The Hardest Thing About Getting Bullied Part 2: Lack of Support

Sometimes, the hardest thing about getting bullied is not always bullies. There may be people in your life who betray you, or you may have people in your life who want to help but are misinformed. It can be easy to forget bullying not only affects its victims but also affects the people they love. It is not uncommon for loved ones to feel helpless and insecure about how to help. As a result, they may inadvertently say the wrong thing, which results in added stress and isolation.

When I was bullied for the first time at nine years old, I was lost and vulnerable. I thought my family would have all the answers, but it turns out they were just as scared as I was and doing the best they can. Unfortunately, it was not enough for me to defend myself and get rid of the bullies. As a result, I developed low self-esteem and started people-pleasing because the aftermath of bullying went unresolved.

Some advice was more helpful than others, and there was a lot of trial and error. Unfortunately, some of the negative messages I internalized reinforced long-held negative beliefs about myself. I was able to overcome these beliefs when I stopped relying on others to solve my problems and started valuing my own opinions.

Without proper support, the target will take longer to recover. Here are examples of ways families can help:

1) Listen first. Believe your victim. Dismissing concerns is the worst thing you could do.
2) Deal with your emotions away from your victim. Overreacting will add unnecessary stress. Stay calm. Talk about your concerns with a neutral, trusted individual if necessary.
3) Keep your fears in check. Fear can cloud judgment and drive you to say or do something ineffective.
4) Empower your victim by offering multiple solutions. Then, help your victim choose the solution that fits best with his or her personality.
5) Discourage your victim from ignoring the perpetrator. Ignoring bullies is not going to make them go away; it’s only going to get worse. I wish people understood this.
6) Avoid shaming your victim. Victims already feel shameful and helpless about their situation. Instead of adding to their shame, offer solutions.
7) Help them assess their social circles. The victims need to be friends with people who celebrate them and not tolerate them. It may mean the victim has to be alone until they find the right people.
8) Help them build their confidence. Help them find a hobby they are passionate about, and where they can find a community of like-minded people.
9) Be patient. It will take victims time to recover.
10) Take care of yourself. Set boundaries, if necessary. Bullying is hard on the victims and the people who love them.

What are your experiences with support? What advice would you add? I would love to hear your comments below.

Free Advice From One Target of Bullying to Another

I have endured a lot of pain and resilience during my time as a victim of bullying. I didn’t want to become a slave to my circumstances and allow the opinions of others to define me. Here is what I would say to anyone who is a victim of bullying and can’t find a way out: 

1) Anyone who has to hurt others is not happy. There have been times where I felt compelled to say something hurtful because I was unhappy. The same goes for bullies.

2)  No one deserves to be a victim of bullying. What bullies do says a lot about them, not you.

3) You can be a loner and still stand up to bullies. As long as you are secure within, you will let others know they can’t rattle you. 

4) Strength comes in numbers. Befriend the outsiders and fellow victims.

5) Set boundaries.  Do what fits your personality.

6) Recognize the signs. If an individual overtly or covertly tries to assert dominance, they are bullying you. 

7) Document everything. Include the date, time, what was said/done, and the witnesses.

8) Report the bullying after you attempted to set boundaries. Include the documentation and any witnesses willing to defend you. 

9) Fitting in is overrated. Own your quirks and your individuality. Bullies would kill to have your courage because they are afraid of being too ordinary.

10) It gets better. Time heals. If you truly love who you are, everything will fall into place. Be patient.

What would you add to the list? Please comment below!

The Hardest Thing About Getting Bullied Part 1: Betrayal

The hardest thing about being a target of bullying was not the bullies themselves, but the people who were in positions of power to stop them and didn’t. I’m not referring to the bully’s followers or the people watching from the sidelines, but the people who betrayed me. It was more upsetting when someone who I thought was my friend started believing the false rumors about me, or when my boss knew a staff member in my department had a history of bullying and tried to cover it up. The list goes on and on.

 It hurt when future friendship prospects flopped due to connecting with the bully. I felt like I had a big, invisible red R on my forehead for reject. When I tried moving past a bad situation, it felt impossible finding a way out. I became very wary about trusting other people around me. 

Bullying is isolating, lonely, and shameful. It took years for me to find the bright side, but there are some positives to getting bullied:

  • I can spot even the slightest and most subtle forms of bullying. I am not shy about taking action because I never want someone else to suffer what I did.
  • I don’t gossip, listen to rumors or spread rumors.
  • I have strong, deep empathy for outcasts. 
  • I have become more open-minded. I form my opinions of people based on my own experience with them.
  • I am grateful to the few people who stuck up for me and supported me during this low point. I owe them my deepest gratitude and respect.

How has bullying changed you? Were you able to find the bright side? I would love to hear about your experiences!

