Do you ever wonder when you started saying to yourself, “I’m not good enough?”
Psychology often traces low self-esteem back to childhood. The experience of being bullied or made fun of leaves imprints that show up to this day.
Recently, I learned of my own imprint by reconnecting with a childhood bully. I’ll preface by saying that I’m lucky—I had it mostly good in school and fit in with everyone.
However, there was one kid from the 6 to 9th grade who made my life miserable. He knocked my books out of my hands, called me derogatory names, and he even peed in my shoes.
When these experiences happen, we find ways to cope. For me, that meant trying to hide and avoid conflict at all costs.
Lucky for me, he left town when I was 15, and I hoped to never hear from him again.
Fast forward over 15 years later, and I get a friend request on Facebook. Guess who it’s from?
That’s right! The moment I see his name, I become 14-year-old Lou. My heart rate speeds and my body tightens—my fear is palpable. I literally think that if I don’t accept his friend request, he’ll find where I live and come beat me up!
Needing space, I closed my computer and relaxed. As I reflected, I became fascinated by how deep this feeling was in my subconscious. All it took was one red dot to bring a flood of emotions back into awareness.
The choice I made as a child was, “It’s safer to back down from conflict.” To this day, I have a hard time standing up to someone with firm beliefs.
It made me think about subtler ways this feeling had manifested throughout my life. I wondered how many times I was in a room where someone acted like my bully, and I projected a fearful 14-year-old Lou.
After this experience, I did some powerful enactment work with a coach. I was able to talk to the bully from my wiser, more mature self, and tell him what I wished I’d had the courage to say back then.
The coach then challenged me to message him on Facebook and stand my ground in real life and tell him how he made me feel and the consequences of his actions.
I had huge resistance to this, but I pushed through and wrote the message. For days, I nervously awaited a reply. I was afraid the bully would respond as his 14-year old self—angry and with fierce defiance.
His actual response shocked me. He apologized for his actions, and to my surprise, he never knew the suffering he had caused. He shared how difficult his life has been and believed he was paying the price for his past actions.
Reaching out to him shifted something in me. It connected me to a greater depth of inner strength. I made a new belief that “it’s safe to stand in my power.” The empowering belief is already showing benefits.
While we all can’t pinpoint the moment we gave our power away, we can still work to take it back. The good news is we don’t have to do it alone.
Having a coach or mentor there for support is crucial. These mentors can be people we know, or they can be what connects us to something greater.
Here is a guided visualization we can do to help stand in our power and heal our relationship with a past bully:
1. Get comfortable, relax, and find your breath. (You’re on Elephant Journal, so you should know how to do this.)
2. Connect with a mentor. They could be someone you know or don’t know, someone you admire, or someone who is no longer here and looking down on you. They could also be a spiritual master—Jesus, Buddha, or maybe a Goddess or a saint. Feel their presence in the room. Imagine them sending the energy of strength of support to you. If you’d like, imagine them saying to you:
>> You can do this
>> You have an immense depth of inner strength
>> You are worthy
>> You are powerful
>> You are capable of so much more than you think
3. Now imagine yourself in a park, standing right in front of a tree. Feel the scene with your senses. Connect to the power of the tree behind you.
4. See your childhood bully walking by, and he or she comes and stands right in front of you.
5. Reconnect with the strength you received from your mentor. Maybe affirm to yourself:
>> I can do this
>> I have an immense depth of inner strength
>> I am worthy
>> I am powerful
>> I am capable of so much more than I think
6. Then when you feel ready, express to your bully what you wish you had the courage to say back then. Tell them how they made you feel. Get it all out.
7. See them receiving your words with understanding. Recognize your bully’s humanity. Then thank them for the opportunity to heal. When you feel complete, open your eyes, and come back.
8. Repeat three to seven times with as many people as you need to.
Bonus: Reach out to your childhood bully and see them in real life.
I hope you find the benefits as satisfying as I did.
With love and strength.