Targets and Survivors of Bullying and Self-Defeating Behavior

Targets and many survivors of bullying have self-esteems that have been repeatedly injured, and when one’s self-esteem is injured, sometimes they will have trouble making friends and attracting suitors for dates and romance.

This can be because of two things, the person either becomes angry because they feel they were judged unfairly, or they resign themselves as social failures and withdraw.

The anger helps to protect the target’s self-esteem. Moreover, the target’s anger is heightened due to having been programmed by bad life experiences to sometimes mistake comments for insults.

If it’s constructive criticism, the target may wonder if the person doing the criticizing is trying to help them or only trying to show them that they’re smarter or implying that he (the target) is stupid.

Many targets are bullied for so long that their social development has been stunted. Therefore, many targets and survivors may be successful in everything except relationships with others. This is because they’ve been made to believe that they’re unlovable and thus, don’t trust anyone else when they show them affection and profess love.

These people only see other people’s attempts at love and friendship as manipulation because it’s what they’ve come to expect.

Many targets and survivors of bullying are often looked at as standoffish, stuck-up, or snobbish because they feel safer keeping other people at arm’s length. Because of this arm’s-length approach to social situations, people see the target or survivor of bullying as being wrapped up in themselves when, in fact, they’re insecure because of mistreatment they endure.

The unspoken message from the person is “don’t get too close” and it comes from their fear of being rejected, hurt, and worse- bullied again. So, they put on a cool front to hide their nervousness.

On top of being bullied by peers, many targets and survivors have or have had a parent overcriticize and belittle them, which only doubles the insecurity. So, they find it much safer to overprotect themselves and build a wall to keep potential enemies out. They go out of their way to avoid exposing themselves to rejection, and thus, appear to others as cold and detached.

Like anyone else, targets and survivors desire love, and they have a bigger desire for it than most. However, their intense fear of being bullied blocks them from getting that love because to get love requires a degree of vulnerability.

Being able to enjoy friendship, love, and affection means letting down your guard and taking risks. Sadly, many targets and survivors are too afraid to lower their defenses.

If this post describes you, I want you to know that I completely understand because I’ve been right where you are now. However, I can’t stress enough the importance and necessity of putting yourself out there and taking the risk.

To see positive change, you must shed this protective armor if you want to attain the friendship and love you so desire. Because the self-protective measures that you have taken are exactly what is repelling others and keeping you isolated. Being aloof and distant may indeed feel safe, but it’s also self-defeating because it keeps love out.

So, step out in faith and I promise you that you will see change you never thought possible. You’ll have good friends who will love you for simply being you. Hey! It happened for me and it will happen for you too!

😊

Turning the Fiercest Bully into The Greatest of Friends

Shelly (not her real name) had been one of my most vicious of bullies during school. Every time we passed one another in the halls, at a ballgame, anywhere and we would not hesitate to exchange nasty sentiments as we passed, “Bitch!”, “Whore!” “Skank!”. Thinking up ways to degrade and slut-shame each other was always a top priority during these little meetings.

Fast-forward twenty years, in late 2007, I went to a karaoke show, which was held in the Moose Lodge club on the outskirts of town to celebrate my recently having the courage to break off what had been a 2 1/2 year-long abusive relationship. I hadn’t known my own strength until this point, and I was ready for a fun girl’s night out.

When I arrived at the Moose Lodge with a few friends in tow, the first word I heard was, “Oh my God! Not that bitch!” Honestly, I thought the verbal assault was directed at someone else until I looked up and saw her. There Shelly stood, pool cue in one hand, the other hand resting on her boyfriend’s back as her eyes and brows narrowed into little slits in her face and bore into me like a sharp object.

I had not seen her in so many years and wondered how it was that she’d managed to drag around so much hate for so many years when I had completely forgotten about her amid juggling bills, a job and family, and other adult priorities. But I also discovered that maybe I too had some unresolved hate as well only it was a case of out of sight, out of mind.

I’d soon learn that that night, Shelly was going through the lowest point in her life. Life hadn’t been kind to her.

It seemed that on her part, even twenty years, marriages and children hadn’t been enough to erase the teenage animosity she still held. We lived in a small Southern town, and in small Southern towns, very few people ever forget the past, and it’s very easy for the reputation you once had in your teens to follow you for the rest of your life. Sadly, this is how it is in a small town.

Having always loved music and had vocal talent, I got up and sang one of my favorite songs, and everyone cheered once I was finished. After I sat down, Shelly sat down beside me and was very impressed with my performance. She told me that she admired my voice and that she’d always known I could sing but didn’t know I was that good. At first, I was flabbergasted. This was the first positive remark I’d heard from her, but nevertheless, I was grateful.

