Posted by fxckfeelings on October 31, 2013Share This Post
At a certain age, it becomes clear that high school ends, but the feeling is one you never outgrow; there will always be days when you want to dress like an idiot, be forced to eat food on a tray, or feel bullied, either by a group of alpha-males or by your own inner-Heather. No matter what the source of your browbeating, however, getting a bully to stop is often impossible, and fighting a bully may give him/her more power over your feelings and thoughts. So remember, standing up to a bully doesn’t require you to fight, win, or gain control over someone else. Instead, it requires you to know your own values and respect your own behavior, regardless of whatever mean, provocative statements get thrown your way, or how many Mean Girls/Women/Men you have to encounter throughout your life.
I’ve been sober 15 years and get a huge amount out of my AA meetings, but I still hate myself. It isn’t that I act like a jerk anymore—I’ve got a great husband and I do my job and make a living—but that doesn’t change how I feel. I don’t do anything bad, but I waste time, I don’t have the smarts to go back to school and do well, and I haven’t done anything particularly good or accomplished much. I envy people who are successful, which makes me feel that much smaller. I wonder what steps I need to work on to ever get to like myself.
For some people, hating yourself is an unavoidable bad habit, like mentally biting your nails, and if you’ve ever been a nail-biter, you know that it’s almost impossible to stop entirely, even if you’re destroying your fingertips and/or self-esteem.
As painful as self-hatred is to live with, it’s probably an unavoidable condition for many perfectionists and idealists especially, as well as those who were subject to severe criticism and abuse as kids. Expecting to be healed from it, then ,just adds to your sense of having an unacceptable defect and thus to your self-hatred, as you start hating yourself for hating yourself for hating yourself, etc.
For many years now, you’ve done nothing you should hate yourself for and you’ve got people in your life who don’t hate you. If you still hate yourself, in spite of these good things, then it’s probably a feeling you can’t change. Given that you’re a self-hater, however, you’ve done a remarkable job of changing or preventing self-hating behaviors, and remembering that is your best weapon against your brain’s urge to knock you down.
For example, you’ve stopped drinking, found a good partnership, and held a job from which you support yourself. For someone whose natural instincts could cause, and have caused, all kinds of trouble, you’ve achieved remarkable and meaningful self-control. Of course, you’ll never feel that way, but facts argue otherwise, and facts rule.
Since you can’t get rid of your internal critic, your job is to stand up to her. Don’t magnify those negative feelings by telling me or anyone else that you haven’t accomplished much and are a small, envious person. Instead, look at the facts of your life as you would a friend’s, making sure to include your sobriety, financial independence, and successful marriage.
Finally, write a response to the allegations of failure that says, basically, that you know you can’t stop having self-critical ruminations, but that you have reasonable standards for being a decent, hard-working, sober, independent woman and you’ve met those standards. Think of it as your own personal Serenity Prayer.
Your standards are more important than being admired for achieving wealth or fame, and you will stand by them. If you can’t stop picking on yourself, you can at least use the facts from stopping yourself before you bleed.
“I often feel like a loser but sobriety has forced me to think carefully about what I do with my impulses and I’ve done good things that I can be proud of. I will not let compulsive self-criticism go unchallenged because I do not deserve it.”
My kid is having trouble with bullies at school, and I’m afraid she’s going to react with violence. She’s always been bigger than the rest of her class—both heavier and taller—which has made her a target her whole life, and now that she’s in high school and fallen in with a crappy, deadbeat group of friends, bullying makes her more angry than depressed. If anything, it sounds like she’s becoming a bully herself. I don’t blame her for being frustrated, because I’ve wanted to tear my hair out after all the years of talking to teachers and administrators about the problem and getting nowhere, but if she starts getting into fights, she might get expelled. My goal is to figure out what I can say to her to get her to stand down.
When your kid has fallen into negative behaviors and started running with the Wild Bunch, whatever you say probably isn’t going to have much influence. That’s not because you’ve failed to find the right words or establish a good relationship; it’s simply a byproduct of the power of bad habits to take over and stop your daughter from listening to anyone who makes her feel guilty and defensive, not necessarily because of what you say, but because of what you represent. What your daughter is going through is as an adolescent story as old as time, and short of trapping her in carbonite until she’s 21, you’re in for a struggle.
Remember, though, that actions are always more powerful than words, particularly if you’ve got anger and fear under control and have a reasonably good plan. If you’re rich, that’s when you look around for a boarding school that will keep her busy and scheduled from dawn to dusk. Of course, she’ll still be drawn to trouble and troublemakers, but you’re hoping she’ll also be exposed to interesting activities, good leadership and an opportunity to get bad habits under control.
If you happen to be less than rich, take a look at what boarding schools offer and replicate what you can with more limited resources. If you can do so without too much disruption, change school districts and try to enroll your daughter in activities or find her a job before she has a chance to re-create her old social niche. Don’t hesitate to try bribery, because you know she doesn’t have enough internal motivation to go straight, but she probably lacks the motivation to get into trouble if it’s too much trouble to do so.
Meanwhile, your actions reflect the advice you have to offer about bullies, which is not to let them stop her from getting good things out of school. If, with your help, she finds something worthwhile in school, then it’s easier for her to keep herself away from the bullies and find new friends who share positive interests. Bullies are like the bad drivers who trigger road rage, so if you’re going down the road with a destination in mind, you can ignore them. If you’re going down the road to interact with other drivers, you can’t avoid a fight.
Hopefully, she’ll someday get the point of what you’re trying to teach her, which is that she beats bullies by pursuing her own future, not by giving them an importance they don’t deserve. In the meantime, keep trying to find her a good destination and incentives for staying on track with her goals and the end of adolescence in sight.
“I can’t seem to stop my daughter from fighting with bullies and getting into trouble, but I know the problem is her disengagement from school and reactiveness to everyone, including me. I will try to find her a new opportunity and give her reasons for grabbing it, so that she will have something to react to other than her own unhappiness and the nastiness of others.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname