By Kristen S. Jones, DPC, LPC, NCC
The Bully Within
As parents, few things hurt our heart more than finding out our children have been targeted or picked on by another child. In fact, every parent, at some point, has had a conversation with their child on how to deal with a bully at school.
However, there is a bully that most children are not prepared to deal with. This bully lurks the halls of their schools, loves to taunt them throughout their day, and you have even welcomed him into your home. This bully is your child’s self-doubt. Children engage in globalized thinking which means they generalize one or two negative experiences to thinking a negative outcome will happen every time.
One negative experience in a kick ball game means that they are no longer good at kick ball. Without context and truth, globalizing negative experiences turn into self-doubt. Self-doubt is the bully that says, “You missed that kick,” “You are terrible at sports,” “You said the wrong thing in math class,” or “You are bad at school.”
The self-doubt bully is where Satan gains strongholds. He constantly whispers self-doubt to your child throughout their day. Over time, this bully leads your child into anxiety. Without counteracting the bully of self-doubt, we begin believing lies about ourselves. Lies that were once easy to counteract become harder to fight. Lies that once said, “You are not good at math,” turn into, “You are not enough.”
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” When Paul talks about taking thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ he is talking about our self-doubt. When our self-doubt is reflected in the truth of God, we live from a place of feeling enough. However, when we don’t take thoughts captive we constantly strive to be enough, which leaves us empty because we are striving for an unattainable perception of “enough.”
Just as we teach our children how to defend themselves from a bully at school, we must teach them to defend their hearts by standing on the truth of God’s Word. Victory over the bully of self-doubt requires daily reminders of God’s presence and power that resides in us through the Holy Spirit. When we expose the lies the self-doubt bully whispers to the truth of God, we can rest knowing that we are more than enough. We learn that we are enough because of who God is, not because of our behavior or striving to be enough. This truth, “God is enough, therefore, I’m enough,” is what ultimately silences the bully within us.
When you notice your child doubting his or her self, here are three things you can do to help:
- Teach and model realistic self-talk. When your child says, “I’m not good at math,” help them change that to, “I’m working hard to understand math.” When it’s been a long day at work, you throw dinner in the oven and burn it. Instead of saying, “How could I have let dinner burn, I’m so stupid,” you can say, “Well dinner is burned, so who wants grilled cheese?” This models constructively dealing with self-doubt.
- Uncover the emotion under self-doubt. Ask your child to describe how he feels when self-doubt creeps in. Is he worried that he can’t complete a task? Is he embarrassed that he doesn’t have someone to sit with at lunch? Is he sad that math is hard? When your child unpacks his feelings, he can begin to work through them.
- Routinely remind your child they are enough. Remember, Satan’s ultimate mission is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). One of his chief ways of doing this is by attacking their thoughts. Incorporate habits that remind your child they are enough and that their worth is founded in the character of God.
This school year lean into the truth of God and help take your child’s doubt captive, so they will know that they are enough.
Dr. Kristen Jones lives in Brandon, MS with her husband and daughter. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Cornerstone Counseling and has a heart for teenagers and young adults. For an appointment, call 601.405.7440. For more resources or to read her blogs, visit www.drkristenjones.net.