How I Finally Found Compassion For My Inner Jerk

Confession: I’m addicted to bullying.

You said what now?

Yep. I’m that big sweaty kid on the playground with bad hair, crooked teeth, and cockeyed self-esteem, laying into those oddball creative types with the skinny wrists.

But see, I’m also the creative oddball with the skinny wrists.

I am both the attacker and the victim.

I say things to myself that would “make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish” (the brilliant, Anne Lamott, from her most recent book, Traveling Mercies).

Being kind to myself – and let’s be clear, true kindness is not allowing yourself to eat as much chocolate as you want – has never been easy for me.

If I fail at something, or if I don’t rise up to my own ridiculous standards, I turn into a judgmental monster with a pitchfork and rolodex-shark-teeth ready to rip my tender emotional heart apart.

Author Kelly Byrne reframing self worth

Are you nodding your head right now? Can you relate?

Why is it so damn hard to be gentle and generous, kind to ourselves? To have compassion for the one person who needs it the most from us?

My inner jerk/bully/curmudgeon is Edgar. Edgar is a real dick. He’s been picking apart my inner child, Lil’ Kelly, for a long time because I’ve been feeding him nasty negative thought-food my whole life.

Don’t even get me started on how he feels about my writing. It usually sends Lil’ Kelly into pints of Haagen Dazs and dark-corner-fetal-position-rocking.

If you’ve been reading my posts on The Book Of Face, you may know I’ve been following a few uber-restrictive diet protocols since January to get relief from SIBO and Leaky Gut.

I began this journey with the intention to heal myself. But I began it with the wrong attitude. The more I researched and learned about the protocols, the more despondent I became about how many things I had to give up in order to heal. I saw it as a hardship, a burden, a sentence, instead of my road to pain-free living.

It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and it became a prison for me, psychologically. Partly because I had things all wrong in my head-space surrounding it, which gave Edgar free rein over me. And partly because I’m far more addicted to food in general and sweets in particular than I previously imagined.

I can definitely say it has helped my gut in the way I’d hoped it would. I’ve had very little in the way of abdominal pain, bloating, and gas since I began the protocols. If you were to judge my progress by those markers, it would be considered a success.

But at what cost?

I have never felt so deprived.

While this diet may have been healing my gut, I still had no energy and generally felt tired and ill all the time. There were deeper psychological issues to dig into.

A friend and her daughter came to stay with us two weeks ago, and we had a real head to heart talk, with lots of tears (I’ve been beef-carpaccio-raw lately). She helped me realize what I’d encouraged this protocol, through Edgar, to do to my emotional well-being, which was anything but healing.

Now, I’ve had this conversation about Edgar with other friends before (huge shout out to Natascha Corrigan Aldridge for always being there for me), but I didn’t realize to what extent he’d been damaging Lil’ Kelly until my other friend heard me talking about my current experience with food.

It helps that she’s a registered dietician and counselor who mostly works with people with eating disorders or serious psychological issues surrounding food. She’s intimately familiar with the psychology of diet.

And my shit runs deep.

“It’s your fault. You ate yourself into this pain. You shouldn’t have had that chocolate cake all the times you had that chocolate cake. You’re going to pay for that tomorrow. You don’t deserve to feel good. You deserve the pain you’re in because of the things you’ve eaten. The things you’ve done.” And on and on.

You deserve pain. You deserve every rotten thing. You. Should. Struggle.

My friend asked me if I would ever talk to her young daughter that way. Say the kinds of things Edgar says to me in my head to anyone else.

“Fuh. Course not. That would be Horrible.”

“So why do you think it’s all right to say them to yourself?”

“Mmm. I see what you did there. Tou-effing-ché, sister.”

I don’t know why I’ve had this gut pain for so long. It could be because a surgeon stole my appendix (yes, he really did – “I was in the neighborhood” – his exact words) when I was in for hernia surgery at twenty. It could be all those rounds of antibiotics through the years. It could be the SAD – Standard American Diet I’ve lived on and off of for my whole life. It could be any number of things.

But blaming myself for it is not the way to heal it. Holding myself in a mental prison and letting Edgar pummel Lil’ Kelly until she’s bloody and broken and unable to find the good is no way to go about it.

When I told my friend I wanted to kick Edgar right in the berries before he had another opportunity to beat Lil’ Kelly over the head with any more “bad” talk, she said, “No, no. You should be kind to him too. Show Edgar compassion too.”

Show Edgar compassion too.

That’s when I really started to get it. Compassion is key. For Lil’ Kelly and Edgar. Edgar only feeds off what I give him. He’s not such a bad guy on his own. Kindness and compassion for all of me, every little piece and part.

