Protecting Yourself From Bullying

It is not easy being a kid, especially in the Junior High ages where kids can be awfully cruel to others in an attempt to hide their own insecurities. When you are the target of a bully, life can be hell.

Bullies are not just confined to the schoolyard. Even adults have to deal with their fair share of bullies now and then from an obnoxious neighbour to a power-hungry employer or a road rage revenge bully to a politician. Bullies all have one thing in common – the need to dominate others in order to feel important.

That last sentence is very important to realize. A bully is only a bully because their lives are otherwise out of control. They usually have low self esteem and a lot going on in their lives over which they have no control. The bully tends to act out in an aggresive manner towards others because it gives them the illusion of power. The bully gets a good feeling over having control over someone else, especially since they don’t have that kind of control in their own life. It becomes an addictive habit with the bully.

The problem a bully suffers from is usually overlooked because people tend to hate them and think if anything happens to them they get what they deserve. While a bully may feel “high” on the power they have over others, it is always lacking in the respect they would rather have. Respect is something that must be earned which is hard, but fear is an easy to do to get attention. The fear they put on others is sometimes through criminal actions and others are psychologically damaging to the victims.

Most victims of a bully usually don’t want to hear that the bully is actually in pain and acting out which is understandable. However, unless people start seeing both sides of the story, this problem will get out of control.

The victim is the obvious one in pain in this kind of relationship (yes, bully and victim is a relationship, albeit a sick one – it takes two to dance!) The bully is also suffering, but does not want to show the world his or her weakness.

For the victim, the trauma can be lifelong. A victim of a bully may be caught unaware and unsure of how they got caught in the trap. A potential victim may be baited by a bully and successfully throw the bully off their case. Other potential victims play into the bully trap and become a habitual target for the bully.

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What makes one a target for a bully?

What makes one a target for a bully

Lack of self-esteem

Those with a high sense of self seldom become entangled with a bully too long. Most people with a high self esteem refuse to do the bully dance and know to tell them to take a hike or fight it off. A person with low self esteem already thinks there is something wrong with them and will feed on the taunts of a bully as a confirmation of how they feel inside. By accepting the criticism on a subconscious level, the victim has unwittingly accepted the bully’s invitation.

What gives the bully the edge to dig into a target?

Being different

By being different this includes a variety of reasons including race, religion, upbringing, sex, sexual orientation, political views, income… As many reasons one can imagine is something even a bully can pick up on. The bully sees that this person has some traits that could be considered unpopular or odd to the majority of the people and will use that angle to exploit the victim’s fear of not being accepted.

The bully will try multiple tactics to see if they can reach the right sore point in the victim’s self image shield. When they find the right tactic to get to the victim, they will know by the way the victim reacts. The victim will either start crying or go over the top in an all out attack.

The bully has an easy mark with the victim who simply submits to the torture. However, the bully is taking a risk with a victim who fights them. Sometimes the victim will fight really dirty and the bully has no way to defend it. In those cases, the bully will tend to leave the victim alone, unless their pride was so hurt that they will not let it slide. In that case it could become an ugly war.

As many cases of the bully/victim are usually in a school setting, it is up to the parents and teachers to take control of the situation before it goes too far. Both parties need help. The bully doesn’t need to be punished too harshly, but needs to know that such behavior is not acceptable. The victim should be encouraged to only fight in self defense, but not to retaliate in a severe manner.

Here is a personal story for you. When I was in school, I was quite different from the other kids when I was forced to be bussed to an all white school. They did not want us there to begin with. I am the result of generations of mixed races, so I do not “look black” as many were so kind to point out to me. In the school, mostly everyone was a Catholic and no one was a Jehovah’s Witness, except me.

I also had to hide how smart I actually was since in the times when I answered questions that went over the heads of the other kids I would get dirty looks from my classmates. I was skinny, had long braids, glasses, and braces. Due to my visual problems, I was not co-ordinated so playing any sports in PE was not my forte. Needless to say, I had many things going for me for a potential bully to pick on.

Protecting Yourself From Bullying

I also had very low self esteem. After being told most of my life at that point that I was never really good enough, the world would end soon, and I was a victim of sexual abuse, not to mention psychological abuse and on rare ocassions physical abuse.

The year before entering that school, I had many friends and people accepted me for who I was, but that all changed after I was sexually abused. I was hiding a secret and felt unworthy of having any friends. Then to be put in a school with the prospect of making new friends was hard enough, but when the few key bullies made me the target, I had no chance at real friendship at that school. There were only a few kids who tolerated me, but were not really supportive. So I spent two miserable years at a school where I developed bad habits such as self mutilation which when asked I would give lame excuses about what happened.

By the time I reached high school, most of the bullies moved on to other schools, except for one. I was not about to go through that same kind of hell in high school, so I avoided her at all costs. It was kind of hard to do by my Junior year when we were in the same class. Her sister was also in the same class and they would tag team bully me trying to instigate a fight. I guess you could say it is only by fate that they were saved from my growing rage one day.

