Why Targets Can Become Bullies Themselves

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I wasn’t only a target. I also became a bully after being hurt for so long and made to feel powerless. I admit this today with the greatest sadness and remorse. I didn’t like myself very much in those days.

Like attracts like. Good produces more good and evil begets evil. Reactive bullying is a defense mechanism used by victims of bullying- bullying in response to the abuse they face every day. Targets of bullying feel that they have power over nothing, and it’s a feeling that’s the equivalent to a slow death. Some victims learn very quickly to become bullies themselves to reclaim some of the power their tormentors have taken from them. Because their classmates torment them, victims often get the impression that to stay off the bottom of the pecking order, they must find a target of their own to degrade and humiliate.

People need to have control over something. It’s a natural human need. Bully-victims, as we call them, often bully others who are more powerless to make themselves feel better about themselves. Crap always rolls downhill and no one wants to be at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Just as there are people who fight to stay on top, there are others who struggle just as hard to keep off the bottom. An example of this would be: A child gets yelled at by parents, then goes outside and kicks the dog. It is the same with most bully targets.

I was guilty of the same thing. I am ashamed to admit how cruelly judgmental I had become in high school. I consistently pointed a finger, I scoffed and laughed at people, and I scapegoated those I thought were weak and pieces of scum. I thumbed my nose, looked down on, talked down to, and lorded over particular kids. And I did it in front of an audience. All because I felt powerless!

At the time, it was the only way I knew to survive.

The bullying I dished out to these kids served as a temporary fix to my brokenness. It was only a salve and a Band-Aid. It was akin to being a drug addict and getting a hit to keep painful withdrawals away. It took away the symptoms but not the cause. It was the same when I would bully and look down on people less fortunate than I was. The self-esteem high I would get from looking upon these types with scorn and loftiness was always short-lived.

And so, anytime I would start to come down from my self-esteem high, I would have to, once again, look for someone else weaker than me, to pick apart and degrade by pointing out their bad qualities to feel good again. I constantly probed others, looking for shortcomings that I could use against them. If I could not find any flaws, I would simply make them up and then convince my target of it. It was a cycle that would continue for a few more years, and today, I hate that I resorted to that.

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I am telling you this because I have been on both sides of the fence. I have been both a target and a bully. Understand that there is something seriously wrong with anyone who has to resort to bullying to feel good about themselves. If you have to look down on someone and mistreat them by pointing out their misfortunes or less than desirable qualities, the real problem is within yourself. You’re only trying to hide your own imperfections by highlighting the flaws of another person.

One doesn’t achieve real confidence by resorting to these harmful and temporary fixes. Real security flows continuously and is steady. It oozes from every fiber of your being naturally and effortlessly. Authentic confidence is unshakeable!

It is quiet, and there is no need to boast. There is no need to cause psychological, physical, emotional or spiritual harm to another human being to achieve it. It is still there but obscured- hidden because some creep from the past has wounded you so severely that you have suppressed it out of fear. I believe that each one of us is born with confidence and a heart of gold. Yet over time, our environments, circumstances, and sadly, the people in our lives can slowly chip away and erode the natural confidence and goodness we were born with.

After being hurt for so long, we withdraw from others and put up a barrier. We turn cold and begin to harden ourselves to numb feelings of rejection and the pain that comes with it. Before long, we regard the feelings and suffering of others with indifference. We don’t give a crap about anyone, how they feel or what they think, sometimes even the people who love us. We no longer have any respect for others, much less ourselves. Lastly, we come to that evil place where schadenfreude takes hold, and we secretly or openly, take pleasure in seeing others, especially those we despise, suffer.

I can say this because I was there. I allowed my bullies to change me from a caring, loving child to an evil, spiteful teenager. I had become this person my parents never taught me to be. I was angry, full of bitterness and spite because of the horrible way others had treated me. I went from being friendly and accepting of everyone, regardless of what they had, to this cruel, cold, heartless human being who picked out the imperfections of others and used them to degrade them.

How had I learned to be so cold, calculating and heartless? My bullies had taught me. From my cruel and narcissistic classmates, I learned how to bully and degrade with stealth and precision. They had taught me by doing the same to me. I learned from them how to be meticulous and cunning with my taunts.

I used to get my kicks out of seeing others’ friendships and relationships end. At different times in high school, I would instigate fights between other people, then stand back and watch proudly what I, at the time, referred to as my handiwork. I enjoyed watching the two girls that I had very stealthily turned against one another, duke it out between themselves, laughing inside while making sure to cover up my bursting gratification with a false look of concern.

