Friday, April 23, 2010

Beat the Bully

Now, where was I? Oh yes, that's right...

  • Never allow those who taunted me to know they had succeeded.

Well this one is a doozey! I was teased alot at school and my parents tried to help by giving me this advice. They beleived that bullies would get bored if I didn't respond to their taunts and they would go about their business and leave me alone - yeah RIGHT! I felt like it presented as more of a 'challenge'.

"Let's see how much cruelty she will put up with and how long it will take for her to crack!" - Yeah, that's more like the thought processes of a bully.

I would put on the brave face when a retched girl in high school would spit in my hair, daily. I would go home and cry and wonder what I had ever done to deserve this treatment. This torment went on for near 3 years until we graduated. Regardless of my efforts to ignore, taunt back, confront or report this girl's behaviour, it was relentless. She kept pushing until I responded, and if it was going to take all year, she was going to persevere until she won.

For me, there has been a great lesson in all of this. I came to the realisation that it wasn't me that had something wrong with me, it is ALWAYS the bully.

Being exposed to bullying in the workplace recently, I began to uncover some similarities in those who bully others. Insecurity is the key. I started to notice those who taunt, do so to break down a person's self concept and esteem and eventually their confidence. Let's face it, if your opponent is stronger than you, the only way to remove them from the competition is to expose and exploit their weakness. After this stage is complete, the bully then has the 'threat' under control and assumes the role of Master Puppeteer.

"To succeed, you must always use the enemies weapons against them" - a great line by Gene Hackman in the film "Enemy of the State", and brilliant advice to boot!

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think it's fair to say that bullies are aggressive (passively or just in your face, nevertheless, aggressive). Aggressive personalities seek out their aggressee for two reasons;

  1. To justify their aggressiveness or

  2. To give their self concept a 'boost', by picking on those who are passive and less confident.

So as you can see, nobody is immune to bullies, not even the bullies themselves. There will always be someone 'stronger' than them too.

Assertiveness can act as a magnet for a bully. After years of soul searching, trying to work out what was wrong with me, I grew more confidence in who am I and what I stand for. When I was young, I attracted bullies because I just didn't want any trouble, a peacemaker, a lover not a fighter - and that was seen as a weakness to exploit. As a confident, assertive adult, I attract a different type of bully, one who seeks an outlet for their aggression and the challenge of an Assertive person is just too good to pass up.

My most recent encounter with not one, but three bullies, all with corporate, positional power was a real test for me. I endured threats, a lack of positional stability and constant unnecessary questioning of my work. All this because I stood up for what was in the company's best interest, and I was heard.

If they wanted a witch-hunt, I was going to be the 'one that got away'. As in all corporations, it is in an employee's best interest to put everything in writing - so that's what I did. I insisted all requests be in writing due to my extensive travel, I wanted to ensure I kept abreast of my workload and this was the most effective method. I also kept a diary of conversations and became a trusted source of information (always maitaining integrity, afterall, I'd never stoop to their level). I kept my colleague's close but my bullies so close I'm surprised they could breathe!

It became a game to me after I got the hang of the rules of play. I gradually learnt how to reel each bully in until they developed a distrust of the other (obviously they were in cohoots with each other). I know how incredibly calculating and cruel this may sound, but I never did anything that was immoral, and I never took revenge. I merely played their game and manipulated their rules to create their undoing. And sat back to enjoy the aftermath.

So if you are or have been subjected to bullying, please know, the problem is not you. It really is the insecurity and severe lack of self esteem of the bully. You are great just as you are, and if they can't have what you've got, they want to take it from you. Take back the control.

In conclusion - If you are or were a bully, I can tell you, this affects a persons entire life - often indefinitely. You're not tough, you're not funny - you are extraordinarily SAD! And one day, you WILL play ball with the WRONG person!


  1. i lost my government job in 2005 because of a bully. she made my life hell and it is only now that i am getting some of my confidence back to do things, go out, try to return to work/studies, not have panic attacks, be phobic. i also was attacked at school because of a health condition that caused me lots of problems. it never leaves you and i don't even remember the advice my parents gave me about how to deal with the bully when at school. get regular reminders now that i should have put up with the treatment i was getting as i would have a job now and be financially ok and not struggling like i am now.

  2. Thankyou for sharing your story Robyn. Sadly, this is a story more common than it should be. Although you may feel things are a struggle right now, I believe you did the right thing. After all, it's your mental wellbeing that will get you through the tough times.