It’s one of the most heartbreaking aspects of being bullied- enduring it for so long that you finally grow accustomed to it and resign yourself. Sadly, targets eventually grow numb because the bullying has gone on for so long that the attacks don’t even hurt anymore.
What happens it that you get so used to the torment that the more subtle attacks no longer sound cruel. Some people think that targets are better off when they no longer realize they’re being bullied. But are they really?
I don’t know. In some instances, yes, and in others, no. If you don’t react because you don’t know to, some bullies will get bored with the lack of response and leave you alone. But others will only bully you worse because either they know you didn’t catch it, or they get angry because you must be ignoring them.
Either way, there comes a point when the target just says, “F it!” and doesn’t care anymore. In order to survive and keep your sanity, sometimes it becomes a necessity not to give a damn.
Because people use the term “bullying” so widely today, they too often misuse and abuse it. In today’s climate, people throw the word around flippantly, and “bullying” is used in situations that don’t fit its use.
Many are too quick to stick the “bully” label on anyone who says anything they either disagree with or don’t like. There’s so much confusion about what is bullying and what is only rudeness, being a jerk, or voicing an individual opinion, whether good or bad.
Therefore, I feel an obligation to point out the definition of bullying and to clarify what truly is and isn’t bullying.
Here is the definition:
Bullying – an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behavior that intends to cause physical, social, and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening (https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/definition-of-bullying/)
All too often, bullying is confused with:
1. Disagreements and truthful debates
4. Incivility and jerky behavior
Bullying has become a blanket term to describe anyone who is only rude or opinionated. The label of “bully” is too quickly stuck to people who are not necessarily bullies but only uncivil jerks and jackasses- basically anyone who says, does, or believes anything that the labeler doesn’t find comfortable. This is wrong.
For something to be considered bullying, there must be all of these ingredients:
1. An imbalance of power
3. Repeated attacks against the same person over a long time.
4. The behavior has to be a habit or the same pattern, against the same victim.
If a 6’5” tall and muscular knucklehead on the street bumps into you and says, “Hey, idiot! Watch where the hell you’re going!”, then keeps walking. That’s not bullying. Is the person a total jackhole? Absolutely. But he isn’t necessarily a bully.
Now, if he deliberately ran into you and shot his mouth off to you every day, every time he saw you on the street. And he made a habit of it by continuing to harass you, then yes! He would be a bully. Because he would be using his size and height to intimidate you and he’d be repeating the behavior every day.
Here’s another example:
A person is voicing an opinion. When someone asks them if what they think of their new next-door neighbor, the person answers by saying,
“I think he is an arrogant, egotistical jackass.”
This is NOT bullying. It’s only voicing an opinion.
But! If the person continued this behavior for a length of time and smeared the new neighbor to everyone in the neighborhood in an attempt to turn everyone against her, then yes! It is bullying.
If two people are arguing over different beliefs, it’s not bullying Even if the argument is heated.
Only when one of the arguers resort to repeatedly (notice I said, repeatedly) calling their opponent names and shaming them because they don’t agree nor share their beliefs, and the harassment goes on for a long time, against the same opponent! That, my friends, is bullying!
To prevent innocent people from being labeled as bullies, we MUST get clear on exactly what it is that constitutes bullying! Only then will we be able to apply it to those who are truly deserving of the label.
“Some people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.”
Being unpredictable can be your best weapon against bullies. Anytime you are predictable in a climate of bullying, you’re a sitting duck. Bullies will soon know what gets you upset, what will get you to fly off the handle and do something irrational and how to sabotage you socially and academically. You must be versatile if you expect to throw the bullies off-kilter.
Predictability is human nature. People are creatures of habit and have a need to see familiarity in the actions of others. If you’re a target of bullying, any predictability on your part will give your bullies the idea that they have control of you.
Understand that the reason bullies have so much power over you is that you’re too darn predictable. You make it too easy for them to predict what you’ll do. Because they’ve studied and picked up on your habits, they have the foreknowledge of what your reaction will be. And they’ll weaponize it every chance they get!
But when you flip the script and begin deliberately exhibiting behavior that has no consistency and no objectives, you automatically throw your bullies for a loop! Take your unpredictable behavior up several notches and bullies will be intimidated.
Now. Before I go on, let me mention that here’s one good thing about your predictability- you’ve gotten your bullies so used to your patterns that you’ve lulled them off to sleep, which will make any versatility on your part all the more powerful once you start deliberately changing your reactions to their attacks.
So, here goes:
If you’re a target of bullying, you want to make it look you have no clear strategy. You must scramble your behavior patterns and your reactions to confuse the bullies if you want them to back off. And when you do, not only will it confuse them, it’ll scare the stupid out of them!
