What is bullying?

Bullying doesn’t have a legal definition.  One common way of defining bullying is as repeated behaviour intended to hurt someone emotionally or physically. The acronym STOP (several times on purpose) is sometimes used to determine what counts as bullying. Bullying tends to involve the misuse of power, where power doesn’t only refer to a person in a position of authority but also to someone with greater strength or ability to coerce. Bullying can take different forms including physical assault, name-calling, threatening behaviour, social exclusion, or cyberbullying.

When and where does bullying happen?

Bullying is often considered to be a childhood or playground issue. However, it can happen at any age and in any social situation throughout our lives. Bullying happens in person, but it is also found online in the form of cyberbullying, where bullies can be more anonymous, and the situation can be more complex. Some examples of places where bullying might occur include friendship groups, the workplace, sports teams, community groups, families, and neighbourhoods.

Why is bullying harmful?

Humans are social creatures, and everyone needs to have a sense of belonging. Dating back to ancient times, we have always needed each other for survival. Bullying undermines our sense of fitting into our social group. It singles us out and ostracises us from our circle, therefore leading us to feel threatened and causing us to question our worth. It affects our physical and mental health, and the consequences sometimes don’t show up until years later.

What are the long-term effects of bullying?

Not everyone responds in the same way to bullying. Some people respond to bullying by attempting to escape the situation. The long-term consequences of this strategy can be isolation, avoiding conflict and having difficulty opening up to others and being vulnerable. Other people respond to bullying by fighting back. This approach, however, can result in the need to always be right, issues with authority and self-destructive behaviours, including substance abuse.

According to research, being bullied as a child makes someone twice as likely to use mental health services as an adult when compared with those who weren’t bullied. Relationships and friendships can be more of a challenge for people who have been bullied than for those who haven’t been bullied.  People who’ve been bullied may tend to withdraw and be less trusting of others.  For example, networking with others in the workplace is important, but if one has withdrawn due to bullying, the struggle to relate to others can affect someone’s career and earning potential. Bullying, and its effects, must be taken seriously and not underestimated.

What to do if you’re currently the victim of bullying

Anyone can be bullied at any time in their lives, it’s not your fault that this is happening now. When you’re the victim of bullying, it’s important to reach out and tell someone about it. If you’re at school or college find a teacher that you trust or tell someone in your family or a close friend. Likewise, if you’re being bullied in your workplace tell a manager or colleague about what’s happening. It’s essential not to keep quiet about the bullying and the key message is to act now by telling someone.

Six Steps to Heal From Bullying

Acknowledge the bullying

Victims of bullying often minimize its impact in an attempt to move forward with their lives. They may also blame themselves and feel they should have acted differently. Victims of bullying can sometimes feel ashamed that it happened to them. Being bullied again in the future can also be a fear for victims. The healing begins when we can accept that the bullying happened and recognize that we weren’t responsible for it, letting go of any shame.

Start to care for yourself

Bullying can leave us with emotional and physical symptoms. These symptoms can include anxiety, depression, stress, social problems, headaches, chronic illnesses or problems with sleep. Talk with your doctor about any symptoms you’re experiencing and take action to look after yourself. Self-care can be healing, and it can help you recover from bullying.

Recognize your value

Bullying undermines our confidence because it makes us question our worth. Start to focus on your positive qualities rather than the things the bully said to you or about you. Take back the power to define who you are as a person. It can help to write a list of your good points or things you like about yourself. If this feels difficult then ask a close friend to suggest some things that are great about you.

Turn your thoughts around

Victims of bullying commonly believe that they lack social skills or are unlikeable.  Remind yourself that it’s the bully who lacks the skills they need to communicate, not you. As the author Kamand Kojouri writes “some people are in such utter darkness that they will burn you just to see a light. Try not to take it personally”. Instead of beating yourself up for what happened, place the blame on the bully. Writing a letter to the person who bullied you (but not sending it) can be a good way to express your feelings and get closure too.

Remind yourself that life can be good

It can be part of human nature to keep thinking about our past hurt. We often feel that thinking about it will help us figure things out and then it won’t be painful anymore. Whilst it’s good to acknowledge that an experience hurt us, we also need to move on from those feelings at some point. Practice letting go of the hurt.  Focus on the good things you have in your life now, however big, or small they may be.

Be patient with yourself

Bullying can leave deep wounds that will take time to move forward from. The experience of bullying may have left you with faulty perceptions about who you are as a person, and you may struggle to appreciate your good points. Bullying can also leave you with unhelpful behavioural patterns such as withdrawing from social situations rather than feeling able to enjoy them. These effects of bullying take time to change. Congratulate yourself for any progress you notice but be kind to yourself and give yourself time to change more fully.

How can Online-Therapy.com help?

If you’ve tried these ideas and you’re still finding it difficult to heal from bullying, then Online-Therapy.com can help! By signing up with our program you can choose a therapist who will work with you to develop a personalized toolkit to help you to feel more resilient and to move forward in your life.  Doing this can help you leave the experiences of bullying behind once and for all.

At Online-Therapy.com we offer an integrated and holistic package to support your well-being. Our approach includes regular sessions with your chosen therapist, unlimited messaging and worksheet support, journaling and yoga. This ongoing support means that you have the daily expert guidance you need to make progress and heal from bullying.