The Worst Bully Is You!

 | 11 Comments  | Health


I’m a driven person and I set big goals for myself. Because I prepare well and work hard, I’m often successful. I reach and even surpass lots of those goals I set for myself. But, of course, sometimes I’m not successful. Just like anyone, I don’t enjoy failure. I try my best to take each setback and turn it into a learning experience. But sometimes I’m not successful with that either. And sometimes I find that when I don’t reach a goal or I make a mistake, I’m very hard on myself.

I recently read an article on the Precision Nutrition website that made me take a mental step back and really examine how I treat myself when I’m trying to make positive changes in my life.

One of the most common things I hear about from my followers is how challenging it can be to stick with a healthy diet. So let’s use that as our example to work from.

Let’s say that you want to stop eating processed grains and sugar and put the focus of your diet on lean protein, lots of veggies, and good fats. Fabulous. Great decision! You do your research and pick out several recipes from my website as a jumping off point. You decide what you’d like to have for each meal and snacks for a week and write down a list of all the ingredients you need. You spend your whole weekly grocery budget on fresh, whole foods and pack your cabinets and fridge. Even thought it’s a stressful week at work, you stick to your plan for three days.

On Thursday it’s someone’s birthday at work and you have a piece of cake. Then you go out that night with friends. You have a few drinks and make poor food choices. On Friday you’re so tired and stressed you have pizza for lunch and go out both Friday and Saturday night to blow off steam. You eat every meal out. On Sunday evening you open your fridge and see all the food you paid for a week ago, uneaten. Some of it is now going bad. Your pants are tight around the waistband and you still have a hangover from Saturday night.

What are some things you might say to yourself at this point? Would you berate yourself for wasting money? Would call yourself lazy or spoiled? Would you go so far as to tell yourself that you’re worthless or a terrible person? Would you maybe even call yourself ugly or fat?

What’s amazing to me is that these are things we’d never say to anyone else. Not even some stranger we barely know. But I feel like this is such a common experience. I think we can often be our own worst bully.

It’s really hard to make positive changes in our lives when we feel shame. It can turn into a very damaging cycle. We try and fail. When we see how we’ve failed and criticize ourselves so harshly, we feel shame. That shame can prevent us from trying again, or even make us so anxious that we can end up failing because we lack confidence. If the above scenario sounds at all familiar to you, maybe these next ideas can help.

When you feel you’ve failed, ask yourself two questions:

1. What would be GOOD about NOT changing?

2. What would be BAD about CHANGING?

These questions almost seem counterintuitive. But what’s funny about addressing these thoughts is that it can allows us to air our fears and face up to them without pressure or the anxiety of criticism.

Let’s go back to our example and answer the questions.

1. What would be GOOD about NOT changing? Well, if you don’t change your diet you can eat all the foods you’re used to and like and enjoy the taste.

2. What would be BAD about CHANGING? If you worked hard and changed your eating lifestyle for good you wouldn’t get to splurge when you feel stressed or bummed. You wouldn’t get to eat at fast food restaurants you like.

Now that you’ve aired your fears, they look pretty small, don’t they? It almost seems silly. Now those thoughts aren’t so big and bad anymore. I feel like asking ourselves these questions can help us find answers which are rooted in positivity and the DESIRE to change, not just negative pressure.

Next time I’ve failed to reach a goal I’ve set for myself I’m definitely trying these questions. My hope is that they’ll help me remove the pressure and negative feelings and I can take a better stab at my goal when I try again without fear of failure.

What about you? Do you find that you’re often really hard on yourself? Do you think you would ever try the two questions? Do you have one particular goal that sets you off on a shame spiral? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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11 comments on “The Worst Bully Is You!”

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    Private  |  Tx

    I am the worst about self talk and it is something I am working on daily. I grew up in a household where my mom would put me down and it still has its effects all these years later. I am doing daily meditations and I always ask myself, ” do I really need that junk food? How will I feel later?”
    I also just started to follow your diet approach and earn my starchy carbs after a workout so I can enjoy the foods I like if we go out. My family and I love going to the movies, I do a good workout so I can enjoy a bit of popcorn and have fun with my family. Thank you for the article Zuzka!


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    Private  |  VA, United States

    I do tend to fall off the healthy food wagon on the weekend, I think because the weekend is so much less structured than the rest of the week. I do get down on myself. The whole time I am eating the pizza or french fries or whatever it happens to be, I am feeling so guilty and I am visualizing it going straight to my butt, totally cancelling out the last LBS I did. But I just jump right back on the wagon and keep moving forward. I say at least 90% of my diet is good so I can live with that.

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    Private  |  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

    I wrote a very similar blog post, about the “bully in your head.” It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by the most wonderful people and the best things in life… if you live with a bully in your head, no matter what, you will be miserable.

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    Private  |  UK

    Goal setting takes fun out of everything. If you want to stop enjoying something make it your goal. It’s like living in a prison of the goal – the pressure we feel, the obligation, the failure and the guilt after. It’s a depressing way of living. If you want to eat healthy then find the food that you love the taste of and you will want to eat it and if you want the pizza on friday evening then have it, there is plenty of nutrients in that pizza too. Whatever you eat find something good in it. The same goes for exercising. Practice handstands cos you love the feel of it and before u know progress will come. Make them your goal and the chances are you will stop doing them altogether.

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      Private  |  CA, USA

      I totally agree with you Katarina. Well said.

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      Private  | 

      I agree as well. Life is not structured. Especially in the U.S. with work and raising a family we are constantly fighting conflicting battles and spinning our wheels. Life happens and we freak the hell out and so do our coworkers and sometimes families. That’s why we MUST be good to ourselves.

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      Private  | 

      I totally agree. I workout because I like the way I feel afterwards. I can’t live rigid and structured I have to allow room for the unexpected, as I approach 40 I just have to do things my way.

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    Private  |  Seattle, Washington

    I try not to bully anyone. I’m older than most of you so I see how little time I have left and would prefer to use it in positive ways. Might joke about something, but not serious over failure. Success comes from your missteps.

    Generally I make small plans. Three laps of the pool by year end. Done! So double that for the next goal…

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      Private  | 

      I love this. I have always hung out with older friends because I’d the wisdom I get. Thank you for sharing!

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    Private  |  Jura, France

    I always remember a blog or something I read several years ago about a woman that was on a diet and after weeks or months, she was proud she was on the right track and was very proud she could resist a birthday cake (or was it a wedding cake…or even her own wedding cake!!)…well, something silly. Till that time I make more importance to celebrate the moment and not get into discussion with my kids that I will not eat their birthday cake because ” I am on a freaking diet”…yes maybe there is preservative and coloring and the taste is awefull and gluten and I will be bloated.
    but tomorrow is another day and we can restart at anytime 🙂

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    Private  |  Forsyth, Georgia

    I would love to eat nothing but veggies and protein, with a whole grain carb and some fruit here and there, and I think, well I know I could do it. Here’s the thing… I have four sons ranging in age from 11-17. They want fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, bacon, cookies, brownies, steak, rice, french bread, donuts. You get my point. I’ve tried everything to keep us all happy with our diet. Either they are starving or I’m up 5 pounds. I’m generally good about resisting, but sometimes the southern girl in me comes out. I do 2 of your workouts every other day plus 5 minutes of J R a 1 min H S and 15 wheel PU. On alternating days, I run 4.25 and do 1 of your w/o plus a 1 min HS and 10 one arm PU.
    Love you Zuzka

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