In March 2011 I wrote a guest piece for DISCOURSE. I discussed how I was bullied as a child. It had a big effect on my life and there are still times where this bullying causes me to react in strange ways. One example is, even after being together for more than seven years, if Natalie puts a hand up towards me quickly I will flinch and cower, waiting to be hit. Even if the movement isn’t even the slightest bit like a punch. It’s just a split second, but long enough to be noticed.
It is these scars that have turned me into who I am. I am not particularly comfortable with asserting myself, and particularly with men. I am sensitive to personal comments and criticism, and my first reaction to any corrective action is to think that it is an attack and try to defend myself. I sit down and imagine how situations are likely to unfold, thinking about the worst things that could happen even if they aren’t likely or even plausible. There’s more but that would require quite a bit more self-analysis that I’m prepared to undertake in one sitting, I’m afraid.
Childhood bullying is something that is on the radar these days and instead of just letting it happen, there are strategies to try and identify the situations and deal with them. Yet bullying isn’t confined to just kids.Bullying can (and does) occur between adults as well. Workplaces, social groups, clubs, friendship groups, social media and even personal relationships are places where bullies can strut their ‘stuff’. Sometimes the bullies are kids who grew up as bullies, never got in trouble and just thought it was how things worked. Sometimes those who are bullied feel that in order to get on top of the bullies, they have to become a bully too. I don’t even know if people realise if they have been (or are currently) a bully because if they thought their actions were wrong they wouldn’t do them in the first place. Perhaps that’s just a misguided thought.
I was talking to a friend a few days ago who reminded me about the impact that bullying has, even on adults. It brought me back to my old post from last year and meditate over how much bullying really does have a long term effect on the person who is bullied. In my case, me. It made me realise that even once you’re a bit older and a bit wiser, there are still bullies waiting for you. It’s harder to identify them sometimes than it was in the playground, but they are there waiting for their next target.
As a person who was bullied, I ask just a few simple things. If you see bullying, step in if safe to do so. If not, tell someone about it. If you know a bully, call them out on their action. If you are standing by as they act without intervening if safe to do so, or you don’t tell someone, then I believe this makes you just as bad. It doesn’t matter if it is in a workplace, in the street, in a bar, at home, with friends, with family, with your partner. By all means, don’t put yourself in danger. But if you can do something, please do.
No one deserves to be bullied. No one.