Bullying – a Personal Insight
Being the victim of a bully can be a devastating experience, and can affect every aspect of a person’s life long after the bully has moved on to another victim. (www.mentalhealthsupport.co.uk)
A friend who I knew at primary school sadly died recently, something that shook me up and, as is natural when such news is heard, made me think about her, when I met her, time we spent together and the type of person that she was.
The thing that dominated my mind though was how she was treated at school. She was bullied, not just a little bit, a lot, and not subtly, even though that happened as well, but directly to her face. A lot of the bullying was personal, about what she looked like, her personal hygiene, her demeanour. Was I one of the perpetrators? No. Was I a friend to her? Yes. Why was this? Why did I not join in with the rest who tormented her regularly, why did I not join in the group mentality that often accompanies this type of bullying? I guess there was a part of me that felt sorry for her but there was a bigger part that didn’t accept that she should be treated like this.
I’ve experienced bullying first-hand
Until I returned to England, having living abroad as a child for a number of years, I hadn’t really experienced any particular type of bullying yet I too had experienced this from some of the children who were bullying this young girl, albeit in a different way. Growing up abroad I’d been a happy, contented child mixing with like-minded peers with very little judgemental behaviour or criticism occurring, or maybe I was just unaware of it. Coming back to the UK though it started straight away – I just didn’t realise it at the time, I thought it was something to do with me, in that I’d done something wrong or I wasn’t a good enough person as I was. The thing was all I’d done was grow up somewhere different to the people I subsequently mixed with which made me ‘unusual’ and, for some strange reason, subtly resented by some, not all, people.
Fortunately for myself at this time in my life I was more able to stand up for myself and I didn’t experience bullying from everyone, boys and girls, like this young girl did or to the extent that she did. The way in which the subtle bullying I received manifested in me was that instead of keeping my identity and staying ‘me’, I slowly and gradually over the years had to learn not to be ‘me’ too much in case what I said, how I behaved or how I looked caused unintentional upset or annoyance to someone else.
Bullying isn’t always obvious
Bullying comes in many different guises - verbal, physical, mental, emotional, social – it can be about your appearance, what you say, what you do, how you behave, the colour of your skin, your sexual orientation, your religion, your race, where you’re from, in fact absolutely anything. It can be quite blatant and out there, it can be subtle and under the radar and no-one is immune to either being bullied or being a bully.
‘Those who are bullies in childhood often continue to be bullies as adults. The victims of adult bullying may find little or no sympathy from their co-workers, friends and family members. After all, we are big now; we should not let silly things like bullying bother us. Or should we?’ (www.mentalhealthsupport.co.uk)
Bullying can happen anywhere
Bullying can happen at home, at work, in social settings, in friendships, in families, in personal and professional partnerships. I have been bullied at work on many occasions, simply for doing my job whilst others were not so great at doing theirs. I went through the right channels for reporting this type of behaviour but I ended up leaving the jobs as a result of what was happening as I didn’t want to end up working in that type of environment and with the type of people who were quite happy to behave as they did. I know that this has happened to many other people as well and many of them have left their jobs rather than do something about it.
Sometimes you feel it’s best to just let it go as the stress caused by challenging it can be too much. I’ve done so twice in a work environment but it took a lot of strength to do so, it created a lot of stress and negatively affected my health & well-being.
People can bully you into doing something you don’t want to do, saying something you don’t want to do, behaving in a way that you don’t want to behave. This happens more so in groups when people feel that in order to stay in/be a part of/be accepted by the group then they have to behave in the way that others in the group do, even if they personally don’t agree and would rather not do so. I’ve found that there are many people like this who are really lovely and friendly to you when on their own but as soon as they’re in the group environment their mentality and behaviour changes.
People can bitch about you, make snide comments, gossip about you and if this is something that you yourself do, even if the other person is not aware, it is still bullying. And, if someone bitches/gossips to you about someone else you can be guaranteed that they’ll be doing the same about you to others. This is something that is quite prevalent in the industry in which I’ve spent many years and it can be quite nasty and personal as it tends to be a lot about a person’s appearance and their lifestyle.
Ignoring people is a form of bullying, irrespective of being plain rude it is also intimidating, bullying behaviour designed to make the other person feel that they are not worthy of your time and/or attention. You don’t have to be friends with, or liked by everyone, but people can still treat each other with common courtesy, respect and politeness.
Teasing someone is also a form of bullying as is making someone the butt of your joke or ridiculing them. ‘Oh it’s only a joke, don’t take it so seriously, don’t be so sensitive’ – just some of the things I, and I’m sure other people, have had said to them when being teased, spoken to or treated in a way that isn’t acceptable to them. Maybe the perpetrator wouldn’t be hurt, offended, upset but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t be – know the people with whom you’re interacting, be aware of and sensitive to their feelings and approach to the world.
It really does sadden me to see how bullying has increased ten-fold with the ever increasing use of social media, the witch hunts that seem to occur, the slating of businesses, the pulling apart of someone’s character, the derogatory comments about someone’s appearance or intelligence, it’s relentless at times and seemingly never ending.
