When the only real bully is the one in your head

My struggle with fear – An extract from my book ‘Does it really need to be this hard?’

Unmask the fear

“Mum, are you ok – you look like you’ve been mean girled again?” Ugghhhh don’t you just love those moments when you realise your kids are way cleverer and more insightful than you are? I brought my girls up well. Despite a few hiccups in the early years (the practice years), I am a good mum. There, I said it; I am a pretty awesome mum, and my kids are proof of that. I mean I’m not perfect, I still fuck up, but I own it when I do. I brought my girls up to see themselves in the world. To be brave and take responsibility for their actions. They have been my rock, and I look forward to leaning into them and their lives as they grow up.

When she asked if I’d just been “mean girled”, I’d just picked Maya up from school. Something I do quite a lot, as I love our time together in the car. She tells me about her day, and I tell her all about my day too. It’s funny because she is so wise, and when I am feeling particularly hurt or vulnerable, she always knows the right thing to say. We facetime Ellie too so she can join in or do a group FB chat, and I always end up feeling much better.

I realise now why their guidance and support has been so effective in these particularly low moments: they get it. Because my real fears and sadness, the ones that actually make me cry, come through the situations that send me right back to my childhood and to school. If something upset me that day it wasn’t a piece of writing that didn’t go well or a printer with an inbuilt desire to wind me up. It is when I’ve been “mean girled” or think I might have “mean girled” someone else – that horrible sick feeling in your stomach that makes you run to your bed and hide under the covers.

For anyone not familiar, Mean Girls is a film about teenage girls. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) joins a new school after living in South Africa. This is Cady’s first experience of proper school, and her naivety and values are challenged when she’s introduced to the cruel tactics and strategies employed to facilitate the laws of popularity. The hierarchy is apparent, and her fellow students are hiding in tightly knit cliques for safety. She unwittingly finds herself in the good graces of an elite group of cool students dubbed “The Plastics”, but Cady soon realises how her shallow group of new friends earned this nickname.

I loved school. I mean, I didn’t do particularly well at the stuff school is supposed to help with like, gaining an education. I was, however, very good at having a laugh and avoiding all the things that I didn’t fancy, like science, maths, and French. I am blessed to have the same friends now as I did when we left school over 35 years ago. So why then do I find it so hard to operate in situations where the school playground tactics are so prevalent? Because my strategy for survival at school was humour, servitude, and avoidance. I was great at making people laugh; I was the fat funny one who didn’t bother anyone. I was the kid who would lend others money and never ask for it back. I was the kid who avoided all opportunities to stand out and spent my entire childhood blending in, people pleasing, and making myself small. I remember one summer I got a cool boyfriend and had lost weight. The backlash was unbearable. The popular girls would look at me with curled-up noses and the others avoided me. WFT? It wasn’t long before that boyfriend disappeared, and I was back to being the funny fat kid.

All these behaviours have been replicated time and time again throughout my life. First in my personal life – choosing destructive and unhealthy relationships that allowed me to duck and weave, stay small, and keep pleasing because I didn’t know how else to be. Then in my business for fear – that there would be a price to pay, or fear of not being liked, standing out, failing, competition, or upsetting others. Every time there was a chance for me to grow and lean into who I am, I held back, stayed small, and repeatedly shaved pieces of my identity away so as not to bother anyone.

Letting the mean girls win worked. Ok, to be clear, there have been very few, if any, actual mean girls in my journey; the problem here is my perception of the hierarchy what I think people might be thinking or saying about me, and my perception of how others are responding to my behaviours and intentions.

This is how mean girls and bullies stay in control. They use your own fears to control you. Apart from the real bullies who will beat you to the ground, the tactical bullies control through fear. So, we allow our own fears to control us. And this is where I was that day in the car with Maya. No one had bullied me. I had simply fallen into a self-fulfilling prophecy of perceived rejection. “Mum what is it? Who has upset you?” “No one puppy”, I replied, “I think this one’s on me”.

School was a tricky time. I was never really bullied at school, and I have certainly not experienced bullying in my business. It’s simply the trigger of a belief story that I carry around in my head. Actual bullies might have been easier to deal with, and this is the learning. If the bully is in your head and you are choosing to listen, then choose again.

Taken from the book Does it really need to be this hard? How I overcame the 7big struggles for women in business and turned my passion into profit. By Abbie Broad 

If you are holding back in business because you ‘think’ that your will be judged, criticized or there will be some kind of negative repercussion. If you fear rejection or failure and this is stopping you from sharing your amazing gifts and talent with others. Drop me a comment or better still contact me today and book a FREE 45 min discovery call and let me help you make the mindset shift from struggle to success today. 

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