Stand up to your inner bully by cultivating self-compassion

On February 28, Canadians will be wearing a pink t-shirt to take a stand against bullying in our schools, workplaces, and online. However, we often overlook the most common source of bullying in our own lives—ourselves.

At Family Services of Greater Vancouver (FSGV), we go beyond the pink t-shirt to create respectful connections that are reflected in how we think, talk, and behave. One of the most important connections we can make is with ourselves—it’s how we can stand up to our own inner bully. We can start to do this by cultivating self-compassion. Research suggests that self-compassion may be linked to psychological well-being1 and offers mental health benefits such as a lower tendency of depression, anxiety, and disordered eating2.

Self-compassion includes:

  • Being kind and forgiving towards yourself, even when you have made a mistake.
  • Accepting that it’s OK to fail every now and then—it’s part of what makes you human!
  • Recognizing that you will experience both negative and positive feelings throughout your life, and not focusing too much on either one.

Have you ever made a mistake and immediately thought, “I can’t believe I did that—what’s wrong with me?” Or compared yourself to a friend, “Look at everything she’s achieved so far! I’m a huge failure.” Or has a bout of low mood or anxiety made you think, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way, I just need to snap out of this and get on with my life!” These are all examples of how you can be your own worst bully, and why it’s important to practice self-compassion on a daily basis.

Here are a few ways you can incorporate self-compassion into your life right now:

1. Ask yourself if you would respond to a loved one who was struggling the same way you respond to yourself.
If the answer is “no” then you might be too hard on yourself. Next time you’re self-criticizing, ask how you would talk to a friend or loved one in the same situation. Would you give them a hard time or offer a compassionate response? Consider treating yourself with the same gentleness with which you would treat a good friend.

2. Step back and observe your common thoughts of self-judgement
We tend to make a habit out of responding in a particular way to some things—such as our physical appearance, our relationships, or issues at work or school. We might not even realize we’re constantly beating ourselves up about them. Next time this happens, take a moment to observe the thoughts that go through your head. Do they make you feel worse about yourself or hopeful? Are they cold and harsh or warm and supportive? Make an effort to identify these thoughts, and replace unhelpful ones with more helpful ones.

3. Instead of comparing yourself to someone else’s achievements, remember that they’re human too
Every day, we’re bombarded with images of other people’s lives online and through social media, and it can be easy to forget that we’re only seeing small fractions of their lives, and often just the highlights. Whenever you’re feeling down over not having what someone else has—such as a career, a successful relationship, or a nice home—remember that this person is human too, and just like you, they are not perfect and have their share of ups and downs.

4. Know when to ask for help
If you find that your negative self-talk is getting in the way of your well-being, you don’t have to struggle alone. A counsellor can offer a different perspective on your thoughts in a safe environment, help you identify what you’re feeling, and give you tools and skills to work with your feelings. FSGV’s counselling services can help assess your situation and connect you with the service that’s right for you. To learn more, visit