Be Kind to Yourself: Navigating Self-Bullying During National Bullying Awareness Month

A reflection on internal struggles and the journey from self-doubt to self-awareness, Brendan T. Kelly explores the concept of self-bullying for National Bullying Awareness Month.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

If you are not aware, October is National Bullying Awareness Month. Bullying can come in many forms these days. Cyber bullying, in-person and even consistent discrete jabs from your loved one’s can take a toll. However, I want to discuss “self-bullying” today. There was a nice segment on the Today Show this morning with Savannah Guthrie interviewing Monica Lewinsky. Discussing self-bullying. Listening reminded me of the harsh words and self-doubt that creeps into my mind at times. If you’ve ever met me in person, you most likely would find that hard to believe. I do come across as a positive person that knows his stuff. I’ll even go as far to say that at times I can be thought of as being a bit arrogant. And, I’ll agree with that.

I know my job and how to excel at it. I am a subject matter expert when it comes to it. Not being arrogant, just confident in my skill set. But there are times, plenty of them, when I internally yell, cuss and get mad at myself for mistakes or anything else random that truly does not mean anything. Regardless how small and insignificant they may be. The ones that no one else notices except me, those get to me the most. Why? Well, that’s the million-dollar question. 

Dr. Marina Nani, has a wonderful article published on Rich Woman Magazine’s website called “From Self-doubt To Self-awareness: What You Don’t Know About Yourself?” (Feb. 28, 2023). She says “it’s important to remember that self-doubt is not necessarily a reflection of reality. Your thoughts and feelings are not always accurate representations of the world around you. It’s important to question your self-doubt and challenge its validity.” This is something I had to learn to do. Our minds are amazing and powerful things and with that they can create some amazing and powerful falsities about ourselves. 

I remember when I first saw the job posting for the role I am currently in now, I got super excited and said to myself “I know that stuff inside and out and all around!” Then at the end of the position title was “Executive.” I froze and immediately went to that negative place that takes up space in our minds. I thought that there is no way that I am executive material. I’m just a common bloke that just happens to know a bit about the After-Action Review. I closed the tab on my computer and finished eating my lunch.

Dr. Nani continues to say “The good news is that the brain has an incredible ability to change and adapt. With practice, you can learn to reframe negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. This is where questioning self-doubt, not the outcome, becomes crucial. Instead of focusing on the outcome of a situation, focus on the process and what you can learn from it.” Through my own experience of questioning my self-doubt and not bullying myself, putting forth the facts and validating my abilities I proved to myself, maybe even convinced myself that this job opportunity was not too big for me. In fact, it was made for me. I applied and here I am a year plus later, helping people and teams to discover lessons learned and how to improve what they do.

We all have our doubts about things. I doubt that’ll work or this will ever get done, such as the freeway work taking place around the DFW area. Never ending. However, let’s work on not doubting ourselves and our abilities. It’s OK to talk to yourself and walk through the process to see if an opportunity or anything else is right for you. That’s using your brain wisely. Just be kind and real with yourself. Saying “I’m not smart enough” or “No way I can do that” is not only self-doubt, but you are setting yourself up to be bullied by yourself.

There is a never-ending arm-wrestling match taking place in our heads, the rational thinking vs. the irrational thoughts. It can wear a person out! I would ask you to do your best, train yourself and make it a habit to pause during those matches and lay it out in black and white. The facts vs. the assumptions. The facts will always win in the end when you take time to think rationally and when you take the time to be kind to yourself. If we come to the conclusion that we truly do not know something, then we can explore new opportunities to learn and exercise our minds. Or, we can simply move on and be content with what we are doing and that’s 100% OK. The only person you need to impress is yourself and guess what? You rock! Enjoy and be well.

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Brendan T. Kelly
Brendan T. Kelly

Brendan T. Kelly is the Senior Administrator for After Action Review with the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He’s worked in human resources and talent management to help develop better processes and improve communication. Brendan is retired from the U.S. Army and has decades of experience leading, teaching and facilitating the After-Action Review process. Additionally, he has served as a Leadership Education teacher, providing high school students with knowledge and skills to become contributing members of society. His passion is in helping team members and organizations improve upon what they do to excel in future events. Brendan received his Bachelors of Science and his MBA from Columbia Southern University, he is also a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Change Management Specialist.

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