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And why did I do this? Because I had no real friendships myself and was jealous of other girls’ friendships. I wanted to destroy those friendships to feel like I was not the only one. I tried to inflict pain on them because I was suffering. And it would feel so much better to have someone else suffering along with me than to suffer alone. Because I was miserable, I wanted someone else to be unhappy too.

I was in a very dark place then, but I am happy to say that I have managed to dig myself out of that hole, and now that I am wiser, no one will ever again put me back in that place, EVER! Also, I now enjoy seeing others happy and fulfilled.

You do not have to do what I did and change your personality to survive. You don’t need to become evil and spiteful like your bullies. It’s not necessary to inflict chaos in the lives of others to feel better about yourself. There are better ways to feel good and to be happy.

Instead of bullying the bully, continue to be yourself. Kill them with kindness or come back at them with something funny to throw him off-kilter. It will take the wind out of their sales because they cannot shake you. Even better, you will feel better about yourself in the long run, just knowing that you did not have to turn into some venomous snake to survive, and the confidence that you get from this will be authentic and long-lasting. Whereas, the power you get from bullying others will always be superficial and short-lived. As a result, you will be on a constant search for flaws and fodder to use against people to feel better. You will also search for a backup victim in case your usual target is not available. Take it from someone who has lived it, this is exhausting and is certainly no way to live.

Better yet, befriend the kids who are more powerless than you because it’s a sure bet that your classmates or coworkers bully them too. Befriend every bullied person in your school or workplace, make them your allies, and be an ally to them because there’s strength in numbers! Bullies will seldom approach people in groups because they’re nothing but cowards. Bullies are like wild animals and prefer to target the person who is separate from the herd because it makes the person vulnerable.

I want you to know that being bullied does not give you the right to become a bully. Think about how you feel when someone mistreats you. Now think about how your target must feel. Any satisfaction you get from bullying another person is temporary. Whereas, the power that you get from showing kindness and love is infinite!

The Power of Saying “No!”

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Saying “no” can be difficult and at times, even downright scary. Like when bullies are trying to force you to do something you don’t want to do and threatening either physical harm or worse social exclusion if you don’t do what they want you to do? I know the feeling because I’ve been there.

Nobody wants to get hurt, and the natural human response is to submit to make the pain and torment, or the threat of, stop. In your mind, you’re thinking, “Alright, alright! I’ll do it if you’ll go away and leave me alone!” I get that because it’s what I did. I submitted to my bullies many times, too many times, falling for the false promises that they would let me be and stop hurting me. But-

They never made good on those promises. The harassment didn’t stop. If anything, it only got worse! Anytime I did say no, I got threatened and yes, even physically attacked.

Saying no to a bully is never an easy option. It’s often risky, especially with bullies, because they don’t take no for an answer, least of all from their targets! However, not only is it necessary and imperative, but it feels darn good sometimes!
If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve said the word “no” a lot more than I did, regardless of the retaliation I would have faced, unless one of my bullies had done something drastic, like pulled a gun. That would’ve been an entirely different story.

In no way would I advice anyone to risk their life. If someone pulls a gun on me, I will do what I must do to stay alive! I’ll do what he wants and tell him what he wants to hear. I’ll dance a jig wearing fluorescent orange and white polka-dotted bell bottoms if it keeps me from dying!

But if they only threaten me with the business end of their fists and I know I’m only going to come out of it with a shiner and a fat lip, then it’s much safer to say no. Those wounds will heal. But the psychological injury of wishing I hadn’t let myself down will last for years.

However, if you do choose physical safety first, I want you to know that you’re not wrong for that. In no way will I ever think less of you if you submit to your bullies’ demands. As I mentioned earlier, a natural reaction is to obey to keep from being harmed.

And the winner is...

Today, I say that little two-letter word a lot more and will continue to say it in the future, no matter what people say, how they feel about it or what they do. I would much rather get the crap kicked out of me and still feel good about myself for taking a stand than to spare myself a beating because I caved under pressure and let myself down by doing something I didn’t want to do. To me, that’s worse than getting my butt kicked! But that’s just me.

My physical wounds healed, but knowing I let someone else force me to do something I neither wanted to nor agreed to, left a psychological injury that took a long time to recover from. I ended up asking myself, “Now, why didn’t I tell those creeps to take a flying leap off the highest cliff head first?” That feeling of powerlessness was worse than the physical pain I would have suffered.

So, permit yourself to say that tiny little word because it can be so empowering! You may indeed get your tail kicked, but at least you’ll feel good knowing you got hurt because you stood for something! Those psychological benefits will significantly outweigh the embarrassment of any beat down! Besides, you forced a bully to do something foolish and which will likely get him in trouble with an adult or the law! So, I ask you! Who’s the real winner here?