Stop Self-Bullying

Catherine DeAngelis

Belongingness is the quality or state of being, an essential or important part of something – we all need to have a sense of belonging.


That intense need for belonging in family, with friends, at work, school, in cultural communities, can bellow out like an emotional titanic in our brain. This need brings a sinking feeling we are drowning because somehow, we got it in our head, we are nerdsdifferent or just don’t fit in. We become isolated.

We malign ourselves with words like “I am weird,” “I am born under a bad sign,” or “black sheep of the family.”  It doesn’t end there. It gets worse for many of us. That deep-seated pain is buried yet we have recall of the time that kid hollered “hey spider face.” What we used to be called during school recess in grade 5 by an all-pervading cliché bully does not have to be a recurring self-punishment.

Some of us take the “fight or flight response ” when these emotions arise in us – at holiday time, birthdays, family or other social gatherings. Anxiety permeates our flesh.  Those undealt with emotions surface to remind us the pain hasn’t gone away.

Emotional Pain

Emotional pain can create a kind of electric surge in us that we apply a self-criticism that we are not good enough. We have given ourselves the same treatment we may have been exposed to and continue the pitter-patter of thoughts in the mind. A take-over happens and the same thoughts repeat giving us the same lie handed down to us – over and over.

When do we become responsible for these feelings or emotions that arise from this all mighty thing we call name-calling, whether it came at us from the past or still present today?

We know who the name-caller is most of the times, but when it comes to ourselves, who can we blame?

How many of us have this bully-self that is a name-caller often creating havoc in our thoughts doing the same kind of personal damage that psychologists claim do to a bullied child?

We attach personal name-calling of another nature to ourselves, no different from what we battled in our school yard or for some, our parents, siblings, teachers who may have intentionally or unintentionally thrown stones, at our already fragmented self.

Sense of Belonging

We could be at any age range. Our desperate yet silent need for belongingness steals our right to trust we are who we are right here right now. We belong inside and out of our skin; we feel betrayed by a lie given to us somewhere, at sometime, in our lives.

Just as there is zero-tolerance for behavioral disturbances for bullying, victimization and standing by during bullying – this approach can be given the same respect to our internal messaging. How long do we stand and continue to bully ourselves without doing a darn thing about it? It strips self-esteem and tears at our confidence to create a concrete barrier to our success.

What was the lie is something we can ask ourselves? It is the lie that can fester and remind us we are supposed to be somebody more than what we are, because somewhere we were told we didn’t measure up. So what!

Simple it seems that the truth is a matter of consequence for we judge ourselves too harshly when we are unable to uncover the monster that looms underneath these trapped emotions — we plainly feel we are “damaged goods.”

On Being Human

Jean Vanier’s vision of belonging is described best in his book, Becoming Human,My vision is that belonging should be at the heart of a fundamental discovery: that we all belong to a common humanity, the human race. We may be rooted in a specific family and culture but we come to this earth to open up to others, to serve them and receive the gifts they bring to us, as well as to all of humanity.”

We can stop our self-bullying by reminding ourselves, those negative self-deprecating words in our head are a lie, and thoughts, they lie to us. Isn’t it time to stop belittling and devaluing ourselves?

More important than the need to be loved is the need to belong – for some of us it is an affirmation we need, over and over again, to kick out the old messages and replace the messages with new ones.

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”  ― Jean VanierCommunity And Growth.


Click here for a helpful resource on how to switch from negative to positive self-talk





Some SELF Affirmations

  • Fall in love at first sight with you every day – replace self-bullying, hurtful words with positive ones – weave them into a personal mantra like “I am energetic, healthy, physically and emotionally fit.”
  • Be mindful – let your eyes meet you in the morning and make it an instant attraction of SELF. Do this every day until it is natural part of you. Loving self is not bad, it is number one to bringing others to loving us more.
  • Allow love to happen – anywhere, anytime!
  • Find help – getting stuck in negative thought patterns can hinder you in your life in many aspects – don’t go it alone — ask for help – all kinds of talk therapies and support services are available – explore solutions.
  • Giving up is not an option – call 911 or visit closest hospital emergency in your area if ever self-talk takes you to a hopeless state.

