I first met a bully when I went to senior school at the age of 11. What I did is just got on with it. I didn’t have any grand tactics for survival. 30 years later, I’m still learning to stand up for myself.
But in my years of working in toxic environments in journalism and TV, I’ve learned how to deal with the bully.
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Dealing with the school bully… and how I survived
I encountered my first bully when I was 11 years old. I’d just arrived at a boarding school, and was incredibly homesick.
I was a very sweet, and shy person, and incredibly intimidated by many people. Life at a boarding school was an incredible culture shock for an introvert like me. I was thrust into dealing with situations that I was utterly ill-equipped to deal with including a bully.
The Endless Cycle of Bullying
Today, the bully would most likely be diagnosed with behavioural issues. He or she attends a specialist school, or perhaps even excluded from school.
But thirty years ago, her parents shipped her off to boarding school, and left it to a bunch of 11-year old girls – her “dorm” mates – to deal with the consequences.
Most of the time, I was on the receiving end of her abuse, and I was left to deal with the consequences. She would mentally abuse me on a daily basis. If she ate the food addictive E102 (also known as monosodium glutamate) it would trigger a violent rage, and then she would attack me.
Often she would go to the shops and deliberately buy sweets with E102 to have an excuse to beat me up. On those occasions, she was just waiting to beat me up…
One time she dragged me off the top bunk bed by my foot when I was hiding from her – I landed on my back and I was so badly winded I couldn’t move. I had to lie there half naked with my nightie up to my waist and wait for a teacher to come.
On another occasion, she strangled me against the radiator and I was gasping for breath. Eventually, another girl would pull her off me when I couldn’t breathe. As a result, I would be red in the face with bruises around my neck.
Or the bully would punch me several times and verbally abused me on a regular basis.
Failure to handle the bully
Her daily bullying and abuse went unchecked. And there was no punishment from the teachers or boarding house staff.
I had no escape route. This was a daily occurrence for the next 5 years. And there was no “home” to escape to from the bully – this was my home.
I spent my whole time treading on eggshells, and in fear of being beaten up, and abused by the bully. My only escape was getting on a plane after 3 months and flying home to my parents who lived in Cyprus.
HANDLING THE BULLY
Remember that BULLYING is NOT ACCEPTABLE at school, home or in the workplace.
You don’t have to put up with a bully. And you can learn to claim your own power.
I know it’s hard, especially when your confidence is low. But try to set boundaries.
Speaking with a calm confidence and looking the bully directly in the eye can be very intimidating for the bully.
Often, the bully is using you to claim some power that they are missing from somewhere in their life.
You’re not alone
Whatever you do, don’t do this alone. When you talk to someone it’s much easier than when you’re dealing with a bully. When you talk to someone, it can help to alleviate the situation. Talk to a friend, your family, or anti-bullying organisations.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A BULLY
We have to reprogram our language to deal with bullies whatever age we are. If you didn’t learn as a child how to say “no”, then learning to stand up for yourself is essential, regardless of your age!
I’m currently teaching my son to say no to intimidating situations. He’s a shy, and gentle two-year-old and lets the other kids take his toys.
If another child pushes him over, I have just taught him the words to say: “No, I don’t like it.”
Unless we LEARN to voice our unease in a
What parameters can you set for the person who intimidates you? How can you
It took me a long time to learn how to stand up for myself, but these are a few tips that I’ve learned.
You could also download my Confidence Guide to feel confident and feel better about yourself and handle your bully.
STRATEGIES TO HANDLE THE BULLY:
Pretend the mirror is your bully, and start behaving with confidence, and authority
Practice saying NO in the mirror, so you start to feel comfortable saying it.
Say “no” for the small things first of all… No to coffee, or ice-cream before you say no to your boss or perhaps a sibling
Your body language matters – have your shoulders back.
Look someone in the eye
Smile, it can disarm them
Remember to breathe.
You can choose how you react to the situation. it’s either you choose to be intimidated by them, or you can choose to find a different way of seeing the situation. It’s hard to do this when you’re in the midst of the moment, so practice keeping calm and breathing deeply (see my post on body language).
Whatever you do, don’t do this alone. When you talk to someone, it gets easier, and there are people and organisation who can help you!
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