A Penny for your Bully Thoughts


“Ugh. I can’t believe you forgot to book your flight when the price dropped – useless! Now you’ll NEVER pay off your credit card. If you can’t handle this, YOU CAN’T HANDLE ANYTHING.”

You might be wondering who that incredibly mean person is, and I’ll tell you. That bully is me, talking to myself.

Can you ever imagine CHOOSING to spend time listening to someone who constantly puts you down and makes you want to cry? Yet, most of us spend time listening to and believing our negative self-talk.  

Thoughts have a MASSIVE impact on your mood and behavior. When you bully yourself, your mood suffers, your body aches, and you behave counterproductively (Beck, 1976; Padesky and Greenberger, 1995).

The main problem with inner monologues is content –  which is almost always accepted as fact, despite being very loosely based on reality (Padesky & Greenberger, 1995). Most people bully themselves using ‘cognitive distortions’ or ‘mind traps’(Beck, 1976; Josephowitz, 2016). Some super fun and familiar examples include:

  • Catastrophizing – expecting the (usually highly unlikely) worst case scenario
  • Over-generalizations – sweeping evaluations; recognizable as ‘always’ statements
  • Filtering – focusing on the negative details and minimizing or ignoring positive details
  • Personalizing – assuming everything others do or say is somehow about YOU
  • Shoulds – judging others (and yourself!) based on how they or you ‘should’ behave

Here’s how to step away from your inner-bully:

Step one

Take a mental Advil.
Learn to make the connection between your inner monologue and how you feel (Beck, 1976). Of course you feel sad, you’re being incredibly mean to yourself!

Distance yourself from the self-talk.
How would you communicate the same information to a friend? What advice would you give them if they had your inner-bully?

Step two

Is that cray – yay or nay?
Identify your mind traps and evaluate them. Get a pencil and write it down!
Now, be your own detective. Brainstorm experiences that support and contradict your monologue. Then, re-write a more balanced version of the thought based on ACTUAL EVIDENCE!

Step three

Talk back. Stand up to your bully. You can mentally or even verbally talk back by being as sassy or classy with it as you’d like. Personally, I like to say “ERRONEOUS!!”, because it also makes me laugh.

Part of the human condition seems to be talking to ourselves all day long. Since you’re stuck with yourself for life, let’s make it a happier encounter.


Blog by Kayla Noodelman: self-talk ninja, bully-boss, full-time therapist

Beck, A.T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International   Universities Press.

Padesky, C. A., & Greenberger, D. (1995). Clinician’s guide to Mind over Mood. New York: Guilford Press.

Warner, R. E. (2013). Solution-focused interviewing: applying positive psychology: a manual for practitioners. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.