We talked about how it’s my choice to be happy and nonjudgy. Just as it’s my choice to reprimand and degrade. Edgar takes his orders from me. So I’m choosing the happy.

Ding ding ding! Tell her what she’s won, Bob!

That night, when we went to The Cheesecake Factory to celebrate my friend’s daughter’s birthday, I had me some sweet Oreo cheesecake. It was glorious. Little Kelly rejoiced!

Edgar did too.

And my head did NOT explode (yes, I truly thought that was a possibility). Nor did my stomach.

I chose to be happy about indulging and allowing myself a tremendous treat after all the hard work I’ve done. Even if it may have set me back. I needed it. Not physically. I wasn’t craving it.

I needed it for my mental and emotional well-being. I needed to let go of the vice grips I’ve had clenched around me since I began this protocol.

I wanted to test out the theory of mind over matter, so I also decided in that moment that I would not suffer from it the next day.  My head would stay securely fastened to my body and my gut wouldn’t rebel.

And you know what? So far so good.

Of course, because I’m me, I did more testing. These past couple weeks I’ve engaged in some spectacular culinary debauchery, because when I do a thing, I do it. And so far, miraculously, my stomach has not been a vengeful pit of despair and my head has stayed squarely on my shoulders where it belongs.

Can thinking yourself happy make you happy?

I don’t know. But I do know this:

Being kind to every piece of yourself matters. Click To Tweet We must make room for generosity, compassion, and real self love if we're going to heal ourselves… Click To Tweet

I do not deserve to be in pain. I do not deserve to ‘pay’ for indulging. I’m human and beautifully flawed, and I deserve to be happy and healthy.

Come on. Say it with me.

Author Kelly Byrne worthiness scale

As with everything in life, change takes time. But I’m determined to find compassion for Edgar when his little bald head and bad attitude show up again and maybe, just maybe, he’ll learn to be kinder in return. I’m going to treat all of my parts, including (or especially) my bully, the way they deserve to be treated. We’ve been through a lot.

I’m also going to embark on a slightly less restrictive protocol now and continue to seal up those leaky junctures and heal my gut. I may have set myself back physically in the last couple weeks, but it’s what I needed to move forward in a much healthier way.

Sometimes you need to break it to fix it. Click To Tweet

Ready to find compassion for your inner curmudgeon? I’d love for you to join me on this journey if you struggle at all with an Edgar, or a Gus, or a Jorge. Whomever you listen to in your head that tells you you’re not whatever enough, that you don’t deserve every good thing. That you’re just plain wrong. It’s time to kill them with kindness.

I’d like to hear your story. Please share in the comments. Were you triumphant in making friends with your inner jerk? Have you learned to treat yourself the way you treat everyone else around you? If not, what do you think is holding you back? Let’s get truthy here. Let’s have a real discussion.

Side note: As I mentioned before, I struggle with another kind of addiction as well. They say when you delete sugar from your world you’re supposed to stop craving sweets.

That’s not been the case for me.

For two months I went about as sugar-free as a person can go. We even did a parasite and candida cleanse protocol along with everything else. And I still struggled with my cravings nearly every day. But they weren’t always physical.

This is the hard part. It’s like the smoker who quits but still craves the companionship of the smoke circle as much as, if not more than, the nicotine. The psychological struggles and pull of addiction are as strong as the physical cravings. So I do my best. We all do our best. And every once in a while, I’m going to have some damn cheesecake.

Author Kelly Byrne be kind
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Kelly Byrne
An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters. I strive to uncover the extraordinary in the ordinary, for those who believe in the possibility of the impossible, and those who always believe in love. My fiction embraces the idea that extraordinary things can and do happen in the real world. These whisperings of supernatural elements give my work a strong emotional edge, lending surprise and wonder to every story. I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend where I’m working on my next novel.

20 Comments

    1. Thanks so much for sharing it, Shawna. I hope, for your sake, you don’t struggle as much as I do with your inner jerk, but if you do or know someone who does, maybe this idea of being kind to him or her, being good to all parts of you, will help. I’m a work in progress for sure, as we all are, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we must be kind to ourselves. Thanks for stopping by today. 🙂

  1. Kelly, thank you for writing this beautiful and honest post! I loved it and it’s exactly what I needed to hear/read today. I’ve been on a strict GF, Sugar free, everything free diet for 5 years and at first I felt like I was going to starve to death and slowly learned how to cook and enjoy food again. And I also have only recently given myself permission to have a piece of chocolate every now and again…and this post was perfect to remind myself to be gentle…just because I don’t do “it” right every single day, doesn’t mean I’m weak and/or a failure. It’s ok to indulge in those sweet moments. I’m reading a great book right now by Brene Brown: The Gifts of Imperfections. Its a great read! Love you my friend and thank you for the gift of your writing, your sharing, your words and your courage to share you inner truth!!