The Truth About Bystanders

Bystanders, the people who watch bullies go after their targets, stand by and allow it to happen. Some bystanders are friends with the bully and quietly agree with their actions. Others want to fit in and are glad it’s not them or feel they don’t have the power to stop the bullies. The truth is, bystanders, hold the real weight with bullying.

Many bystanders are well-liked by their peers because they don’t make waves. They follow the crowd. They conform. Despite all the awareness around bullying, many people don’t change their behavior. They want to fit in, they want to belong, and they don’t want to risk the possibility of conflict or losing their social status. The truth is, bullies, lose their power if the bystanders don’t tolerate their behavior. In a just and fair world, all bystanders would stand up to the bully and defend the target.

There have been situations where the bullying happened in front of me and did nothing about it. I felt my input wouldn’t make a difference, so I stayed quiet. Looking back, I felt like a hypocrite and guilty when I didn’t stand up for someone who was getting picked on, and I know what it feels like to be targeted by a bully. Many people struggle with this internal conflict all the time.

At some point in our lives, we all get scared of the consequences or what other people might think. Yes, organizations encourage more upstanders instead of bystanders. Yes, more people are aware of how bullying affects others, but the social problem remains the same. If you are someone who holds back in the face of injustice, take some time to learn why. Are you saying you don’t have an opinion on it or are you depending on someone else to fix it? Are you just happy you aren’t the one forced to deal with the bully? Are you afraid of the consequences? If so, think about the power these individuals have over you.

I would like to hear about your experience with bystanders. Please comment below.

Let’s Hear It For the Dorks!

No, it’s not just a line from the movie Sydney White, it’s a call to anyone who has experienced rejection from their peers and remains comfortable in their own skin. One way I’ve come to terms with who I am is taking care of myself and finding people like me who aren’t afraid to stand out. Many of us spend our lives ashamed that we are forced to stand out because we aren’t lucky enough to have a choice in social situations. The minute we are proud of our strengths and our weaknesses, bullies can’t use our weaknesses against us.

After my very first bullying experience, It took a long time for me to get out of my victim mentality, put my needs first, and discover what I value. Most people who struggle with bullying and exclusion value quality relationships like everyone else, but have a hard time finding their community. The hardest part about being excluded was not the bullying itself, but how the aftermath of bullying affected my relationships with others in that environment.

Once the bullying stopped, there was an unspoken stigma amongst my peers. No matter how many times I tried to make new friends, none of my attempts to move forward worked. I treated making new friends as a goal, but the problem with that was you can’t always control someones’ feelings like you can with other things. What I could have done is keep doing what I love, be more discerning with friendships, and then the right people would find me. I learned how some people close their minds to the targets of bullying without question, feel too scared to stand apart from the crowd, choose to play it safe. As a result of this rejection, I thought something was wrong with me.

There was nothing wrong with me, and I’m sorry for spending so long being ashamed of myself. I spent years trying the please people who didn’t like me, hiding parts of myself, and even taking the right friends for granted so I could fit in.

Most people are afraid to stand out and put so much weight into what other people think. If they genuinely don’t care about the opinions of others, it typically happens when they are older. Most people want to avoid problems which is why bullies have so much power. We can stop putting up with bullies by taking care of ourselves, owning who we are, and finding a community of dorks like myself who struggled with shame and being forced to stand apart from the crowd.

Have you ever had a bully who has knocked your confidence? When and how did you get it back? Please comment below.

I’m a Reject

Being a reject was an unspoken label I internalized in every social situation because of the bullying I endured throughout my life.

In particular, my peers at school teased me for being too weird, too awkward, too sensitive, and too loud, so they excluded me. At first, I was ashamed of this label because it was hard to make friends and believed there was something wrong with me. Realizing I was a reject became a catalyst for my low self-esteem and social anxiety that started in fourth grade.

The defining incident in fourth-grade happened when the bully laughed at me for being a crybaby after my teacher yelled at me in front of the class. I didn’t understand why someone could treat another so horribly and what I did to deserve such treatment. I was confused by the change in his behavior, felt ashamed of my inability to assert myself and say the right things, and hoped someone would help me. Some people attempted to help me, but the problem didn’t get solved. Fortunately, the bully eventually moved to another state, and I never saw him again.

So many people have stories about bullying that defined them. Some of these stories are similar to the one I just shared, if not worse. Some people are prone to anxiety because they are highly sensitive and are therefore susceptible to bullying. More information exists about the issue, and there are more policies put in place, yet bullying continues to be a silent problem that isn’t taken seriously in many schools and organizations. We can promote more awareness by helping others who may be struggling with bullying and developing a community of people like myself who have been targets of bullying and never had the support they needed.

What have been your experiences with bullying and rejection? Please comment below.