Motherhood and the Art of Self-Bullying


I would never talk to someone the way I talk to myself when I’m in self-bullying mode. Whoever coined the phrase, “You are your own worst critic” wasn’t kidding. But I’m not always negative; sometimes I swing the opposite direction and convince myself that I’m better then everyone else. My goal, however, is to be somewhere in the middle with a healthy self-image and life-giving thought patterns. I definitely land there at times, but there are seasons where that goal of balance feels impossible, and those seasons can sneak up on me like a stealthy ninja.

Self Bullying

Mommy’s Dead-Arm

Motherhood seems to have introduced an entirely new script for my brain to perform. It includes lines of triumph ready to be used when my kids do something awesome or I remember to put the wet clothes into the dryer on the same day. And it also includes lines of defeat and despair aimed and ready to fire when I forget it’s early pick-up day, or my jeans feel a bit more snug than they did last week. I can become quite a bully to myself, actually. “You’re fat,” “you’re too distracted,” or “you should just get up earlier,” and “why can’t you be more like her?” land like a punch to the arm each time they roll through my mind. The thing is, after a while that dead-arm feeling can set in, and suddenly I don’t even notice the harshness. It becomes normal to be self-bullying, even expected or deserved.

Eventually, I find myself in a land where self-love and kind words feel foreign and out of place. Crawling out of that space is hard work and requires that I give energy towards being mindful of my thought patterns and changing them. But crawling out of that space is mandatory if I’m going to show up for my life. I can’t function as wife and mom and friend when I’m beating myself up internally. It just doesn’t work. Those internal phrases eventually slip out and land on those I love and suddenly there’s collateral damage.

Changing the Script

As I’ve tried to navigate the art of mindfulness, I’ve established a few go-to practices that I’m wanting to turn into daily habits. Here are three key things I do to get out of self-bullying mode:

1. Turn off the Noise

I find that as the negative self-talk gets louder, so does my need to check out. I’ll have the TV on for background noise, music playing on my phone, or a cooking show going on my laptop. I can struggle with just sitting in silence, but it’s in that silence that I’m forced to hear myself and have the opportunity to change the script.

2. Be Thankful

Discontentment and disappointment can be huge triggers that set off my critical thinking patterns. Making a list of 3-5 things I’m thankful for is sometimes all I need to snap myself out of my funk, and move my focus to what I have or what I’ve accomplished rather then my lack.

3. Bless Someone 

The thing about self-bullying is that it keeps a giant mirror in front of my face, and makes thinking about and noticing others really difficult. One of the most effective weapons I’ve found in fighting against negative thought patterns is doing something kind for someone else. Buying coffee for the mom in line behind me, sending an encouraging email to one of my kids’ teachers, or offering to babysit a friend’s kids so she and her husband can go on a date are just a few of so many ways I can be a blessing to someone else. And I find that when I extend myself on behalf of others, my internal dialog begins to change.

I once read the phrase, “Be careful of how you are talking to yourself, because you are listening.” The crazy thing is, sometimes we forget that we can hear ourselves, and overlook just how much we are impacted by our own self-talk. I’m gonna work on my listening skills. Stealthy ninja? I’m on to you.