No matter what, give a shout out “I am not damaged goods, and I too belong here.” Make you matter – affirm the positives, find ways to reverse belittling self-talk. When you get stuck in the negative thought streams, be accountable – know that we are all part of a common humanity – the human race.

Editor’s Note: this post was originally published August 23, 2013 and has been updated.



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Finding Resiliency…

”Children with dogs” 1932 by Tadeusz Makowski

The following are the four basic attachment styles.  Please keep in mind that these descriptions are very general; not everyone will have all these characteristics. Attachment styles are relatively fluid and can change slightly depending on your partner’s own attachment style.

Secure – These individuals usually grew up in a supportive environment where parents were consistently responsive to their needs. People who are securely attached are generally comfortable with being open about themselves, asking for help, and allowing others to lean on them at an emotional level. They have a positive outlook on life, are comfortable with closeness, and seek physical and/or emotional intimacy with minimal fear of being rejected or overwhelmed. Securely attached individuals are generally consistent and reliable in their behaviors toward their partner. They tend to include their partner in decisions that could affect their relationship.

Dismissive-avoidant – Also referred to as “insecure-avoidant,” children usually develop this attachment style when their primary caregivers are not responsive to or are even rejecting of their needs. Children learn to pull away emotionally as a way to avoid feelings of rejection. As adults, they become uncomfortable with emotional openness and may even deny to themselves their need for intimate relationships. They place high value on independence and autonomy and develop techniques to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and defend themselves from a perceived threat to their “independence.” These techniques include, but are not limited to: shutting down; not saying “I love you” even though their behaviors indicate that they do (i.e., mixed messages); keeping secrets to maintain some semblance of independence. These coping techniques end up becoming detrimental to their adult relationships.

Fearful-avoidant – Also referred to as “disorganized-disoriented” in some literature, children who have developed this style may have been exposed to prolonged abuse and/or neglect. Primary caregivers are the people children often turn to as a source of comfort and support. In a situation involving abuse, these primary caregivers are also a source of hurt. These children grow up to become adults who fear intimacy within their relationships but also fear not having close relationships in their lives. They recognize the value of relationships and have a strong desire for them, but often have a difficult time trusting others. As a result, they avoid being emotionally open with others for fear of being hurt and rejected.

Anxious-preoccupied – Sometimes referred to as “insecure-ambivalent,” children develop this form of attachment usually when their parents have been inconsistent with their responses to them. At times, these parents exhibit nurturing, caring, and attentive behaviors. Other times they can be cold, rejecting, or emotionally detached. As a result, the children don’t know what to expect. They become adults who desire a lot of connection within their relationships, sometimes to the point of being “clingy.” They are highly aware of any slight changes in the relationship. These changes, however minute, can significantly increase this individual’s anxiety. As a result, he or she will focus energy on increasing connection with that partner. Individuals who have this attachment style needs more validation and approval than the other attachment styles.

Neural pathways developed from childhood traumatic experiences help shape how we respond to others and adults often find themselves repeating the same behaviors and patterns throughout their lives. This is not meant to place blame on parents for the types of relationships you have as adults. Although parents play an important role in setting that foundation, you as an adult have the ability to create changes for yourself and your behaviors within any relationship.

Steps Toward Change

Increased awareness can help you take those first steps towards change. By developing a better understanding of how your early childhood experiences have helped shape your attachment style and its connection to your present style of interactions, you can improve your relationships as an adult. This awareness can then help you move towards developing a more securely attached relationship with those around you. 


McLeod, S. (2008). Mary Ainsworth. Retrieved from

Ogden, P., & Fisher, J. (2015). Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Van Der Kolk, B.A. (1989). The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-Enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 389-411.


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