Silencing the Bully Within

Yesterday I received 2 disturbing e-mails about bullying. One was from a sweet and wonderful woman I know who shared a story about standing at a street corner while a passerby hurled a violent insult towards her about the size of her body propelling her from enjoying a normal sunny autumn day into a moment of self-doubt at the hands of a perfect stranger.  The second e-mail contained a link to a video clip about Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin news anchor who received a viewer e-mail accusing her being socially irresponsible simply by virtue of existing in her current form as a large bodied woman. When we hear of these accounts of bullying and personal attack we are completely horrified and yet most of us live with another, almost daily form of bullying; the powerful and pervasive bully within.

Have you ever had a boss who seemed to offer constant criticism and rarely ever any praise? Were you able to offer your best performance in that environment? It is nearly possible to function at full potential in the face of this kind of scrutiny. Yet when we are embroiled in the diet mentality we often expect our bodies to transform to their ideal health potential under conditions of this type of hostility.  We inundate ourselves with the messages we have internalized from the beauty, diet and fitness industries that our current form, no matter what it is, is totally unacceptable and that the solution and our only hope for happiness and completion is perpetually outside of ourselves.  It is these very messages that give fodder to our inner bully’s flame and this is how she rages on within us.

This internal bully is very insidious however, her insults don’t always come in the obvious form of “too fat, too stupid, too old, too ugly”, she can be much sneakier and therefore even more dangerous. Sometimes the damage is done in a form of self-bullying that is veiled as appreciation of another. Although it is rare since I took the Deeper Cravings journey of practicing presence through mindfulness, mindful eating, meditation etc to journey back to my body, this bully rears her ugly head every now and then in my own thoughts. I had one such experience during a pilates class a while back. I was using the class as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and meditative movement. During this class, as in most of my meditative experiences, various thoughts would enter and break my concentration.  I simply notice the thought, acknowledge it and return my attention to the present moment. One of the things that entered my attention was noting and admiring the thin, muscular legs of the instructor. Once I realized where my brain had taken me, I observed that in an instant I felt awful. My bully had taken her subtle swing in the form of that familiar rejection of my body as I drew the comparison between her legs and mine.

When we bring our attention to the voice of this inner bully and return to the present moment we can access a greater wisdom and silence the bully. What we access is the truth within that is always constant love, kindness, gratitude and appreciation. When we learn to bathe our body in this kindness we can become a keen observer of our own thoughts, on guard for when that inner bully appears. When I am present enough to notice these types of thoughts I am able to shift to a stance of nurturing and love. I feel protective over my thighs and I guard them from my own negative thoughts and comparisons. The Deeper Cravings path has allowed me to transition from a largely adversarial relationship with my body to one of caring and stewardship: an environment much more conducive to health.