I was bully magnet as a kid, I think most of us were. Even the bullies. But as I grew up, the emotional scars I got as a kid stuck around. Even as an adult I would constantly find myself in situations where I’d get picked on.
Is this you?
The scenario would go like this: I’m going about my life, minding my own business, perfectly content, and into my little bubble walks a bully.
Lets say I’m on a public bus, at first the bully might not even be noticing me, but I’m for sure noticing him. He might not even have to say anything, but I can tell by the way he’s looking around for someone to pick on. Then its as if all the air gets sucked out of the room (or bus as it may be) and I feel the pit of my stomach drop out.
I feel like Frodo when he puts on the ring and Sauron can see him, all the sudden its just me and the bully, and now he can see me too.
I sit there getting smaller and smaller and think please not me, please not me, but wouldn’t you know it, the bully sits by me, and I’m stuck. Even if nothing terrible happens, I’m stewing in all the memories of time I didn’t stand up for myself, and I’m kinda mad at myself for still being scared. I am an adult right?
Or its like this: I’m having a perfectly nice lunch with a friend, who at times can also be a bit of a bully, suddenly the conversation turns to uncomfortable subjects, and before I can blink, the bully monster in my friend rears her ugly head.
Something comes out of her mouth that cuts me to the core, and I just sit there getting small. There’s a tiny voice inside that says, don’t react, just let it pass. And it does pass, lunch is over, I go home, and suddenly I’m pissed.
I”m so mad I can’t sit still, how dare she say those things to me? But my friend is long gone, and I’m left to sit and stew in my own anger, probably making myself sick in the process.
Are you attracting bullies?
If either of those sound familiar you may be a bully magnet. I know I was. I was a grown up adult, still hurt and damaged from being a bullied as a kid.
The strategy I had adopted as a kid (which was a brilliant one, young Allison, if I do say so myself) was to do nothing, say nothing and wait it out. This strategy probably kept my physical body safe many many times.
But it didn’t do much to empower me to stop getting bullied in the first place. Plus, bullies can sense weakness, its almost like they can smell it. Me sitting there on the bus, trying to get all small, I was advertising to be picked on. It’s almost like a sign that said pick on me taped to my forehead.
If you want to stop being bullied, you have to get over the fear of bullies. Most of the time a bully is just hot air, that’s why she picks on the scared: no one else would put up with her bullshit.
What you can do:
My path to healing wasn’t an easy one, and its going to take more than a blog post to get over the damage of being bullied. If you are kid reading this, please tell an adult you can trust, and don’t try to take on a bully yourself, especially if they are bigger than you. Here are some things I learned along the way, maybe they will help you too.
Stop being nice:
Bully behavior relies on the common social etiquette of politeness to exist. The very power a bully holds is being willing to break with social convention.
Bullies don’t deserve all those good manners you’ve worked so hard at cultivating. Quit being nice, nice just means you don’t want to rock the boat.
Nice is useless in my opinion. Be kind, be brutally honest, be compassionate, but forget about nice.
When we get over the social assumptions about what nice is it is so much easier to stand up for ourselves, or just walk away, or be rude, or blunt, or interrupt someone and tell them to knock it off.
Name them honestly:
Bullies come in many forms: a boyfriend who insults you; a co-worker who ridicules others just barely behind their back and implies they will do the same to you if you don’t play along; a friend who tries to shame you.
Bullies can also take on a much more insidious form: there can be victim bullies, who use their victim status to get away with awful behavior, and anytime you try to call them on it they wail about how victimized they are.
There can be passive bullies who don’t overtly threaten you, but show you by their actions what will happen if you go against them. There can be manipulative bullies who work in twisted and backhanded ways and who’s threats are subtle but unmistakeable.
But the one thing all bullies rely on is the conspiracy of silence they weave around them.
Don’t fall into it!
Break the spell. Call them what they are! A bully.
Years ago when I was in a women’s self defense class we learned about the power of public shaming as a valid self defense tool. Now normally I’m all against shame, but if someone is attacking you public, call them out! Tell them they are being a bully and should be ashamed.
Plus calling someone out publicly takes the power out of their tactics. Especially these days when bullying is getting so much media attention. If this feels too scary to do in the moment, practice. At home when no one is looking, practice calling that bully out.
Get really pissed and then let it go:
If you’ve been bullied, you probably have a lot of anger that you are sitting on. Find ways to release that anger that won’t harm anyone.
Just because someone bullied you, doesn’t mean you get to hurt them back, which you might do if all that anger suddenly boils over and explodes one day.
Use the anger you feel to get you over the fear. Anger exists to get us out of frozen states. Anger comes up when we need to say “no more’.
Try this exercise:
Pick a safe space, maybe at home or really out in the woods, (make sure you are alone).
Plan to have an anger session where you are going to let yourself get really mad at the bully in your life.
Picture them in front of you, and tell them exactly what they are doing, call them a bully, and tell them you aren’t going to put up with it anymore.
Tell them if they do it again you will call them out, you will publicly shame them for bullying you, you will not tolerate being bullied anymore.
Yell, scream, punch a pillow. do what ever it takes to get it out. As you do this you will be telling your subconscious that yes, you are willing to protect yourself now, you are ready to stand up for yourself.
Now let it go. This may be the hardest step of all. Forgiveness.
Bullying is a systemic problem, not just an isolated incident. Bullies don’t crop up out of nowhere. They are raised, and taught to be bullies. They were probably bullied themselves.
Bullies are everywhere. Rather than demonizing bullies, it’s time to start recognizing they ways they are encouraged. I think it is great more and more people are realizing that this behavior is damaging to children, but without looking at the larger values we are teaching our kids, the issue just turns into another witch hunt.
Once you find that you can stand up for yourself, you’ll see just how small and hurting most bullies really are. Don’t put up with their behavior anymore, but don’t hang on to your anger. It will just make you sick. If you need help with this last step getting some acupuncture, seeing a therapist, or joining a support group can really be helpful (see the resources section of my website).
What has been your story with bullies? Did you try one of these tools listed above? If so, leave a comment and let me know how it went.