I was unpleasantly surprised to realize that catty emotional warfare and pointless hate didn’t end in high school – that some unfortunately didn’t set bullying down when they picked up their diploma. It has deeply confused me in adulthood. I’m not sure what we’re competing for, either. I’ve tried to look at situations of bullying with logic, but logic doesn’t apply. It took me a while to put a name to it, but plain and simple – it is classic bullying. Whatever you call it and whatever the reason, it’s so unhealthy for the bully and the bullied, and serves no purpose. Tearing someone down doesn’t build you up – it will only hurt you both.
For several years now I’ve experienced many tears, confusion, anxiety, and lots of therapy sessions in the face of bullying. I like problem solving, and when a problem is out of my control, I often feel very hopeless.
I try to remind myself that while nothing I do can stop someone from treating me poorly, I can control how I react to it. I can choose to rise above. I decide when and how I advocate for myself. I can’t control their reactions to my reactions. Additionally, I can’t control how I feel. I have spent a lot of time trying to force myself to not care – to not let it bother me. Of course it bothers me, though. We should be bothered when were so utterly disrespected. I can control how I respond to those feelings, at least to a point. Sometimes our body responds for us, like with tears or anxiety attacks that we can’t prevent. We can, though, talk ourselves through the heartache, the anger, anything that comes up for us. No matter what the feeling or how I respond, I make sure to validate my experience and talk about it with someone I trust.
As a very imperfect human, I have probably (and unfortunately) given many reasons for many people not to like me. I also am just not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s something I’ve grown all right with. That doesn’t, however, give anyone the right to taunt, spew hate, or intentionally make me or anyone else feel all around bad. For a while I simply accepted poor treatment, thinking that because I wasn’t liked, that just had to be my reality. Unfortunately, there are some people we can’t simply cut out of our lives. At least not completely. I had to shift my thinking – it wasn’t ever about me. When someone chooses to reign terror, it is always about them. There is something underneath every action, every choice, every aspect of our being. Underneath that sort of mentality and behavior has to be something very sad, hollow, insecure. Realizing that, I’m able to have some form of empathy, separate myself from the problem, and focus on taking care of myself with boundaries and lots of emotional and cognitive work.
Take care of yourselves, and choose to be kind.