Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. This blog series talks about the bully you’ve let build up inside your own head, putting you down, preventing you from achieving, making you feel bad.
But let’s step back and talk about the external bully.
It is my opinion that in our society’s “Stop the Bullying” campaign, we are focusing on the wrong person. We’re focusing on stopping the bully by encouraging the bully to stop, wasting precious effort we could be focusing on creating a toolset – a defense system – for the person being bullied.
Here are three images I came across when searching for images around bullying. Let’s talk about each one:
[This is geared towards verbal abuse]
I believe this is aimed at either “the bully” or “someone who witnesses bullying”. I’m very sorry, but in my experience, the bully – from the middle school hot shot, to the board room know-it-all, to the hot-rod racer flipping you the bird – is not going to stop bullying because you urge them to stop. Neither are they going to stop if someone else urges them to stop – even a lot of “someones” – because many more “someones” are on their side, being a bully right beside them. Many bistanders will take the side of the bully, also, because they benefit in some way – they are on the “winning” team, and at the very least, that usually means they won’t themselves be bullied.
The second picture has much the same problems as the first – we’re asking a third party to get involved in stopping the bully, either by getting in the middle, or saying something. Getting in the middle just invites the third party to get picked on too, or simply delays the bullying until the third party leaves. Saying something to the bully rarely works. Saying something to someone in authority (a teacher, a boss) almost always backfires, getting everyone involved in trouble or at least made to feel uncomfortable, and rarely solves the original problem.
The third picture is a call to the person being bullied. Similar to what I said above, it is rare that any external intervention will permanently solve the problem. It may delay it, but the bully will be back. It also shows the bully that you are both bothered by their attention and unable to handle it – which is a large part of why they return.
There are many reasons, but the most common seem to be able to be broken down into two major categories:
- They have been bullied themselves, or abused themselves, or need to feel powerful or above others
- Self-Esteem issues
- Lonliness / Lack of self-fulfillment
- They need to feel above others by putting them down
- They crave attention and will do something purposely “shocking” to get that attention
- Lonliness / Lack of self-fulfillment
Self-Confidence: The Bully Defense System
Bullies obviously have power over those they bully: the ones they bully feel bad about being bullied because the bully’s opinion means something to them. Maybe they see the bully as a popular person and wish to be like them, so they feel put-down when a popular person doesn’t respect them. Maybe the comments themselves are hitting a sore spot – if they tell you that you’re “fat” and you believe that you might be “fat” – and this bothers you – then the bully has won.
Although I have no magic wand for you to wave to suddenly give you (or me) confidence where there is none, just think of how far the bully would get if no one cared a hoot what the bully said? Not just ignored the bully – but really, truly was not bothered by their words?
When I first started my job as a computer programmer, if another (seasoned) programmer came up to me and told me my code sucked, that hurt – bad – because I felt that there may be truth behind the statement. I would trust that person’s opinion and I would internalize the comment.
If, instead, a receptionist (or doctor, or construction worker, or astronaut) who had never, ever turn on a computer in his/her life, and knew nothing about them, came up to me with the same comment, it would not phase me a bit. They do not know what they are talking about, because they have not worked on computers let alone programmed for them.
And I care what you say – why?
Even now, by no means is it perfect, but if a seasoned programmer comes up to me and tells me my code sucks, I’m much more “okay” with it than I was when I started out. The reason? Self-confidence, and a bit of perspective. I now know what the programming field looks like, and I’m very confident where I fit in it. I’m not the person to write apps for phones, nor am I the person to program medical equipment. But I know what I CAN do and I know I’m good at it.
So if you come up to me today with a disparaging remark about my programming, I don’t let you bully me – I have a defense system.
Stop the bullying from the only place you can control – you. If you believe in yourself, you won’t care what the bully has to say.