Monica Lewinsky has launched a powerful campaign to help people quit what she describes as “self-bullying”, or the negative self-talk and unnecessary self criticism many of us share with ourselves.
The producer, author and social activist’s ‘Stand up to Yourself’ campaign officially kicked off with the release of a two-minute film showing pairs of people reading cruel and hurtful comments off a card.
“We asked people to write down the mean things they’ve said about someone they know,” a title card reads on the screen.
Some of the comments read include “You’re a loser”, “No one likes you very much”, “You’re needy”, “What’s your excuse for being fat?” and “You have failed your daughter.”
It’s a confronting watch and likely to hit some viewers on a raw, emotional level. In a twist, the next title card reads: “Only these aren’t words they’ve said about someone else. These are words they’ve said to themselves.”
“Self-bullying is still bullying. This anti-bullying month — stand up to yourself,” the film concludes — adding a link to the campaign website offering strategies to help fight negative self-talk.
Lewinsky launched the campaign during National Bullying Prevention Month in the US in an effort to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.
“Our campaign is looking inward, at the bullies we all know too well,” Lewinsky said in a personal essay for the Today show.
“The ones who may be our harshest critics: ourselves. Maybe the Dalai Lama doesn’t have a negative voice in his head, but I’m pretty sure everyone else does, to some degree.”
“We can quiet it at times and even begin to see subtle changes in how we automatically talk to ourselves. I have worked tirelessly on my silent bully and yet my friends would probably tell you I’m still not as kind about myself as I could be.”
Lewinsky explained the genesis of her campaign, which occurred over a decade ago at a seminar where participants were asked to write down three negative things they say to themselves and then read them aloud to another participant.
“They made us read our list out loud to the other people in our group and it was a completely transformative experience for me,” she reflected. “To hear myself say out loud the things that I was saying silently brought me to tears. I not only recognised how cruel I was being to myself, but how I was internalising this cruelty, too.”
Lewinsky offered her own personal strategies for overcoming negative self-talk, describing them as “The three Rs” — recognise, reflect and refocus.
“Recognise that you’re saying negative things to yourself, reflect on whether you’d say these negative things to someone you loved, and if these negative thoughts aren’t serving you in some way, then refocus.”
“Our most intimate relationships are valuable because they remind us of who we really are,” she concluded. “And our most intimate relationship is with the person we talk to our entire lives: Ourselves.”
The social advocate and filmmaker has spent the last few years calling for safer social media culture and tackling public shaming, digital resilience, privacy, and equality.
Her 2015 Ted Talk “The price of shame”, where she deconstructs the contemporary online culture of humiliation, has been viewed almost 22 million times.
Her latest campaign website includes startling statistics on how people view themselves, including the figure that almost 80 per cent of children and young people are unhappy with how they look, and the frightening links between repetitive negative thinking and suicidal thoughts among individuals with major depressive disorders.
It also includes seven tips for averting negative self-talk, including practising self-gratitude, reaching out for help, soothing self-talk and reframing emotion through logic.