I think all of us have had this experience – someone says something, we think they’re judging us, and we get really defensive about it. Some of us may get angry and somewhat aggressive, while others may defend themselves more nonchalantly, pretending it’s not a big deal, but tormenting inside. Some of us may even blow up in tears or spend hours, and sometimes days, ruminating about what was said and unable to get it out of their minds.

Why do certain comments (or behaviors) lead to extreme reactions? And why are these different for everyone? It could be a lukewarm comment about your cooking, a partner who scrolls his social media feed as you’re talking, or a friend’s casual remark about your weight. It could be a hundred different things, but it often boils down to this one:

Our people’s comments have touched on a dialogue you often have with yourself.

It could be a dialogue you have every time you look in the mirror, or every time you prepare for an upcoming event. It could even be a dialogue that’s perpetually running at the back of your mind, a deep belief that colors everything you see and hear.

And here’s the thing.

We get defensive when others judge us but not when we judge ourselves.

We get upset about what the other person has said and set about defending ourselves, (while really doubting ourselves), but rarely doubt the untrue, unhelpful and often outright illogical garbage we can throw at ourselves.

And unless we change this inner dialogue, we can react in ways that damage relationships, sabotage performance and suck joy and energy from the moment.

Here’s a 4-step process taken from cognitive behavioral therapy that will help you do so:

  1. Identify what makes you upset

What are the comments and behaviors that make you defensive? By whom? In what situations?

  1. Identify similar self-talk

Do you say similar things to yourself? How often? Do you have core beliefs about yourself that other people’s comments or behaviors may have touched upon? Why do they exist?

  1. Challenge your inner dialogue

Is your self-talk true? Or are you seeing only one side of the picture? And even if you’re currently convinced that it’s 100% true, is it helpful? Does it make you feel how you want to feel or show up how you want to show up in life?

  1. Speak as your best friend

Now learn to speak to yourself as you would to a best friend. Help yourself see the larger perspective as you’ll help them do. And learn to stand up for yourself before your inner bully, because it’ll direct your life if you let it.

And you know what – when you learn to standup for yourself, you’ll be able to gracefully do the same before the other bullies in your life – because we all have them. A co-worker, the bossy friend, a controlling partner.

When you learn to relate to yourself with respect, you’ll be able to tell them how to do the same.

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