Having been a target of bullying in the past and spoken to other survivors of bullying through the years, I’ve noticed another factor that marks people for bullying- a virtue that bullies, authoritarians, and despots despise in others- virtues that make targets, well… targets.
People like us tend to think critically. We’re not like most people. We don’t blindly trust, follow, and obey authoritarian types who think they know more than we do. We question authority. We automatically ask ourselves, “If we follow along, what’s in it for them?” We figure out what their possible motives are.
We aren’t too lazy to read the fine print or do our research and figure out the facts. We’re also superb at reading between the lines- reading subtext and deciphering context, non-verbal communication, and probing for incongruencies. If something feels “off,” we’re automatically suspicious of it. We know that 2+2=4, not 5! And we know when someone is trying to manipulate us. We practically have a radar for manipulation.
We question narratives. We probe the status quo. We do things differently and make it a point to live life on our terms, not someone else’s. And we’re willing to take whatever comes with it. We refuse to be controlled by feckless fools who are drunk with power. We know all too well that power corrupts because we’ve been victims of it. Everyone is at some point.
People like us are not likely to be ruled by fear. We follow our own intuitions and are very creative with new ideas. We consistently search for better ways of doing, living, and being. Most others hate that about us. Why? Because most people are trained to follow, and they fall in line and take the safest way through life.
But we’re not afraid to be different. Again, bullies loathe us for that! And the unspoken messages we get from every direction are clear:
How dare you?
How dare you question those in power?
How dare you scrutinize the beloved and timeless status quo?
How dare you think that you can live your life your way?
Who do you think you are?
How dare you presume to know what’s best for you? Better than peers, teachers, supervisors, institutions, media, governments, and other entities of the ruling authority?
How dare you think that you know more about yourself than we do?
We’re the experts! Not you!
We have the degrees and credentials! Not you!
Oh, the nerve!
How dare we?
Oh, yes! People like us get those subliminal messages every day. And when we see that it’s all to their benefit and not ours, we’re not afraid to give the rule-makers a proverbial middle finger. We may not come out and say it, but we show it in our calm and quiet disobedience and refusal to go along. We do it by simply continuing to live our lives the way we want and in a way that gives us advantages.
Bullies hate us because we don’t walk lightly. We’re not afraid to make waves. We’re willing to rock the boat if we don’t like something. We don’t mind going against the grain if we suspect that “the rules” might harm us. Why? Because we cherish freedom, autonomy, and self-determination. And we’ll die before we give them up.
Only we can possibly know what’s best for us and no one else. Only we can determine what makes us happy and what will make our lives better. Only we can choose our individual destinies. Only we can define our individual inner realities. Nobody else in the entire world is privy to these things.
With knowledge comes empowerment.