It is Anti-Bullying Week in the United Kingdom. I am against bullying, but don’t directly interact with many targets of bullying. So, in case anyone in my audience is facing bullying or knows someone who is, I have decided to share some thoughts about dealing with it.
I was bullied at school. I was an intellectual bookish child, who wasn’t that interested in sports. By a combination of support from others and finding a mental attitude that worked for me, I am now a successful intellectual bookish adult who isn’t that interested in sports.
I would love for that last paragraph to be the point that let someone know it is possible to overcome bullying. However, at the time, I didn’t emotionally accept it would end, so I can empathise if it seems meaningless to where you are.
What might help more, is my commentary on some of the statements made by those who were less supportive at the time.
They’re Just Jealous/Scared/Acting Out
With the benefit of hindsight and experience, I strongly believe most bullies do it because their life is flawed rather than better than average.
But I also remember, knowing they have a troubled home life doesn’t make the bullying hurt any less.
In the end, they are choosing this reaction to their situation. So, you don’t owe them any guilt or shame if you don’t feel compassion.
School Child’s Code.
When I was at school there was an unwritten rule that you didn’t tell tales; that the divide between pupil and teacher was greater than any division between pupils.
All very nice as a plot in a Young Adult novel to add challenge to the hero’s life – but not really useful in real life. If someone attacks you, physically or not, they have voluntarily surrendered their claim to the moral high ground. So, maybe they don’t deserve to be treated better than the people who are offering you life skills.
Having faced it myself, I know the rule enforces itself by fear of consequences from other pupils. But if you are being bullied, you are already being treated badly, so consider whether it might make things better overall.
It Makes You Stronger
There is a belief (prevalent particularly in my school among sports teachers and ex-military) that facing up to them makes you stronger. Which, in a narrow sense, it might.
However, encasing a book in concrete will also make it stronger. That doesn’t make it a good idea.
Defeating the bullies (another great thing for Young Adult stories) might make you more resilient, but it will also change you in other ways.
There is no shame in being a person who doesn’t meet violence with violence; doesn’t meet insults with insults.
Similarly, there is no shame if you do choose to try beating them at their game.
If these thoughts seem to offer no definite answers, that is by design. Bullying is by its very nature an attempt to use force to make the bullied more like the bully; to reduce individuality.
Knowing one of my coping mechanisms was playing music one volume level higher only helps if that turns out to be one of your coping mechanisms too.
So, how you respond depends on who you are; the only certainty I have to offer is that knowing inside that you have acted rather than being acted upon is a victory over bullying.
That and the reminder that someone you haven’t met, probably never will meet, cares enough about your well-being to write this article in the hopes it helps.
If anyone wants to talk anything through more privately, feel free to contact me using my contact form.