter Syndrome woman. Mostly telling me that someday, I’ll be outed as the neglectful parent and lazy housekeeper that I know myself to be. (Actually, I doubt anyone can miss the lazy housekeeper part!). I know that in theory, I must have done ok with the kids, or at least they’re turning out to be decent people; but I’m convinced inside that if I was really doing my best, they would be perfect, because in my life, for the most part, if I try my hardest at something, I’m usually successful. Therefore, if I was trying my best with my kids, they wouldn’t all be in therapy. Yes, I know it’s not true. But good luck getting my inner bully to let go of such a sensitive spot!