Seeing and Ceasing Our Self-Bullying
A guest post from Shalagh Hogan.
At some point, within the past year or two, I became aware that I'm a bully. Oh... of course, I'm a generous, kind, and considerate person to anyone else, except myself. By viewing myself through some imagined male viewfinder, I've been judging myself unworthy of love. I've reduced my worth down to numbers, to my body's measurements in pounds and inches. I am astonished at how cruel and diminishing this is. While I've begun to understand my lifelong acceptance of the debilitating oppression and objectification women endure, I continue to thoughtlessly bully myself. This is not something I want to pass down to my daughter, if I haven't already.
My Dawning Awareness of Women's Self-Bullying
As I become aware of my own self-bullying, I am shocked at how nonchalantly we judge and shame ourselves and others for our “imperfect” bodies, mutually seeking approval for this bodily objectification. As we publicly self-bully and criticize our beautiful selves, sometimes within earshot of little women-to-be, we compete for the title of worst, fattest, or laziest and chat about weight changes and dieting “struggles” like they're just car problems.
We all need to feel connected, seen, and heard by others. We need to feel reassured that we are not the only ones feeling frustrated and confused by our children, our spouses, or our government. But in this bonding comfort zone, I've watched as women betray themselves with unkind comments about their bodies, inviting our collective perfectionistic bodily obsession into the room.
Private self-bullying becomes public as we confess our “naughty” overindulgences in wine or donuts, declaring our unlovability for this. As we laugh knowingly at these seemingly harmless comments, we drink a slow poison.
This inherited self-hatred comes from such an auto-pilot place that we've become self-oppression masters. What's the point of laying fault with the misogynists, chauvinists, or the rampant sexism in society when we've willingly taken on the job of becoming our own persecutors? No need for watchdogs when the prisoners police themselves.
How I Vow to Rehab My Inner-Bully
Yes, I continue to struggle and betray myself, and my fellow womenfolk, with body judgment, especially on bad esteem days when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and grimace. I feel ashamed at being angry when I feel my sweaty back roll touching skin to skin. Seeing my body as an object in need of fixing is so ingrained in me, it's insidious.
My first action in rehabbing my inner-bully is to aspire for “bodily autonomy”. This is defined as “the right to self-governance over one's own body without external influence or coercion”. To feel bodily autonomy is to be in that mental place where you aren't noticing or judging your body as you move around in it. I want to detach from my body as my definition and focus on my talents instead.
The second action I'm taking is to be a concertedly kind and compassionate friend to myself. I will try to be mindful of when I am berating myself, to notice if I'm judging myself for being fearful, remembering neither fear nor any other feeling can be judged.
Only your compassion can dispel your fears. Only self-love can chase the darkness away. So I choose self-love; to exercise daily, eat wisely, journal, and give myself “at-ta girls” for my kind and loving efforts towards myself. I aspire to parent myself as I do my children.
Lastly, I have stopped making public comments that disrespect my body and I accept compliments. I do unto myself as I would have others do unto me. When I hear someone from my online community of kind people say nice things about me, instead of blowing them off, I thank them. We exchange authentic compassionate comments and compliments regularly. I listen to their kindness and I place it in my soul because that is the true location of my worth.
How Do We Work Together to Stop Self-Bullying ?
Kindness, compassion, and truth are the primary tools we need to break ourselves from unhealthy self-bullying behavioral patterns. We may indeed be over our ideal weight but that doesn't devalue us as human beings. We do not need to earn our worth, we are born worthy. Perhaps we need to dig deeper and ask, do we claim our plump bellies, our graying roots, and all our failings to be the first to point out our faults? Or do we laugh uncomfortably because, in that moment, we were unable to claim our deeper fear of being worthless and unlovable instead?
Empowerment comes from understanding yourself. You're entitled to choose what you believe. “I can choose to...” regard my body as my sole worth or I can choose to seek a larger definition of the gifts I bring to this earth and the people around me. I can choose to let my self-bullying go unnoticed or I can call myself out on it every-single-loving-time and dump bucketfuls of compassion on myself instead. A bonus? This action can give others permission to do the same.
I constantly hear the longing voices of women online wishing they could be more self-compassionate. They will themselves to forgive and be less hard on themselves but they speak as if this is impossible, as if they need permission to regard themselves with more esteem and compassion ! Perhaps we need another global women's movement to acknowledge our self-bullying? If we call this self-inflicted injustice out together, we have made another step towards our inner feelings of equality. Because once you see something that seems wrong, you will never un-see it.
I wish you all the gift of sight and forgiveness for your own gorgeously flawed humanity. I wish this for myself as well.
Guest Contribution from Shalagh Hogan. International Women’s Day 2020
My name is Shalagh Hogan, pronounced Shay-La, and I turned 53 this past year. I dwell in an old house on the East Coast of the USA with my husband, teen boy, 7 year-old girl , and 3 cats.
You can find my 8 year old lifestyle and self-discovery blog at www.Shalavee.com where my hope and joy as a writer, an artist, and an uber-creative, is that by sharing my journey of self-discovery, others will gain inspiration and permission for their own journeys.
Image credit Pixabay and Shalagh Hogan