To outsiders, Melissa Ambrosini—a drop-dead gorgeous dancer, actress, and model—had the kind of glam, breezy life that Instagram dreams are made of. But behind the scenes, the Aussie was spiraling. In 2010 she landed in the hospital with chronic fatigue and an eating disorder. Her thyroid was shot. She had cold sores all over her face, mouth, and throat.
Ambrosini tried a lot of time-tested avenues to better health—juicing, meditating, and developing a yoga practice. But she didn’t experience meaningful change until she decided to wage war against her inner mean girl. You know, the bully who’s always there whispering (or yelling), “You’re not enough.”
“I still had that loud inner voice telling me I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t pretty enough, and I wasn’t skinny enough,” says Ambrosini, now a best-selling author, motivational speaker, and life coach. “I realized that the major work I had to do was heal my relationship with myself.”
Now on the other side of her health crisis, Ambrosini believes self-doubt has reached truly epidemic proportions, drilled into us from a young age. “There’s no class in primary school on self-love and self-acceptance,” she says. So her new book, Mastering Your Mean Girl, is that class: a decidedly grown-up how-to that pulls from personal experiences and client stories to help you silence your inner mean girl. (Because that girl’s the worst.)
Here’s how to get it done.
1. Play detective
The first step to conquering your inner bully? Listen to it—really! “Once you’re aware of what that inner critic says to you, you’re shining a light on it,” Ambrosini explains. Grab a journal and try this prompt: “My Mean Girl is currently telling me…” Whether it’s that you won’t find love or get out of debt, write it down.
Then close the door on that thought, but do it gently. “It’s like an annoying salesperson who knocks on your door,” she says. “You wouldn’t slam the door and swear at them. You’d say ‘Thank you, but no thank you. I’m not interested.’”
2. Remind yourself: love over fear, every time
The mean girl in your head thrives off fear, and that fear is given so much fuel in daily life. “You’re told you must do this—or buy that—otherwise you’re going to be ugly or no one is going to love you,” says Ambrosini. So much noise!
To stop it, Ambrosini says you have to deliberately force yourself to choose love every time a negative thought creeps into your mind—literally think to yourself, “I choose love.” With between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, it’s work. “But ultimately,” notes Ambrosini, “it’s our choice.”
3. Express gratitude
If the concept of choosing love over fear feels a little woo-woo to you, here’s a concrete way to do it: practice gratitude. Ambrosini makes a habit of writing, or even just saying, three things she’s grateful for every single day.
4. Do battle with your expectations
“Expectations are the quickest way to ruin any relationship,” says Ambrosini. “Every time you show up with them, you’re stopping that person from having a real experience, and you’re stopping yourself, too.” That’s because when the vision of how you hoped a relationship or scenario would work out doesn’t line up with reality, it gives your inner meanie room to come in and roast you.
So watch yourself. Hopes are okay, but when you notice you’re bringing unreasonable expectations to the table, tell yourself to let them go.
5. Teach others how you want to be treated
We all have people who don’t give us the kind of love we deserve, whether it’s the friend who only calls when she needs something, or the family member who asks for the 10,000th time why you’re still single. Those interactions deplete you, and they strengthen your inner mean girl.
Take responsibility. “We teach people how to treat us,” Ambrosini says. “If you want to be treated a certain way, you have to take the time to set boundaries—which are your beliefs and values cemented in your every day life—and live them.” Sure, it’s hard. But it’s so damn worth it.