See bullies for what they are…
For most of my life I looked at my experience of being bullied as a robbery of my childhood. I didn’t think it was fair that for 3 years of my life, I lived in fear, anxiety and, most likely, depression, from the ages of 13–16. It undoubtedly was the cause of the debilitating anxiety I experienced later in life, and caused so much pain for my parents who struggled to know what to do with their young son that seemed to be completely lost in life.
But looking back, I now realize it was a gift. It was a gift because it taught me empathy and compassion at an exceptionally deep level. My trials of anxiety and depression were the driving forces that lead me to rebuild myself into the person I am today, a person I love and I am proud of. It taught me to see bullies for what they really are, small people who are also experiencing a lot of pain and feel the only way to elevate themselves is to inflict pain on others.
We live in a society where physically or verbally abusing someone publicly won’t be tolerated. So, it’s forced bullies to hurt people in other ways and fly under the radar. Passive aggressiveness, intimidation, social exclusion, discrimination, are all types of bullying. They are not only just as hurtful, but hidden to the naked eye. Which is why knowing how to counteract the bullies control over you is even more critical.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it and pretend feeling sympathy for a bully is easy, but the reality is, bullies bully because they themselves are in pain. Research shows that stress and trauma, insecurity and low self-esteem are some of the biggest reasons behind why people bully. Even more surprising, people who have been bullied are twice as likely to go on and bully others. I’ve experienced this first hand, my childhood bully was diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life. My second experience with bullying wasn’t nearly as difficult as the first because I could see it wasn’t coming from a place of malice but of sadness and pain. When you empathize, you humanize. When you humanize, you see the person for who they really are.
One of my favorite quotes from Jim Dwyer is “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” The past is never going to change no matter how terrible and traumatic it was, but we can always change how we look at it. I look at it with gratitude because it was the eventual cause of all the good in my life and love for myself. So next time you’re faced with a bully, are you going to allow it to consume your energy and break you down? Or look at it for what is, a sad person giving you the perfect opportunity to evolve as a human being?
Check out our podcast episode where we discuss tips & strategies for beating bullies by clicking here!