Monica Lewinsky has led a number of anti-bullying projects throughout her career, including a 2015 TED Talk called “The Price of Shame” in which she recalls her own public shaming experience and speaks out against today’s online bullying culture. (Credit: TED Conference, Flickr)

Imagine the meanest thing you’ve ever said to yourself. Now, imagine saying it to someone else. Would you still say it?

This is precisely what Monica Lewinsky asks people to do in her new PSA, “Stand Up to Yourself.”   

The producer and public speaker, who has described herself as the “patient zero” of internet bullying, has dedicated a large sum of her career to speaking out against bullying and public shaming, from her 2015 TED Talk, “The Price of Shame” to her 2021 HBO documentary, “15 Minutes of Shame.”

But this October, she wanted to do something different. “For Bullying Prevention Month 2023, our campaign is looking inward, at the bullies we all know too well – and the ones who may be our harshest critics: ourselves,” she wrote in an essay for TODAY.

Monica Lewinsky’s PSA “Stand Up to Yourself” – launched Oct. 3 – coincides with Bullying Awareness Month. (Credit: Stand Up to Yourself, Youtube)

Data gathered as part of the campaign reveals that 74% of adults agree they are their own worst critic – with the majority reporting that low self-esteem gets in the way of them succeeding in life. To illustrate this data, the PSA “Stand Up to Yourself” has participants share the worst negative thoughts they’ve had about themselves, such as “You’re a loser” and “Nobody likes you.” But rather than directing these criticisms at themselves, they instead read them to their loved ones.

The concept was inspired by an exercise Lewinsky partook in at a seminar 10 years ago, in which participants were asked to do roughly the same thing. “To hear myself say out loud the things that I was saying silently brought me to tears,” she wrote. “I not only recognized how cruel I was being to myself, but how I was internalizing this cruelty, too.”              

Lewinksy partnered with the creative agency Mischief @ No Fixed Address and the communications firm Dini von Mueffling Communications to create the PSA, which launched Tuesday. According to the press release, the campaign was created in support of 10 major mental health nonprofits, including The Childhood Resilience Foundation and The Diana Award.

Lewinsky acknowledged in her essay that she has found it challenging to completely drown out self-deprecation, so she  uses a “three Rs” strategy (recognize, reflect and refocus). First, she recognizes when she is saying something negative to herself. Then, she reflects on whether she’d say the same thing to someone she loves. And finally, she refocuses her energy elsewhere.