    1. I’m so glad I came at the right moment with this for you, Susan. It’s always so lovely to hear you’ve made a difference in someone’s day with something you wrote. I KNOW you can relate.

      I had no idea you were following such a strict diet. But I’m really happy you’ve found a way to enjoy food again. I’m finding my way back there as well. Really coming to grips with food as fuel, not comfort. These protocols certainly help with that.

      But yes, please please please, my dear friend, be gentle with yourself. We are not any of us perfect. Not even close. As hard as we try. So we must hug ourselves and celebrate our accomplishments and lift ourselves up with encouragement and love instead of anger and harsh words when we’ve fallen a little short of our own expectations. And frankly, we need (at least I do) to lower those damn expectations every once in a while!

      Brene Brown is amazing from what I’ve heard. My friend, Natascha (the one I mentioned above – brilliant woman) speaks very highly of her. I will have to look into “The Gifts of Imperfections.” Thanks for mentioning it.

      Love you, too, Susan. Thank you so much for your support. It means the world. 🙂

  2. Loved this Kelly! Such a great piece. We don’t think about this often enough. I was scared to try what you were trying but I am trying to be “better”. Now of course the Dr. put me on a very high dose of steroids so I’m lucky if I’m not chewing on the cabinet doors right now and what do I hear? That damned Easter bunny!

    1. Oh Rena, thank you! I agree. We don’t think about it enough, and that’s where the problem begins. If we actually thought about how we were talking to ourselves, thought about how that would sound if we were saying it to a friend or loved one (or even ourselves as children) we might stop in our tracks. That’s why I wrote this piece, to hopefully get us thinking about it more.

      So thank you for reading and sharing all the bits and pieces on twitter! This was my first time using the “tweet quote” thingy and I love it, so thank you for taking advantage of it for me! 🙂

      Now, to your health. Steroids, oy. I’m so sorry. That’s rough. But you’re strong and you will work through it and hopefully not have to be on them very long. Make sure you lock the cabinets just in case. 😉

      And yes, Easter. It seems as though the world is ALWAYS conspiring against us eating better, isn’t?

      Big hugs, Rena. Thanks for always being so supportive! Kiss the babies for me.

  3. I’m so glad to hear you got to this point, my dear! You sounded nearly despondent in your FB posts about it, and this explains why.

    When it comes down to it, I guess we all have to balance what makes us feel worse, in every sense of the word. If you physically feel better but emotionally are all stabby, is it really worth it? There has to be a way to realistically balance it all, and it sounds like you’ve found it. Good for you!!

    Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could get our sustenance from something else? What, I don’t know. But food is so complicated…and so goddamn tasty!

    So happy for you!

    1. Thanks so much, Kel. Yeah, I was totally despondent and ‘stabby.’ Ha! It’s amazing how tricky and complicated food can be. In a simpler world, it wasn’t. When there were only, like, four things to eat in your neighborhood, I’m sure people didn’t struggle with eating disorders and the subsequent self-bashing episodes that can surround them.

      But there are just too damn many things in this modern world of ours to eat these days! Too many tasty things that bring joy and sorrow in sometimes equal measure physically and psychologically depending on who you are.

      So yes, it’s important to find the balance. Something that’s never been my strong suit in any way. But I will prevail!

      And, yes, it would be so awesome if we could find our energy from some other source, like, I don’t know, inhaling from a bottle of puppy breath or something. They could make them like asthma inhalers. Just one pop and you’re good for the morning. I’d probably OD on it though. Love me some puppy breath. 😉

      Thanks for sticking in there with me, Kel! Big hugs.

  4. “(I’ve been beef-carpaccio-raw lately)” —> Great Line. But, then, there are so many! I love that you named your inner bully. Great idea for separating from our judgmental selves. I’m going to name mine Agnes . . . or Gladys . . . or Bertha . . . or Beulah. (I’ll let you know when I decide so in the future you can let me know who you hear talking, me or her.) I also realize that she’s the one who procrastinates, chooses self-indulgence over productivity and constantly whispers that I’m undeserving. I’ve given my inner bully way too much power. And, you’re so right, I wouldn’t allow any other bully to beat up my kids, friends or even me that way. So why do I do it to myself? Finding self-compassion IS truly harder than expressing compassion toward others. We’re not taught to give permission, the benefit of the doubt, or, horrors, forgiveness to ourselves. I was told it was selfish to put myself first, so being the perfectionist that I am, I went to the limits and became my own worst enemy. Enough! How can I call myself a peace-nik when I continually beat up on myself? I have a new plan . . . to feel as good about treating myself well as I do about pampering others. Thank you, Kelly, for being so naked and brave in front of us all. You help me more than you know with your candor and honesty. Your message has reached me, and my cruel step-sisters Agnes, Gladys, Bertha and Beulah. I’m going to wash my face with something fragrant and moisturizing, drink a lot of water (I bought new filters) and turn my face to the sun. Oh, and I’m going to write. And write and write and write . . . and acknowledge the God-Wink that led me to Tony, which, in turn rewarded me with you. <3