I’ll use a scenario with one of my old classmates as an example:
Just two years ago, Carol, one of my old classmates, attacked me online after she found out that I was collaborating with a producer out of New York on a screenplay adaptation of my first published book.
Let me start by saying that we hadn’t seen each other since high school. Back then, I was quiet, shy and timid girl, but with a hair-trigger temper when I was pushed too far. That’s how Carol had remembered me.
And had she verbally attacked me back then, I either would’ve walked away from her without saying anything back to her, or, on a bad day, I would’ve fought fire with fire- screaming back at her, cursing her out and calling her every name but a child of God.
This time, I did neither. As you’ll see in the screenshots below, I reacted in a way she never expected me to.
Carol expected me to fly off the handle, have a moment of sheer stupidity, and counter-attack with the same vitriol and craziness she dished out to me first. Then she could have used my counter-attack against me and made me look like the instigator. That’s exactly what she had plans to do, and I knew it.
Instead of reacting, I responded.
I remained calm and told her how it was without name-calling, without cursing, and without using all caps. And boy! Did it throw her into a hissy fit! Carol literally FREAKED! ‘Had a complete meltdown online as she sent me hateful message after hateful message. I happily took screenshots and outed her all over social media before finally blocking her.
By reacting in a way I knew she never expected, I threw her off balance and not only instilled fear, but induced panic and rage in her. I shook her up so much so that she couldn’t think clearly nor rationally. She stumbled, making blunder after blunder.
In being unpredictable, I forced her to give me the goods I needed to expose her with. She fell face-first into the trap I calmly laid for her, and I have to admit. Outsmarting her felt soooo good! Carol played right into my hands and didn’t realize her mistake until after she’d calmed down. But by then, it was too late. Carol had made herself look like a complete lunatic and had I acted as she had, I would’ve looked just as nutty as she did.
‘You see? When you deliberately respond in ways your bullies don’t expect, you throw them off-kilter and force them to react out of fear, confusion, even anger. And when a person reacts out of pure emotion, they make a truckload of mistakes, blunders, and gaffes, then end up making a colossal fool of themselves.
Even better, after I exposed Carol online, many other old classmates, out of loyalty to her, came to her defense and attacked me the same way she had. Although they knew that she was in the wrong and that she’d attacked me without provocation, their loyalty to their old high school buddy was much stronger than their sense of right and wrong.
Carol’s, brother, sister and son also joined in the vitriol. They even went to the pages of my husband and my son and attacked them too. Carol’s allies didn’t private message them but went to their public pages where all could see. In doing this, they also exposed themselves for the idiots they were while we sat back and laughed.
That’s what reacting out of emotion does. It causes us to make dumb mistakes.
Needless to say, after I exposed them (or they exposed themselves) those people backed off quickly and I never heard from them again. Neither did my family. They now stay far away because they were surprised to find that I’m nowhere near as naïve as I was in high school. I stayed calm and was smart enough to deflect their attacks and use them against them.
Again. Understand that by doing something unexpected, you gain a huge advantage over your bullies. And when bullies can’t figure out what you’re going to do, it scares them to death and they’ll almost always react out of fear!
Nothing is more frightening than when you make a move nobody would ever expect. It’s the reason natural disasters are so scary because no one knows when and where they’ll hit next. It’s why deer hunters can track down their prey and kill them. They know the habits and patterns of behavior of the deer they hunt.
Realize that habits and patterns are the worst things that go against a target of bullying because bullies pick up on your routines and use them against you.
In closing, you must learn to unsettle your bullies by allowing them to see you do things they’d never expect. If a bully launches an attack, you should counter-attack suddenly, without warning, in a way they’d wouldn’t expect you to, and when they least expect it.
You must purposefully mislead your bullies to trick them into an emotional reaction!
If you’re going to be predictable, don’t stay that way. Do it for long enough that your bullies get used to your patterns and are lulled into a false sense of security, then strike suddenly with something unexpected! And that’s how you get them to leave you alone!
Although being bullied is no fun and can be damaging to the psyche, there are many lessons that can be learned from it. Here’s what it taught me.
1. The evils humans are capable of and their predatory nature. People can be the evilest and the cruelest of all living things. Not everyone is inherently good. Being bullied taught me to be on the lookout for those who would secretly wish to harm my loved ones or me. It taught me to watch for enemies disguised as friends and to pay close attention to body language, expressions, and any micro flashes. And it taught me exactly what signs in other people to watch for.
2. Empathy and Compassion. Being bullies taught me empathy and compassion for others. Because I know first hand what it is and how it feels to be a target of bullies, I make it a point to extend kindness, especially to people whom others have unjustly marginalized and misjudged. I believe in spreading the same goodness and dignity to the janitor as I would the CEO.
