Conquering Your Inner Bully

During the height of my grief, after my mother died, I met a woman with whom I became inseparable. We went everywhere together; finished each other’s sentences, and were joined at the hip. I was rarely without her. We were alike in so many ways – Except one.

She was mean. Viciously mean.

She talked incessantly, and most of the time she was putting me down, playing on my weaknesses, or generally crushing my self-esteem. She commented on my “grief weight,” challenged me about my work, asked me who I thought I was and where did I get off. Three months of her abuse and I realized I was starting to believe her words.

Our conversations became so vile I started to worry I might not ever be able to shake her. She was that person who couldn’t take a hint and ignored the obvious signals. She was becoming relentless.

Jimmy Kimmel does an interesting segment on his show. He has famous people read out awful things that others have tweeted about them. I have found this segment horribly uncomfortable. Most of the time the tweets are mean and thoughtless. The shtick is intended to be funny, but I find it so sad. Imagine if we had to read inner bully statements in front of an audience. That would provide some shock value.

Finally, I had had enough of the lies and the mistreatment. I researched “Quieting your inner critic.” Hundreds of articles came up.

My inner bully apparently had a lot of colleagues.

The gist? I had to match force with fierceness.  I hung in places and activities where she was naturally put on mute (exercise, chatting with a friend, cooking) and I faced her head on when she spoke up (before social engagements, shopping for clothes,) She didn’t give up easily but eventually, her voice quieted as I consistently reminded her I had no place for that kind of talk in my life.

My INNER BULLY had found a brief window of entry during my time of grief and would have stayed if I let her.

Everyone’s inner critic is slightly different. How persistent and invasive she is, depends on many many factors. But of all the articles I read, several tactics for extinguishing her power were consistent. Keep reading if you want to know more.

Michael Port, in his book Steal The Show,  theorizes that one of the best ways to silence the inner critic is to silence your criticism of others. He suggests that the more we knock down others, the more our brain becomes at ease with criticism. Who is the easiest person to criticise? Ourselves.


  • LISTEN AND ACKNOWLEDGE – Don’t let her run her mouth in the background and get away with it. Ignoring her will not make her go away.
  • LOOK FOR BREADCRUMBS – When is she loudest, meanest, or most chatty? What can you shift situationally to feel stronger during those times?
  • BLOW HER AWAY – Breathing exercises force our nervous systems out of sympathetic mode (fight or flight) into parasympathetic mode (relax mode.) Inner bullies tend to chat less when we are not on the defense.
  • INTERRUPT HER – Literally, talk over her with kind words to yourself; use uplifting conversation to drown out that background chatter.
  • CHAT WITH A TRUSTED FRIEND – Real voices override your inner mean girl so, get on the phone or grab a coffee with a trusted person to talk out these fears. If there is no one available, pretend you are giving advice to a friend about these self-doubts or insecurities.
  • GET A MAGNIFYING GLASS – Examine the evidence. Our thoughts are often exaggerated and biased. Consider the things your bully is saying and evaluate for truth. What is the underlying fear your bully is expressing? Is there anything you can learn or do you just need to move forward?
  • REWRITE THE PROGRAM – Restate your bully’s overly exaggerated thoughts with more reasonable and realistic ones.
  • KILL HER WITH KINDNESS –  Your inner bully is still you. She is a deep part of you that is actually concerned with your well-being but is going about it in a negative way. Consider acknowledging your inner bully’s good intentions and then reframing the conversation to something more positive.

This week, can you pay special attention to  your inner critic when she starts yapping? Can you take some of the recommendations above and give them a spin? Share in the comments below what works for you.

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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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