Near the last day of school, I knew they were baiting me into a fight. They didn’t know it, but I was prepared. I had a box cutter in my hand and was ready to slash their faces. Fortunately the bell rang, the teacher and students saw what I had in my hand and rushed me out of there. I calmed down as I got away from them, but I shudder to think what would have happened if I did slash them.

The bully needs to know that the damage they do to the victim can not only be lifelong for the victim, but the rage they produce can come back to haunt them. The victim can soon find themselves in the same position as the bully. The victim feeling they no longer have control over their lives may lash out and rather harshly at the bully, sometimes becoming bullies themselves.

While those incidents of school shootings have been hyped by the media, they did little justice to the problem. School shootings have been going on long before the media has jumped on it. It’s just no one really wanted to believe they could happen in a clean cut suburban town. That still doesn’t mean the school shootings were justified. They could have been prevented if people were paying attention.

The parents should have been more involved in seeing their children had enough self esteem to deflect the bullies. The parents should have taken their children for counseling. The parents should have had more talks with the kids and been an open door for the kids to share any problem with them. The parents should have noticed changes in the kids and should have inspected what kinds of things the kids had in their rooms.

The teachers should have been a little more interested in helping those victims of bullies instead of writing them off or thinking they deserved to get bullied. The teachers should have talked to those students and offered to be there for them. The teachers should have mentioned that the students seemed like they could use help.

The same could be said to the parents and teachers of the bullies.

It was a great tragedy that should have been stopped long before it got to that point. Bullying should never be accepted behavior. It is usually the parents who continue this cycle that allows bullying to go on.

Adults can be bullies and the kids pick up on it. How many times have you seen a case of road rage where there will be children in the car as the parent loses control? What about the person who thinks by shouting people down will get him or her their way? Parents who beat on the children when the kid won’t shut up. People who act like rules and laws apply to everyone else but themselves and will go ballistic when others don’t see it that way… These kinds of adults are bullies. The problem is society tends to write them off as obnoxious and accept they are that way when no one should accept this behavior.

If you are being bullied, how do you stop the cycle?

loneliness-aloneness and crying after being bullied

As the victim, you have to realize your part in this sick relationship. Until you can accept your role in it, it will be harder to break free and you will easily go back into this problem again. This is not to say you deserve to be bullied, no one does. However, you must know your part in getting there so you can step out of it easier.

You need to make sure your self esteem is in gear. Get a professional counselor and talk it out. You need to know deep down that you do not deserve to be a victim. You need to know that you are a special person. You need to learn how to love yourself enough not to accept this kind of treatment from anyone. Professional help will at least let you see when you are comfortable with yourself and the way you are, no one can take that away from you unless you let them.

Join groups or clubs with people who are just like you. When you network with others who share your differences, you tend to feel more comfortable about who you are so when people try to use it as a shame method to attack you, you can easily roll it off with a convincing “So!” Learn to take pride in your differences and embrace what makes you unique. You may think you are alone, but there are bound to be thousands of people who are like you in one way or another with which you can strike up a true friendship.

There is much power in the self indignation of ignoring the taunts of the bully and turning it around on them. When a bully corners you or yells at you the usual diatribe, look at them with a disdain that says you are not accepting their condemnation and in fact you condemn them. You don’t have to say anything, that look of contempt is sometimes enough. Roll your eyes and walk away without a reaction, as if they do not exist.

You may have to do it several times before it registers with the bully that you are not playing the bully game with them. Remember, a bully is only doing this because of their lack of self esteem. You need to play on that fact. They are bullying you to boost their own lack of self image. When you play into that, you feed the cycle. If you stop, eventually they get tired and try to find an easier mark.

Take a self-defense course. While you don’t really want to reach the same level of the bully, sometimes you need to know how to defend yourself as a last resort. If you ignore a bully, many times they will stop picking on you. However, some bullies take that as a further insult to their pride and feel they must defend it. They see you as a weak victim – how dare you not be afraid of them! If someone they see as weak is no longer afraid of them, in their minds that makes them weaker and they want to get back into control. The best way is to instigate a fight.

You don’t want to fight a bully if you don’t know how to fight. If your self esteem is not up to par and they defeat you, you could be in the cycle a lot longer. Taking a self defense course will give you the edge in a fight. It will also teach you when you should fight and when you should walk away as well as give you the self esteem and confidence you need to avoid being put in the bully trap in the first place.

If you are the parent of a bully, you need to make sure your child gets help. Don’t just write it off as a phase or encourage that behaviour. By doing so, you are not only helping your child destroy the life of another person, but you may be setting your child up for a fatal situation.

Recommended Books:

  1. The No More Bullying Book for Kids: Become Strong, Happy, and Bully-Proof

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2. Bullying Scars: The Impact on Adult Life and Relationships

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