They come in all shapes and sizes. And they can strike at any age.
Many of us will have had the experience of being targeted by more dominant types at school or in the workplace – or even in the family.
But chances are all of us will at least know someone who has been bullied, and it’s a traumatic experience which can leave a victim scarred for life.
So what can you do if you’re being bullied?
First of all, let’s talk about what bullying is in a bit more detail.
Bullying is unwarranted, undeserved aggression that is targeted at a victim whom the bully perceives to be weaker than themselves.
In the mentoring work that I do with young people especially… the confidence and self-esteem problems I see, bullying is often a contributing factor, with more dominant peers at school or on the sports field pushing them around, harassing and demeaning them.
But being bullied by uncooperative, toxic and narcissistic colleagues and superiors also features in the background of some of the young professionals I have coached as well. And the experiences here are being undermined at meetings, sabotaged in work and backstabbed behind the scenes.
All of which just goes to show that bullying can destroy a person’s confidence and self-worth at any point in life, and it’s wise to know effective ways of responding.
- Don’t make yourself a target in the first place.
Even if you don’t feel you naturally are a confident or assertive person, it’s never too early to start learning how to project a calm demeanour with authority.
If these are not traits that come naturally to you, rest assured, they can be cultivated and mentored to grow, whether you’re at school or in a workplace cubicle.
Remember, bullies are instinctively drawn to those who appear weaker and less dominant, whom they can then manipulate, threaten and isolate. Put forward a confident public persona, and the would-be bully will quickly decide you’d be too much trouble to go after.
- If you are being bullied, get allies’ support as quickly as possible.
The bully loves it if you feel isolated enough to stop connecting with friends or would-be allies. They want you to feel that no one else is going to want to stick up for you or support you. But this simply isn’t true and you mustn’t allow yourself to fall in to the trap of believing it.
Even something as simple as finding someone to walk with along the corridors to get to your next class, or sitting next to someone you feel is on your side in meetings, or share lunch with, can be enough to signal to the bully that ‘you are not alone’ and that picking on you will have consequences.
- Tell someone in authority about what’s happening to you.
Bullying victims often feel that even if they tell someone of the abuse they are suffering, they won’t be believed. Perhaps they believe this because the bully is someone already in a position of authority or connected to influential protectors.
But there is always someone also of influence to turn to – even if they’re not immediately connected with the environment where the bullying is taking place.
Ordinarily, you’d tell your parents, teachers or manager if you were experiencing bullying – but if for some reason you felt you couldn’t, even reaching out to a more confident peer (see point Number 2 above) or a mentor, coach or counsellor, would begin the process of reclaiming your mental and personal wellbeing.
Remember, the bully wants you to feel isolated and without any recourse to standing up for yourself
- If you know someone is being bullied, stand up for them, too.
Humans have always sought each other’s solidarity in times of danger. And it’s very true that safety lies in numbers.
We may not have marauding armies invading our territory, or savage animals threatening our tribe, but in the end, that instinct to band together for protection, remains ageless.
There will always be people who test us, and aggressively try to knock down our boundaries, or destroy our self-esteem. Why they do so is a different matter, because there are all kinds of contributing factors to make someone a bully.
The important thing is to ensure you or someone you know, doesn’t become, or stay, their victim.
Because you deserve to live an inspired life, free of bullies and filled with enthusiastic collaborators, trusted confidantes and loyal friends.
To learn how we can work together to unlock your or your teen’s confidence, personal power and self-worth, check out the FEARLESS and LIMITLESS tracks on my website, leonidasalexandrou.com