There are bullies in this world, and they sometimes come from unexpected places. While we most commonly hear about them at school, they are also at work, in our families, and even sometimes masquerading as friends.
Bullying happens because one person wants to attack another, usually verbally, online, or sometimes with physical violence. It used to be that just mean-spirited and maladjusted individuals bullied others, but as more and more people have access to the Internet and emails, people with gripes or complaints sometimes feel they can lash out as well.
Bullies can affect our self-esteem and even our friendships, if we let them. Here's how to prevent a bully from ruining your beautiful life.
Bullies Are the Exception, Not the Rule
Even though bullies can take up space in your emotions and life, it's important to remember that they are the exception on this earth. Most people are not bullies. Repeatedly dealing with bullies can make you believe that everyone is mean or heartless, which can give you the impression that getting to know people and making friends isn't worth it.
It is worth it. Never forget that.
Getting Hurt by a Friend Isn't the Same as Being Bullied
When you're dealing with a bully in some area of your life, you want your friends to understand and support you. But sometimes they mess up (they're human, after all) and when they do it can feel exactly like the bully you are trying to avoid.
The difference is that a true friend's intent is not to hurt you. They might blurt out something stupid or fail to be there occasionally when you need it, but they care about you. They want the best for you and when you're hurting, they want to take away your pain.
Bullies, on the other hand, want to inflict pain. They enjoy seeing you upset.
You Can Only Control Your Reactions
You've heard the saying that you can't change people, you can only change your reaction to them, right? Remember this as bullies pop up here and there, because they will try and take you by surprise during moments when you're happy. Bullies deep down are extremely unhappy, and they want others to be unhappy, too.
Think about this. Does a happy person call another person fat? Even if they see someone with weight to lose, do they write a letter or walk up to them and make a rude comment about weight? Of course not. A happy person looks at people as each having their own gifts to give this world. They know that people come in all different sizes, from different backgrounds, with a variety of issues and talents.
When you see someone bullying another, you know that deep down inside there is unhappiness. This thought will help you with compassion. While not giving bullies a free pass, it will help you as you deal with the emotions they try and evoke in you.
How Friendship Helps With Bullying
Good friends want the best for you, so when a bully attacks, friends will be there to listen, give you a hug, and offer encouragement. True friendships give you an emotional safe place to deal with the criticism and hurt that bullying can cause. You'll rebound from rude comments and gestures more quickly when you have people in your corner who support you.
What If You Have No Friends?
If you're without friends right now, don't feel bad. This can happen to people for a variety of reasons. Since bullies often pick on people they think are weaker than them in some way, you might have to deal with a bully on your own until you can find compassionate people to put your trust in. As you do this, remember to:
- Give new people a chance. Don't get cynical and refuse to let new friends in your life because they might turn out to be a bully, too. You won't know until you get to know them.
- Hold on to the truth. You know you're more than the names a bully calls you or how a bad person describes you.
- Keep your spirits up. Meditate or pray to keep centered.
- Hold on to the kind words of loved ones, even if those people are no longer around.
- Continue to get involved in new activities. Doing a variety of things will help you meet more people and also deal with different personality types.
- Seek counseling if you feel the pressure getting to you. There is no shame in talking with someone about your emotions.
When Friends Turn Out to Be Bullies
Occasionally, bullies pretend to be our friends, so dealing with them is especially hard. They might not know they are bullies (some people really are just clueless as to how to be a good friend), or they may have just gotten close to you because they wanted to pick on you.
When someone you thought was a friend turns out to be a frenemy, fake friend, or bully, it can leave you more hurt than if a stranger said or did mean things to you. After all, friends are people you trust and when they betray you, it makes you doubt your own instincts when it comes to getting to know people.
If your friend is really a bully, you will absolutely have to end the friendship. But before you do, ask yourself:
- Is my friend willing to talk to me about why they are acting so badly?
- Has my friend acted like this from the beginning?
- Has my friend betrayed my confidence?
- What is my friend's motivation in acting this way?
You might have to ask your friend some of these questions. They are a start in helping you understand if someone is truly a bully, or just a friend behaving badly. Either way, give careful consideration on whether or not to end the friendship, and then make your decision without regret.
As a final note, put your focus on the positive as much as you can. Seek out good friends, volunteer, and surround yourself with people who care about you. Don't allow a bully to prevent you from making the contribution you're meant to give this world.