“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalised and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” ― Michael J. Fox
Yesterday I was inspired to write a post on bullying. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Granted in the morning I was on the phone with a dear friend, reminiscing about some of the traumatic bullying experiences I’ve been through and then I felt compelled to write about it because bullying is still very real for so many people.
I spent the day writing bits and pieces of this post and it was 80% finished, but not quite there yet. My biggest hindrance was how it didn’t feel like the right time to be speaking about it. The content was relevant but for me personally, it just felt a bit heavy for a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. So I decided to postpone publishing the post until 21 March which is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.
I switched off my laptop, happy and relieved because it meant I had plenty of time to tweak the post, and it could stop ‘nagging’ at me.
So late last night, I decided to check the news before bed, only to find out that Australian TV personality Charlotte Dawson had passed away. She was found in her Sydney apartment and the police are saying there were ‘no suspicious circumstances’.
My heart sank.
Ohhhhh I knew then that the timing of this post is now. I had previously followed Charlotte’s very public experience with cyberbullying in 2012. You couldn’t have missed it because it was all over the news. She came through it all and went on to become an anti-bullying advocate for so many voiceless people. She did, however, continue to battle with depression and sadly, here we are…
Dear Charlotte, I really hope your story continues to inspire others to find their own courage. My prayers and thoughts are with all your loved ones.
I just Googled “bully” and this is what came up.
In this post, I will focus on my own interpretations of bullies/bullying based on what I’ve been through. There are so many resources out there if you need researched statistics, hard facts and exact terms and definitions.
We are all human, with our own prejudices, idiosyncrasies and moods… but it doesn’t make us all bullies.
In my eyes, it becomes bullying when:
- It is sustained meanness, rudeness or spite. It’s not a once-off occurrence – it’s constant, all the time, too often.
- The person is told of how their behaviour impacts others, but continues to do it and/or does not apologise or show remorse.
- It starts to feel more than you can handle.
- It just doesn’t feel right or fair.
- It starts to steal your inner joy in big chunks. (This is a deal breaker!)
I spend a lot of time with young people, mainly high school students through my public speaking and training work. The schools or organisations invite me to speak to the students about cultural awareness and how to celebrate themselves etc.
In a nutshell I am there to tell the students that they are ALL beautiful, and that the students around them are beautiful too. As schools become more diverse, migrant and Australian students are still learning about each other. Sadly though, this takes a little time, and whilst people are still unsure it becomes very easy to pick on each other.
I mainly have migrant girls sharing what they get bullied about – their hair, their food, their clothes, their accents. They find it very hard to open up to their teachers or their parents, so when I rock up dancing and being all happy, they latch on and pour their little hearts out.
All they want is to make good friends in Australia. That’s what motivates me to keep speaking…to give these young voices hope.
There are several resources addressing school bullying. If you’re being bullied at school, know or suspect that someone is…please say or do something to help.
The Australian government has set up http://www.bullyingnoway.gov.au/ for students, parents and teachers. Please share it!
I had a pretty traumatic experience with workplace bullying a few years ago. I didn’t quite realise it was happening to me until it started making me ill. My direct manager was downright rude, mean and her use of profanity was terrible! She had the whole office walking on eggshells, and there was always a collective sigh of dread whenever her car pulled into the parking lot. It was awful.
I was once running late for work because I had had a long client meeting. She rang from the office to check where I was, and as my phone flashed with her name I felt physically sick and had to pull over. When I answered, I felt fear and anxiety, and sure enough, she berated me and made me feel small. She ended the call abruptly by saying “See you when you get here!” and that was the longest drive of my life. I wanted to call my Mama in Africa and cry!
When I got to the open-plan office she made a big song and dance about it and I stood there feeling my work colleagues’ gazes of empathy and pity.
That was when I knew enough was enough. I wrote my resignation letter and was finally freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
This is one small example. I hear terrible stories of what people go through in their offices. It is not normal, it is not okay, and no paycheck is worth that much pain.
If you’re struggling with someone or a situation at work, please tell someone. There are several resources about workplace bullying.
If you stood on a stage and announced that your parent, your sibling, your better half, your closest friend, your nanna, your in-law or your pastor was bullying you, the audience would shake their heads, turn to each other and say, “But surely not?!”
How can it be? Surely they know you better? Surely they love you and care about you?
BUT SURELY THEY CAN’T BE THAT MEAN TO YOU?
Well, sadly this happens a lot. Sometimes the people who are closest to us make us feel less than worthy. I’ve had my fair share of But-Surely-Nots in the past and it’s been painful, eye-opening and humbling. Thankfully, most are no longer in my joyosphere and the rest have changed their ways and life is wonderful for us all!
My folks raised me to say something if or when someone hurt my feelings or was being mean. So I’m very comfortable letting people know about that. (Could also be that I’m a typical, sensitive Pisces too).
Some of my old But-Surely-Nots didn’t like this at all. They were always quick to get upset, annoyed, defensive or snappy if I did or said something they didn’t like. In fact, I too often got the silent treatment, sometimes for months on end and yet we both knew they were being unfair. Wow – I should write a book!
The rest of my But-Surely-Nots were in the guise of ‘friends’. They were always quick to laugh at my personal woes, then gossip about them and make me feel like my life was a mess. In fact, some of these But-Surely-Nots would laugh at me and my pain, with me … then I’d go home and cry by myself. Wow – never again I say!
