‘All cruelty springs from weakness.’
For every time you walked behind me, calling me names, I want to thank you.
For every time you deliberately stood on the back of my heels, I want to thank you.
For every time you made me question my worth, I want to thank you.
For every tear, for every ache in my chest, for every stifled sob, I want to thank you.
For every time I pretended everything was fine while your words and meanness tore into me, I want to thank you.
This is why I thank you.
The moment I turned round and faced you, the moment I let go of my fear, the moment I pushed back, the moment I saw the shock in your eyes…
… and seeing you come late and tearfully into the French class, and realising as the days went by that you would leave me be now, that was life-changing for me.
You see, school for me was a sanctuary and I used it to feel safe and secure. Without that, I was struggling. I doubt that you saw that, you just instinctively recognised someone vulnerable. I’m sure you had your own problems, otherwise why would you need to feel powerful by hurting someone else? Perhaps you were being bullied at home, I don’t know.
But what you taught me was bullying won’t go away unless you take control. You taught me to stand up for myself and let go of fear. And although I sometimes I forget to live by this, by the large, when I remember, it serves me very well.
So with love, light and my very best wishes,
I write the above for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I’ve been doing a lot of letting go of fear recently, and that includes the fear of being vulnerable. So, trust me, from that place, the above serves me very well.
Secondly, if my story helps anyone stand up to a bully, whether they be in the workplace or in the classroom or even in their own home, then I have spent an hour doing something worthwhile.
I am not for one moment suggesting you take the approach I did, which was to punch this girl on the nose. I’m not proud of what I did, but for a super-geek kid whose whole self-worth revolved around being thought well of at school, it was a massive demonstration of ‘enough’. I really didn’t care if I was expelled at that point. I don’t think I hit her that hard, although she did fall over, but it was her recognition that I wouldn’t stand for any more that saw her off. As it was, nothing happened. She barely spoke to me again at school.
So if you’re being bullied at work, see HR, demand a meeting and look your bully in the eye. Mediation is really only going to work if both parties are willing to enter into the process. Bullies aren’t invested in changing behaviours that feed a deep, dark need so, call me cynical, but I doubt you’ll get much from the bully. But the point is you are taking back your power and this means communicating you’re not standing for any more. If the bully is not for changing and you can’t get yourself moved from their influence then my advice would be focus on getting another job. It’s just a job, it does not define you. If you’re being bullied at home, get professional help. Talk to someone you know you can trust. If you’re being bullied at school, talk to a teacher you trust.
And that’s not easy, I know. Fear will kick in. The mind spends all its time trying to move us away from pain. If it perceives us hesitating then 101 reasons not to do anything will spring up. Just lean in to the uncomfortable feelings. Don’t spring back. Hear the excuses your mind comes up with, listen and smile and then take a step further towards freeing yourself.
If you’re wondering what happened to my bully, I can tell you.
Remember Friends Reunited? Back then she got in touch and told me how she’d had problems in her own life but she was happy to see how I seemed to be enjoying mine. I thanked her and told her I was.
Living life knowing I have the strength to stand up for myself has saved me from a lot of pain on numerous occasions.
It felt like the end of the world at the time. But it wasn’t. Everything is temporary. Everything changes.