I smiled and gave her a gracious “Thank you. It’s good to see you again after all these years.”

We continued to talk, and she took some pictures out of her purse to show me. Pictures of what was her talent- woodwork and paintings, the most beautiful work I’d ever seen. This lady was very talented, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t deny it. I truly loved her work and could not stop looking at those pictures and complimenting her. She truly was an expert at woodworking and oil painting.

It was at that point that the dynamics of our relationship changed for the better. We exchanged phone numbers and soon began calling each other and texting cute little funnies back and forth. Then we began to invite each other to family outings, cookouts, and meetings in town for lunch.

We soon became the greatest of friends, and I grew to truly love this lady. We often talked about how we missed out on what could have been a wonderful friendship years ago.

“Boy! We were stupid back then, weren’t we?” Shelly laughed.

I laughed and readily agreed. She was right. We were dumb kids with big mouths and bad attitudes.

Knowing the past couldn’t be changed, we were content to go from the present and make our friendship as fun and drama-free as possible.

This story’s moral is this: It is always possible to turn a bully or enemy into a friend. Nothing is impossible. All it takes is to break down that wall and show the other person genuine interest. Everybody loves it when you are interested in them, their likes, and how things are going in their lives—even the coldest and meanest of people.

As humans, we all have a certain degree of selfishness. We all want the same things- to be loved, appreciated, and respected. Everybody has a void waiting to be filled. If we can fill the void- whether it’s by making the person feel loved and respected or giving the person some sense of who they are and where they belong, it can be the difference between gaining a friend or keeping an enemy.

Through our many talks, I found out that this poor lady I thought was so cruel yet totally in control and didn’t need anyone was really a girl who didn’t feel loved by anyone. She was just as sad as I was but had put on a tough exterior. Also, she had suffered incidences of bullying herself; though not as severe as I did, it still hurt her immensely.

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Sadly, my beautiful friend Shelly passed away two years ago from cancer. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and think of her. I’ll never forget that night at the karaoke club, the night Shelly and I became close friends. And we remained like sisters until the day she died.

By showing her genuine interest, without fakery, I was able to turn one of my most resistant bullies into one of my best friends.

Fly high, Shelly! Until we meet again on those golden streets!

Who Are the People Most Hurtful to a Target? ‘Tisn’t the Bullies.

It wasn’t the attacks from the bullies themselves. The bullies were the people from whom I’d come to expect that kind of behavior. From them, any vitriol, any vile and disgusting words and actions came as no surprise to me!

What hurt more than anything was the betrayal– when those I thought were my friends would so quickly and without question believe the lies and rumors that my bullies had spread. It was akin to being kicked in the stomach. Also, these so-called friends in school never had my back. Some even had the power to stop the bullying and protect me but refused, only throwing me under the bus.

Friends are supposed to be the people who believe the best of you. They are supposed to have your back any time someone attacks you. They’ll speak on your behalf when another person so much as badmouths you behind your back but in front of them, and they’ll stick up for you even when you’re not around to see them do it. Real friends are with you no matter what, especially when the chips are down. They will go to hell and back for you.

But sadly, during school, the people I thought I could trust did the opposite; they’d either go along with or believe the lies- and without bothering to ask me first!

My fake friends often sold me out- delivered me up to my bullies- with my head on a plate.

Rejection and mistreatment from a bully are easier to deal with because, from a bully, you expect nothing more. It’s much harder to take when it comes from someone you think is a friend and think highly of. When I look back now, I realize that I didn’t have friends in school until I was in the twelfth grade.

Before senior year, I only kept these so-called pals around and put up with them because they were the only options I had. It was pathetic.

The betrayals I suffered years ago is why I’m so selective of who I let in my life today. It’s also why I prefer to keep my circle small. I’d rather have only a handful of real friends than a million half-baked, fake ones. But we don’t value ourselves like we should when we’re teenagers and haven’t been in the world very long.

Too many people are overly concerned with having a large number of friends but don’t realize that real friends- people who have your back, who have your best at heart and will go to bat for you under the worst conditions- are a rare commodity and don’t come around every day.

Finding genuine friends is like opening a thousand empty oysters and finding only five or six pearls. These are the friends who are worth more than gold! And if you have them, you’d better appreciate them for all that they are!

When I meet a new person for the first time, I no longer wonder whether they’ll like me; I now wonder if I’m going to like them. I choose who I let in and who I give the boot, and if I stop having anything to do with someone, you can bet they betrayed me somehow, and I consider betrayal a deadly sin that will get someone dismissed very quickly.

I know what I want in a friend, and I won’t settle for anything less because anything less than desired is unacceptable. Loyalty is a virtue I look for, and if the person isn’t loyal, they aren’t worthy!

