Are you your own bully?

“As much as we try to deny it, we are our toughest and strongest bullies. We beat ourselves up and put ourselves down.” This was disclosed by Darren Tay, a 27-year-old Singaporean lawyer who recently won the Toastmasters International world champion of public speaking in August. He spoke about how to “Outsmart, Outlast” your inner bully in the most engaging, entertaining and enlightening way (watch full speech here). 

Spoiler ahead

He revealed that his self-esteem took a beating when he was bullied as a teenager. Even though he had changed schools to escape bullying, he could not run away from the bully who resided inside him. Later, as an adult, he received advice on the best way to deal with his inner bully and that was “not to run or hide”. Instead, it was to “stand firm, face it, and acknowledge its presence”. By doing this, you are “no longer identifying with it”. The inner bully will then “weaken and fade”.

Are you your own inner bully?

I was my own big bully. Even though this bully was silent, with no shape or form, it wielded a great impact that nearly wrecked my life. I will share with you some encounters with this bully so you can look out for signs and understand how it’s created. To “stand firm” and “face it” can be daunting, I will share on a gentler approach. I hope you can arrest your own bully before it rears its ugly head. When the bullying stops, the hurt stops.

Self-hate / Self-criticism

I was a fat kid from a young age, overweight since 6 years old. To compound that, I sported a short haircut and was even mistaken as a boy at 11. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I hated how I looked. Why did I feel this way? There are children who are on the larger side yet are confident and extroverted. Was it how my parents, my school and society made me feel? Perhaps.

I recall a conversation with my parents in the car on the way to a dinner function. They were telling me that the son of a family friend loves eating vegetables and that I should start eating some too. I remembered feeling upset and annoyed when I heard that. I felt they were implying that there was something lacking in me, that I was not good enough, that that boy was better and that I should be more like him.

When I was in secondary school, I was summoned to join the TAF Club. It was an exclusive club only for students above a certain weight. Far from feeling privileged, I felt ashamed to have to be in it.

Have you, in other ways, felt inadequate while growing up? Or maybe felt ostracised?

On hindsight, everything could be done better, with more tact and with different tactics.

Yet at that point and at every point, everyone is just doing what they know best. I cannot fault my parents or my school.

This poor self-image plagued me for a long time and affected other areas in my life. I did not like who I was and will come down hard on myself if I did not do well at anything – studies, sports, and even playground games with the neighbourhood kids. Being an only child, I am in my thoughts a lot. When I felt that I had failed at something, those thoughts became harsh on me and would tell me that I am lousy.


Being self-critical exacerbated to perfectionism. I developed a fear of failure. When I was 14, I had a nervous breakdown leading up to my final year exams. I feared that my future would be ruined if I failed that exam. That was how fatalistic my thoughts were. To do well in my books meant I cannot afford to have a single slight. I was put on medication to cope. However, that help was not lasting and came with unwanted side effects (more about this episode in an earlier post).

External approval

After going through my training in life coaching and studying the work of self-development authors like Lousie L. Hay, I realised my self-bullying behaviour arose from seeking approval and acceptance from outside, rather than within. I would beam whenever I received attention or compliment, as anyone would. However, when I did not, I would feel affected by it. I would feel low about myself, feeling unliked. I did not love myself enough to remain unaffected. It was dangerous to depend on the words and actions of others as you will come crashing when they don’t deliver. They are not made to abide by your expectations. That is not the purpose of their lives. If you are perfectly comfortable with whom you are, no one can say otherwise.

Yes, I think I am, so how do I get rid of this bully in me?


I will add to Darren’s ending – to outsmart, outlast as well as to outlove. When you are no longer your own bully or harshest critic, you become your new best friend and even greatest love. Whatever anyone says or do to you will not shake you. To get there, you have to shed the many layers of limiting beliefs that were imposed on you by you or others. Heavy blocks of negative emotions like fear, guilt, criticism and resentment also have to be released.

Letting this bully fade is possible. There are practical techniques that you can learn and apply to remove this inner bully. I have a workshop in mid-Oct to teach you just that. You will learn steps to silence critical self-talk and be guided through exercises to clear away stuck emotions. Check it out here.

Set your inner bully free and reveal the true you who resides inside.


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