    1. I say we throw Agnes and Edgar one helluva party and convince them just how much we love them. How can they possible be mean to us then? We’ll do that next time we meet. 😉

      Yes, why is it that we grow up believing that being kind to ourselves is being selfish? Or self-centered? Pure hogwash. But this message of self-love is loud and clear now, so we’ll go from there, you and I. And everyone else we can bring along with us.

      I’m so glad I can help you, Davis, when you’re always the one helping me! I so appreciate you and your heart.

      Yay for new filters!! And double, nay, triple YAY YAY YAY!!! for writing! The world needs your voice in it. Yes!

      We love the God-Winks over here. So very grateful. Much love to you.

  5. I have always been pretty good about indulging myself in the pleasures of life and ignoring negative inner voices…but…there are times in everyone’s lives when the inner demon rules. I, personally, do not wish to become his friend…he is male and has a voice much like my father’s. He has robbed me of no small amount of joy in my successes in life, of which the good lord has blessed me with many. The “voice”will not allow me much enjoyment past what he calls the “phony” adrenaline rush that comes with a personal victory.

    1. Hi Hink – thank you so much for sharing your experience. I totally understand the idea of being robbed of joy by that voice. I’ve struggled my whole life with it in my head.

      But I think that’s what’s so powerful about the idea of learning to have compassion for him. Because he is you. There is no separation. And once you can find that love for that part of yourself that seems so ugly and hateful at times (toward you!), maybe that ugliness and hate will dissipate. That’s the hope anyway.

      It’s not easy. And it’s not a short road to healing. But I do think it’s worth it. I’m not trying to convince you to make friends with him, but you might try, the next time he shows up for you, thinking about him as you as a child. Your five-year-old self. Hard to have much animosity for him that way.

      I know that when you have your father’s voice in your head, it can be difficult to get it out, especially if it’s destructive. But maybe try changing what that voice looks like next time he shows up. After all, that voice is truly just an extension of you. It’s what you make it.

      I hope that makes sense. And I hope it helps.

  6. Goodness Kelley, you have had quite a struggle. And from what I’ve read, it’s your relationship with sugar. I wonder if you carry the diabetes gene. That might explain it. It is so hard when you have such strong cravings. I, on the other hand, lean towards the opposite. I don’t really have a craving for food. I know. It sounds very strange. Well that would be me. lol. I eat to live, I do not live to eat. Food is a hassle. If I didn’t have to eat, I wouldn’t half the time. I have struggled with this for most of my life. I just try to take things one day at a time. And do the best that I can do. Hang in there! 🙂

    1. Thanks Kelly for the read! I definitely relate as I’m another sensitive type as well. This was perfect timing for me as I have the same bully as well who definitely showed up this past week. Sometimes the pressure of my inner bully ends up reflecting on relationships and makes me compare myself to others. Definitely hard but I’m
      Working on it! Self love is always the first place to start. If you can’t love yourself it makes it hard to share love with others.

      1. Hi Amanda and welcome to my blog, fellow Superhero Sensitive. 🙂

        I’m sorry you struggle with your bully too. Comparing ourselves to others…it’s so rough! Just no good for anybody, right? And it’s almost impossible not to do it when the inner jerk is yelling in your ear about how great that other person is and how far you fall short. I totally hear you.

        That’s why I found it such a revolutionary idea not to berate my curmudgeon, but to be kind to him. It’s really hard to be a jerk when someone is just showering you with love. It’s certainly possible, but much less likely.

        So yep, self love, self compassion – for all parts – is the way to go, methinks. It ain’t easy! But it’s so much healthier for all involved in your life.

        Thanks so much for stopping by and getting involved in the conversation. I hope it helped! 🙂

    2. Oh Karen, how I envy you! I so wish food was an afterthought for me, but sometimes, I hate to say this, it consumes my thoughts. Especially on these protocols when I have to be so careful with what I eat.

      But other times too, when I’m not eating the good stuff, it consumes my thoughts as well. This is addiction and it’s hard.

      I’ve always struggled with food and yes, sugar in particular. My whole family does. Both sides. And yep, lots of diabetes there too. It’s most definitely an uphill battle, but I will prevail!

      We agree on one thing – food IS a hassle. I don’t like cooking, wish I did, but it’s just such a hassle! 😉

      One day at a time. Yes. And do the best we can. Thanks for stopping by and showing your support!

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