I want you to understand that if you have friends who are so quick to believe the lies your bullies tell them that they get angry with you and refuse to speak to you, guess what? These people are not your friends. They never were! Why else would they take your bullies’ word over yours and be so quick to turn against you?

Maybe those you thought were your friends only tolerated you because they felt sorry for you. And why would you settle for someone’s pity? Or, maybe your so-called friends didn’t have many options themselves, and you were only a second choice friend, or worse! The last-resort-friend! Ewww! Who wants that!

If you have friends who don’t stand with you and fade into the woodwork when your bullies attack you, they’re not worth your time or energy. Friends like that don’t deserve the privilege of being a part of your life. You’re better off without them.

You need to ditch these losers and find better friends, even if it means you have to be by yourself for a while. Hey, I know it sucks. Nobody wants to be alone. However, you must learn to be your own best friend before anyone else can.

Sometimes you must clean out all the trash to make room for the good stuff- the people who deserve to be in your life.

Continued in Part 2…

Winning Over Your Enemies

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It’s something you can do. I’ve seen other people do it, and I’ve done it. However, a couple of things need to happen before you can win over an enemy: first, the enemy must be open to you winning them over. In other words, the person has to want it and not resist it. Then, you must show genuine interest in them and their lives, and it has to be real and not fake.

Understand that enemies are naturally resistant to us. Why? Because, to an enemy, you’re the bad guy. It doesn’t matter that you’re a great person with a giving heart. You may be the most fun and cheerful person in the world, even liked by many. None of that will make a difference to your enemies.

To an enemy, you’re suspect even when you’re on your best behavior and whether it’s real. An enemy doesn’t care how kind and down to earth you are. They could care less about your charm and charisma. Any kindness, genuineness, smarts, and talents- any positive qualities you may possess are all null and void to your enemy.

All that matters to an enemy is that you are who you are, and they resent you for it. Nothing more.

But would you even want to win over such a person? I wouldn’t. With an enemy such as this, it’s better to leave them where they are and keep it moving because there’ll be some enemies you can’t win over no matter what. Others, you can but be cautious.

Whether you win over an enemy depends on the person with whom you’re dealing.

Years ago, I did win over an enemy from school- a staunch enemy. We became close friends and remained close until the day she passed away. It was a blessing because she became a blessing to my life, and I became a blessing to hers. And I did it by showing genuine interest in her after she brought her defenses down and showed me the same. It was one of God’s beautiful miracles, I believe.

We discovered things about each other that we never even suspected. This lady had been a target of bullying herself. She, too, had been judged and persecuted by others, and harshly so. And other than the petty rumors I’d heard about her, I hadn’t known it was as bad as it was. She’d had to fight her way through school, and like me, she was only trying to survive.

I want you to realize that this doesn’t work with everyone, especially an enemy who’s narcissistic. If you show genuine interest in a narcissist, you’ll only be feeding them their much-needed narcissistic supply, and they’ll only steamroll you with it. A narcissist only sees another’s genuine interest or love as bowing down and kissing their arse.

Narcissists only get a thrill out of it and take it as a green light to use you for what they get out of you- even if the benefits are nothing more than an ego boost. To a narcissist, you’re not a separate human being with feelings, thoughts, perspectives, and goals of your own. No. You’re an object who’s only here for their convenience.

True friends are hard to find and don’t come along every day. You must pick and choose wisely.

It’s the same with enemies you chose to win over. Yes, turning an enemy into a friend is fantastic and can be rewarding. But it’s wise to be selective of those you chose to win over because not everyone deserves a place in your life.

When a Bully Becomes a Buddy

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There is always a possibility that bullies eventually become friends. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. And when it does, it often becomes one of the best friendships ever! I don’t know why it is but it seems like the bonds are much tighter than if you’ve never been enemies.

I turned a years-long bully into a buddy by appealing to her self-interest and realizing what her desires were. And what I learned was that, more than anything, she wanted to feel validated, valued, and loved.

This lady had been bullied in school herself. And I found that she would get bullied and afterward, she’d come around and bully me. Then, being a smart-mouthed teenager, I would bully her back. Between the two of us, it was tit for tat.

We both left high school, got married, had families of our own, created our own lives, and didn’t see each other again.

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Almost twenty years later, I ran into her again at a bar and grill. If looks could kill, I would’ve been dead on the floor because, when we locked eyes, she immediately knew who I was and that look came over her face- the same expression I remembered from high school.

It was clear that even after all those years, the same hatred was still there- the only things that changed were that we were now adults, we were both mothers, and had marriages behind us. So naturally, I mirrored her reaction.