‘With modern day technology constantly advancing consistently throughout the past few years, it is almost unsurprising to see how bullying has taken on a new life completely, extending into cyberspace. Thanks to the growing popularity of social media such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as the wide distribution of cell phones among the youth, bullying has spread to different forms and possibly even worsened over recent years.’ (https://nobullying.com)
The effects of bullying are many
Feeling afraid, depressed, sadness, sleeping problems, inability to perform properly at work/college, not attending work/college, anxiety, panic attacks, increase or decrease in appetite, medical issues, loss in self-esteem, thoughts of suicide
Effects of bullying can be long lasting, especially when it has happened during our younger years, and often is something that can be carried with us through to adult hood. You start to withdraw into yourself or you go to the other extreme displaying behaviour which isn’t really you but a form of coping mechanism. Personally I became a rebel of sorts, never to a high degree of seriousness just enough to affect myself in both the long and short term. I smoked, even though I swore at the age of 8 that I’d never do this disgusting thing, I drank, even though alcohol really does not agree with me, I skipped lessons at school, even though I loved studying and learning, I stopped attending church, even though this gave me peace and calm in my life.
There were times though when I did, as one of my old school teachers used to say, get back on the right path – but I just couldn’t be consistent with it, I was too easily influenced by other people and concerned with ‘fitting in’ – what other people thought or said seemed to matter more than what I thought or said. And, as I often suppressed my true self I would often behave in ways and maybe say things that weren’t really ‘me’ or how I wanted to be. This would then lead to me being really down on myself, filled with guilt and remorse and still not really knowing who or what the real me was. I guess I’ve always felt something was not quite right over the years but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Even at the times when I was getting back on track, like when I was studying hard and getting good grades for my degree, for courses I attended, I still felt I had to hide this side of me as I was then knocked for apparently being too clever!
Why would someone bully?
There are many different reasons why bullying occurs and, whereas none are acceptable, there are ways in which they can be managed so that they don’t result in bullying - insecurity, to be part of the in-crowd, to fit in, peer pressure, to look ‘hard’, out of jealousy, wanting attention, because they’ve been bullied and it’s what they know. Maybe it’s because they’re unhappy and they take it out on others. Perhaps other people are encouraging them to bully and they’re afraid not to as then they might be left out.
What to do:
Nobody should be bullied. Even if someone is behaving badly then the behaviour should be questioned and dealt with accordingly, not through bullying tactics.
‘Remember that everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. No one deserves or asks to be bullied’ (http://us.reachout.com)
Do not ever think that you deserve to be a victim of bullying, you don’t, end of.
Depending upon the type of bullying you are experiencing (and as long as you are safe) you might want to work out ways in which you can tackle it - seek help, guidance, counselling, therapy – all these can help you find ways in which to manage and deal with bullying, threatening, negative behaviour.
Find strategies that work for you, if your self-esteem and self-confidence have suffered then working on building these up again. Surround yourself with like-minded and positive, caring people who don’t feel the need to be part of a group and are quite happy and nice within and without one.
I have seen those close to me experience bullying and it has been painful to see, especially as it’s been particularly cruel at times.
Don’t be part of the bullying and join in, if you are part of a group that behaves like this maybe you should question whether or not you should be part of such a group. Don’t be afraid of being rejected or ostracised by the group.
If someone is left out of something ask them to join you, if they are okay being on their own then that is absolutely fine but if you feel they may not be, ask.
Don’t exclude people, always let people know that they’re not alone.
Talk to those doing the bullying, see if you can find out the reasons why and perhaps work on strategies to put a stop to it.
‘It takes courage to stop being a bully. Just because you've started bullying doesn't mean you have to continue’ (http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Bullying/Pages/Howtostopbeingabully.aspx)
You may not even realise that how you are to some people could be considered as bullying but consider how your behaviour is affecting the other person/people.
Maybe you’re part of a group and that group mentality means that others are left out, shunned, ignored, intimidated and such like. Don’t be afraid to escape that group mentality and be your own person, perhaps speak to others in the group to find out why they behave in that way and identify ways in which to help them too become less like that.
Bullying is totally unnecessary, has no place in society and there need to be ways in which individuals, groups, organisations, the media can work together in which to help eradicate it. There are many ways in which help can be sought and accessed and it is possible to work through and overcome the effects of bullying.
This blog has just skimmed the surface based on personal experiences and potential ways in which bullying can be addressed. It would be really interesting to hear of any of your personal stories and insights and suggestions that you may have for making bullying a thing of the past.
To finish I’d like to share this link to a blog I came across, ironically on social media, and I like to think it’s something the lovely woman, who was my friend as a young girl, and who sadly passed away, would maybe have written. It makes me happy though to know that she did in some way overcome the bullying she experienced and went on to find her own unique place in this world with many friends and a husband who adored her.
Copyright © 2016 Louise Grafton-Mitchell. All rights reserved. No part of this Blog shall be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information retrieval system without written permission of the publisher.