Oh by the way, if you’ve read the post on JOY, the But-Surely-Nots definitely fall in the same category as the Modjo-Killers. My proudest, happiest, most successful moments were often quickly killed by snide remarks, retorts or put-downs. I probably saw this the most in my early business endeavours. I am very proud of what I achieved through trial and error but somehow it was never good enough for some of my bullies. I recall one completely got upset that I’d started a business before they did and never supported me. Then I will NEVER forget the one who laughed out loud at my new business cards and then handed them around the room for others to laugh at as well. Wow – I definitely need to write a book!
Anyhow, I digress.
I don’t know about you, but with my But-Surely-Nots I always made excuses for them, rationalised their meanness or rudeness, quickly forgave and then it ALWAYS backfired on me. They were never wrong and whenever I had the courage to pull them up on it, they would attack again, and I would concede defeat. Then they would act like nothing had happened, and we’d be back to ‘normal’ until the next time.
So just look around extra carefully at those around you. Who are your But-Surely-Nots? Quick advice:
- It’s them, not you! (Haha, I’m serious)
- You can still absolutely love them, without having to condone their bullying.
- It’s completely okay to take time out from them.
- They’re like any other bully…they have their own insecurities and you’re the easiest, closest, [insert own adjective] victim.
- You need the MOST courage to be able to stand up to them.
I’ve already touched on this with Charlotte’s story. It’s very easy for anything we post online to be used against us. It’s a growing trend amongst young people and too many of them are committing suicide because of it. All it takes is for someone to ‘meme’ your photo, write a mean comment or troll you. Your online and real-life worlds can fall apart.
Just be careful what you post online, and also what you say in response to the posts of others. Visit the Community Brave Foundation to see how they are raising awareness about online bullying.
Do you have a Bully in your Life?
This list of questions is not exhaustive; I ask them of myself to simply put my friendships and relationships into perspective. I answered most of them honestly and was able to face my bullies. Give it a try!
- Does that person make you feel uncomfortable?
- How do you really feel when you know you have to see them or be near them?
- Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them?
- Are they ALWAYS right?
- Are you ALWAYS wrong?
- Are they quick to laugh at your pain, misfortune, or troubles?
- How do they treat or speak of others?
- Do they like to give you the silent treatment?
- Do they deliberately ignore you or not greet you?
- Do they go out of their way to make you know you’ve been excluded?
- Do they encourage you to pick on or laugh at others?
- Do they make you feel anxious?
- Do they make your tummy turn?
- Do they ever simply say sorry?
Yep, I’ve been a Bully :(
I am not proud to say that I was a bit of a bully in high school. I was a prefect and made sure people knew that I was in charge. I was also very good at saying mean jokes about people, especially the teachers, to make people laugh. Not cool at all, and it makes me cringe just thinking of it. Ah with age comes wisdom they say.
I can now look back and know that the times I’ve been meanest, rudest, grumpiest, most judgmental, “over-it-est” to people were when:
- I felt the most insecure about how I looked, my finances or my future.
- I felt the most insecure about my relationship/s.
- I was most worried about my family in Africa.
- I didn’t understand why or how they were different to me, and didn’t care to learn.
- I wanted to do anything to fit in e.g. cracking funny jokes at people’s expense.
- I had mean friends and I simply laughed with them; I wasn’t brave enough to stand up for other victims.
- I was disappointed in myself, so the efforts of those working hard or succeeding would upset me.
- I was broke! :)
- I wanted everything and everyone to be perfect. (Very unrealistic!)
- I was simply tired or stressed.
- Someone else was picking on me.
- I just didn’t love myself quite enough.
Are YOU the Bully in Someone’s Life?
Noone is perfect and this post is meant to open our eyes and our hearts. So perhaps you’re the bully in someone’s life and you’re not even aware of it. Here is some more food for thought:
- Do you find that people generally avoid you?
- Are you quick to laugh at others’ pain, misfortune, or troubles?
- Are you quick to say negative things to/about people before positive things?
- Do you think people trust you?
- Do you pick on people for what may be little things?
- Are you good at reading people’s body language when you say things?
- Are you angry about something or someone?
- Do you make personal attacks on people, or do you focus on their actions?
- Do you genuinely try to help people, especially if it looks like they are struggling, not coping or are overwhelmed?
- Are you the person people run to when they are really down?
- How do you react when people say no to you?
- Do you use your authority to the disadvantage of others?
- Do you like to pull rank and make sure people know you’re the boss?
- Are you quick to apologise when you are wrong?
How I Dealt with my Bullies
- I prayed.
- I told my close family and friends; they listened, empathised and gave me big, fat cuddles!
- I drew friendship circles and worked out where my bullies sat in my life. Perspective helps so much!
- I finally stood up for myself and told them enough was enough.
- I bravely walked away – let go of the friendships, relationships, jobs and contacts that were stealing my inner joy.
- I spent more time with people who loved and valued me, just as I am.
- I kept listening to my heart and doing things I loved e.g. travel, art, photography.
- Once I regained my joy, I started helping other people find theirs and that is the best bit of it all.
I really hope that you find courage to stand up for yourself or for others who are being bullied. And if you’re the one inadvertently stealing the joy of others, I hope this post is an encouragement of love and peace for all those who might not know how to approach you yet.
Lots of love (yes, really!)
Images c/o Tagxedo, Daily Telegraph