A few weeks later, I saw her again when I sang in a karaoke contest and won. She was in the audience. After the show was over, she came up and congratulated me, and although I was stunned, I was grateful and thanked her.

We soon began talking as she whipped out of her purse a mini photo album and showed me pictures of her woodwork and paintings. And I’ve got to tell you! This lady was uber-talented!

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Her work looked so professionally done! As I gazed in awe at the pictures and admired what I saw, an epiphany hit me. I realized that all she wanted was to be validated.

I’ll never forget how her eyes lit up when I genuinely complimented her work.

With time, we grew closer and she soon became one of my best friends. ‘You see? She needed someone to make her feel as if she mattered and I gave her that.

We grew to love each other very much. The two of us would go to lunch together, spend girl-time together laughing, chit-chatting, and talking about our kids and our lives. We’d even stick up for one another when we had to.

She and I stayed friends until she died after a three-year-long battle with cancer. She’s been gone for two years now and I still think of her- a lot! I miss her just as much as I did the day she passed away and I’m wiping away tears as I type.

Life hasn’t been quite the same without my beautiful girl-pal. How I wish I could call her!

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Our early enmity and later friendship taught me so much! And that to turn an enemy into a friend, it takes finding out what the other person’s deepest desires are, what voids they may have, and what kind of wounds they’re nursing. You must then help them fulfill those desires, fill the voids, and heal the wounds.

You must make them feel good about themselves by giving them recognition for their talents and successes, respect for the person they are, and unconditional love and friendship. You must value their trust as you would gold. Then make sure it’s reciprocated. Once those requirements are met, you know you’ve turned an enemy into a friend.

This is not to say that this will work for everyone because some bullies will think there’s an ulterior motive and only double-down on their hatred of you. Some will only fear that their softening toward you will be a win for you. But we were the lucky ones.

May you sing and dance down the streets of gold

May you wade in the Crystal Sea
Until I see you again at the pearly gates

In Loving Memory
Stephanie Rains Shoemake
1971 – 2017

Never Chase Anyone Who Doesn’t See Your Worth

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Many victims of bullying are so anxious to make friends that they don’t set boundaries as to the way people should treat them. As long as long as they don’t have to be by themselves, they overlook the shoddy ways their so-called friends treat them.

They get hurt many times over because it turns out that their pals are only tolerating them. And by the time the target realizes those people aren’t good for them, they’ve been hurt, used and humiliated enough times that their self-esteem is damaged.

Here’s my advice to targets who feel lonely and desperate for friends:

Never chase anyone who does not see your worth! It is beneath you and those who do not value you, no matter how ‘cool’ they act or look, do not deserve the privilege of being in your life. You need to cleanse your life of these toxic people.

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I realize that if you are a target of bullying, your options for friendship are extremely limited and I know all too well of the humiliation of sitting alone at the lunch table while everyone else gets to enjoy having friends around them. Believe me, I was there myself once upon a time.

However, if the options that you do have for friends are only tolerating you and they turn hot and cold, exclude you or talk behind your back, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate those friendships.

There is a difference between someone who genuinely likes you and someone who is only tolerating you. And you always know when someone is only tolerating you because of the way you feel when that person is around. You can feel it in your gut. You can hear the shortness and coldness in the tone of their voices. You can see it in the way that they look at you (or refuse to look at you).

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You can feel the cold vibes that they put out. There is nothing worse than the realization that someone whom you think highly of thinks very little of you. It is the most uncomfortable and sickening feeling. It is the equivalent of being kicked in the stomach!

But I want you to know that you do not have to be around such poisonous people. Anyone who makes you feel uneasy does not deserve your friendship. It does not matter if they are rich, good looking, popular, successful, cool, tough or whatever.

If they make you feel bad about yourself,ditch them! Weed. Then. OUT! They are not worthy of being in your company. You are better off without them. Understand that this may mean staying to yourself for a time.

No one wants to be a loner. I understand it and I sympathize with you. However, I believe that it’s much better to be alone than to crawl up behind anyone who does not see your value.

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It won’t be easy. Nothing worthwhile is. It takes courage to walk away from a person or people who take you for granted, especially when options for human connections are so few.

And I won’t lie to you, you may be by yourself for a while. It may get lonely, even sad, and depressing at times. But be strong and stay true to your own heart! You deserve so much better!

I promise you this. It may take a while, but if you have the courage to walk away from such people, life will eventually reward you for your courage by placing better and more loving people in your path- people who will genuinely love you, and have your best interests at heart.

You will have better friends- friends who want to spend time with you, who want to invite you to parties and other events, and who will be there for you when the chips are down. You will have friends who are tried and true.

Be patient. Your time is coming!