Depending on the Kindness of Yourself
By Sean Robert
I remember back when I was in grade five the teasing began. As a flamboyant young ginger boy with a penchant for breaking out into musical numbers, I became a shiny target to pick on for the boys and girls in my class. With puberty looming and gender roles constricting, I was bullied for being gay when I didn’t even know what that meant.
In the years that followed the torment escalated. Nearly surviving the wrath of junior high, my parents transferred me to a new school after I begged them to let me drop out altogether. (“I’ll get a job, I’ll work, it will be fine! Just don’t make me go back!”) The good news about this new school was that it had a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. The bad news was that, shortly thereafter, I became my own worst bully.
By the time I turned sixteen, I had successfully learned how to despise myself – and just like English class, I was excellent at it. No longer restricted to school hours, I would find numerous ways to bring myself down. Whether it was criticizing the sound of my voice, the image of my body or the subtlest mannerism, no part of me was safe. Shifting my personal outlook so that all my greatest character strengths became flaws, I spent endless days ripping them apart.
It was not until my second year of University that I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. After coming out of the closet and realizing that life was not ending but just beginning, I started seeing a counsellor. Every session, the two of us worked together to re-wire my brain. It took time and plenty of work, however, slowly but surely, I started changing the relationship I had with my myself. Eventually, I was able to forgive the years of internal abuse and try on a different frame of mind. I started being kind to myself.
Looking in the mirror each day of the week, I countered each negative thought with a positive one. “I am worthy of love,” I’d say to myself out loud, while inside my brain laughed back, “yeah right.” In public, I began listening carefully to how I spoke of myself to others. As soon as I heard my words begin to belittle, I switched sentences and started to uplift. With months of daily practice and gratitude, the positive thoughts started to out-number the negative ones. In time, I went from being my greatest enemy to one of my closest allies.
Now at thirty-one-years-old, I still have moments when I need to remind myself to be kind. When I am being especially hard on myself, I stop, take a deep breath, and instruct myself to be gentle. As we go through life, I don’t believe the negative talk or “bullying” ever truly goes away. I just think that with humility and resiliency, we get much better at standing up to it.
If you would like to speak to a counsellor or therapist, visit http://www.talk2mebc.com and find the right clinician for you.
Sean Robert is a writer, server, and Community Facilitator at the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. (Crisis Centre). When he is not writing or serving tables, he is leading workshops on self-care and suicide alertness.