3. To never take anyone for granted. Because I know what it is to be rejected by everyone and to be left alone to fend for myself, I have nothing but appreciation for the people in my life and all the good they bring. I make it a point never to take my family and friends for granted, and I will fight to protect them if they’re being mistreated or are in some trouble. I value loyalty, and I extend it to the people who matter to me. If you are a person I love and you tell me a secret, you can bet that your secret will be safe with me. And if anyone trash talks you, I’ll defend you even when you aren’t around to see it.
4. To value, love, and take care of myself. Because, let’s face it. No one else will. It’s so important to put yourself first. No matter what anyone thinks or says, be true to yourself. Be yourself. And don’t let bullies distort your self-esteem or tell you “it isn’t cool” if there’s something you really enjoy doing. Take care of yourself. Stand up for yourself. Do what fulfills you and makes you happy. And forget the rest. Confidence and self-love are the most important things you can have.
5. To go after my goals and dreams. If there’s anything I want in life, I go after it. I work hard for what I want because I’ve gotten enough of what I don’t. Being bullied gave me the tenacity to reach my goals and dreams. And I’ve made several accomplishments- accomplishments I probably never would’ve made had I not been a target of bullying. Bullies only fuel my motivation to reach more successes and live a happy life. So, instead of holding grudges against your bullies, use them as your drive to reach heights you never thought possible! Because happiness and success are the best revenge you can ever take.
6. To never be afraid to say “no” or set boundaries. I learned the hard way that if you don’t say no nor set boundaries, people will walk all over you. And sometimes, even if you do, there will be those who will double down and challenge those boundaries. But you must stay firm no matter what. You might be retaliated against for it, but at least you’ll feel better later, in knowing that you stood up for yourself. And as the old saying goes, “I’d rather die on my feet than to live on my knees.”
Finding the lessons in bullying will make you a happier person later on. It did me!
To become comfortable in your own skin, it takes several years and plenty of life lessons and experiences. It takes being knocked down enough times by enough people before you can finally say, enough is enough and choose to be happy.
And when we choose to be happy, despite our imperfections and what others think or say of us, we choose to be truly free! Free from the constraints of longing to fit in- free from the constraints of conformity!
To be comfortable in your own skin means loving and accepting all parts of you- the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
It means doing what fulfills you and makes you happy.
It means living life on your own terms.
It means refusing to apologize for who you are.
It means allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.
It means refusing to live up to standards and expectations other than your own.
It means making time for hobbies and interests.
It means making time for your family and closest friends.
It means not being afraid to say no or to set boundaries.
It means not being afraid to ask for what you want.
It means following your dreams.
It means working toward your goals.
It means celebrating your successes and accomplishments.
It means not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.
It means being selective of friends and who you spend time with.
It means accepting and embracing differences in people.
It means having empathy and compassion for others.
It means putting yourself and your health first.
It means being realistic with goals and patient with the time it takes to reach them.
It means being present in the moment.
It means knowing your limitations.
It means knowing what you want in life and going after it.
It means being clear on what you will and will not tolerate.
It means loving yourself enough to know when it’s time to walk away.
It means knowing that you’re worthy of respect, love, compassion, friendship, and peace.
I’ve read and heard many stories of schools retaliating against parents for speaking out about the bullying their child suffers while attending class, and for their (the parents’) refusal to keep silent. These stories are heartbreaking.
Understand that school officials are elected officials- politicians. And schools will protect their reputations by any means.
Here are ways schools try to hide bullying:
1. They vehemently deny bullying in their facilities.
2. They protect bullies.
3. They don’t report bullying incidents to the child’s parents and refuse to show any videos of bullying or fights to the bullied child’s parents.
4. They answer any questions with blanket statements or refuse to comment altogether.
5. They threaten to call Children’s Services and have the target removed from their home.
6. They have the parents banned from the school.
7. They have the parent arrested.
8. They threaten to have the child reported to the juvenile authorities.
9. They have the child arrested and sent to juvie.
Schools have more power than we realize, and if their reputation is at risk, some will do anything to silence the bullied child and their parents and shut down any awareness of any bullying that goes on.
Also, understand that schools have Sovereign Immunity and will hide behind it. Sovereign Immunity is the stipulation that protects a federal or state government entity from litigation. Therefore, it’s difficult to file a lawsuit against a school or school district. Lawsuits against schools have been filed and, yes, even won. But the statistics of such are low.
Here are things you can do as a parent:
1. Keep speaking out- through social media, word of mouth, and even the news media if you have to.
2. If you live in a one-party consent area, plant a recording device somewhere on your child to record any bullying.
3. Save any emails to and from the school. You’ll want to leave a trail.
4. Document everything in detail and have your child do their own documenting. Include date, time, what happened, and the names of bullies, bystanders, and school staff. Be sure and write down where it happened and if possible, why it happened. Also, jot down any events that led up to the bullying. Include as many details as possible!!!!!
It’s always best to keep good records and keep them in a safe and undisclosed place!!!