The best ways to destroy a child’s confidence and self-esteem, and to create an adult riddled with self-doubt, insecurity and negative self-talk are:
- Relentless beatings. These instill fear and terror. Children can become convinced they’re always wrong and the price for mistakes is high; maybe even maiming or death. The result can be adults who’re afraid to make decisions, assert or defend themselves, think they’re worthy of respect or good treatment. The result can be adults who expect to be bullied, punished, abused or even tortured.
- Relentless and personal criticism, hostility and questioning. The results can be the same as relentless beatings. Kids grow up thinking that no one will help or protect them. Emotional beating can leave even deeper scars. Adults often have mental and emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, self-mutilation and suicide.
- The “Big Lie:” “You don’t know what’s really happening.”
The first two seem fairly obvious and much has been written on them. Let’s focus on the Big Lie.
Kids have emotional radar. They’re born with the ability to sense what’s going on. Their survival depends on knowing who’s friendly or hostile, who’s calm or angry, who’s reliable and trustworthy, and who’s liable to explode without obvious provocation. They know who’s nice and who hurts them. They sense when their parents or family are happy or angry.
The effects of being consistently told that they’ve gotten it wrong can be just as devastating as physical or emotional brutality. For example:
- When kids sense that their parents are angry at each other, but they’re told that the family is loving and caring they learn to distrust their kid-radar.
- When they’re yelled at, teased, taunted or brutalized, when they’re subjected to bullying, they know it hurts. But when they’re told that the parent cares about them or loves them, or that they’re too sensitive, they start to distrust their own opinions.
- When they can never predict what’s right or wrong, they can grow up thinking they’re evil, stupid or crazy.
- When they’re constantly challenged with, “Prove it. You don’t know what’s really happening. How could you think that; there’s something wrong with you. If you were loving, grateful, caring, you wouldn’t think that way about your parent or family.”
Kids raised this way often grow up riddled with insecurity, self-doubt and self-questioning. As adults, instead of trusting how they feel, they wonder if they’re being lied to, mistreated or bullied.
They become easy prey for bullies; especially stealthy, covert, manipulative control-freaks who demand, criticize, question or argue about everything. The more convincing and righteous the bully is, the more the target is thrown into insecurity and panic; the more they become indecisive and frozen.
How do you know if you’re a victim of that early treatment? In addition to your history, the tests are your thoughts, feelings and actions now:
- Do you consistently doubt yourself? Do you even doubt that you see reality? Do you think that other people know better about you than you know about yourself?
- Are you indecisive and insecure? Do you worry, obsess or ruminate forever? Do you solicit all your friends’ opinions about what you should do or just one friend who seems to be sure they know what’s best? Do you consistently look for external standards or experts to tell you what’s right or proper? Do you complete quick tests of ten or twenty questions that will tell you the truth about yourself?
- Do you feel bullied but you’re not sure that you are? Do you let other people tell you about what’s too sensitive or what’s reasonable or “normal?”
- Do you think you have to deserve or be worthy of good treatment, or that you have to be perfect according to someone else before they should treat you the way you want to be treated? Are you filled with blame, shame and guilt? Do you think that if you were only kinder, nicer, more understanding and more caring, if you asked just right or compromised every time you’d finally get treated the way you want?
- Do you struggle to get the respect and appreciation you want?
Of course, we all have moments when we’re unsure, but if you’re consistently insecure or insecure consistently with one or two people then you may have a deep-seated problem.
If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, you may need expert coaching. All tactics are situational, so we’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.
“How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free. For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).