With the new movie Bully entering theaters Friday in America, the topic of bullying has been on the minds of many lately. Last week Ellen had talked to the parents featured in the film (if you missed it, watch it here) and it was the first time I'd ever seen her cry on the show. It's obviously a very important issue to her and her passion for it, along with the upcoming film, has made me think a lot more about the topic of bullying.
Bullying impacts millions and millions of people every day. Yes, millions. It breaks my heart to think about all of the people out there being bullied -- as well as all of the people doing the bullying. Both bullies and the bullied have to deal with so much emotional (and often physical) negativity. There is always a reason that bullies get to the point of bullying, which is terribly sad to me. And even sadder are the results of their actions, the despair and loneliness of the bullied.
While childhood bullying is the focus of today's media, unfortunately bullying doesn't stop there. Adults bully one another too -- in work, in relationships, even in random interactions (just watch aggressive drivers to see that in action). Just like children, adults bully others because of their own insecurities and emotional issues. Sadly, many adults even bully themselves. They put themselves down, treat themselves without respect, make themselves feel smaller and less valid.
This is not okay. Bullying in any form -- verbal, emotional, physical -- is not okay. It's not okay when someone does it to you. It's not okay when you do it to someone else. And it's definitely not okay when you do it to yourself.
You might think that bullying has nothing to do with you, but it does. Bullying happens every day, with both adults and children, and it's much more prevalent that you might realize. But bullying is something we all have the power to fight. It's a form of negativity we can actively work to avoid in our everyday lives. Here's how:
Positive Ways to Prevent Bullying
1. Don't be a bully. It might sound obvious, but it's not always as obvious as you would think. Many bullies might not consider themselves bullies. But remember: every unkind word, every condescending statement is a form of bullying. And so is just standing by while others are bullied. Give some serious thought to your actions and remind yourself that you could be bullying people without even realizing it. Listen to the tone of your voice, the words you speak, and the actions you take. And remind yourself that all of that applies to bullying yourself too. You are a bully to yourself if you beat yourself up emotionally or self-harm in any way. Even if you don't bully others, you might be bullying yourself. One way to prevent bullying is to stop beating yourself up.
2. Stand up for yourself. If you are being bullied, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. (Physical bullying is another matter and there are many cases in which standing up for yourself could be dangerous. Don't put yourself in physical harm; walk away if possible.) You have the right to say to a friend, parent, boss, random person, etc. that you do not want to be bullied. You have the right to say no, to walk away, to call him/her out on being a bully. You -- your thoughts, words, actions, and body -- are valuable and don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and remind others what you are worth.
3. Stand up for others. It is tempting not to get involved with others are being bullied and, in some cases (especially in school), it's almost better to join in on the bullying to avoid becoming one of the bullied. But not standing up for others is just as bad as doing the actual bullying. If you see someone being bullied -- at work, at school, even in your own home -- stand up for that person. Step in and tell the bully that s/he is being a bully. Tempting as it is to stand by and stay out of it -- don't. Those who are being bullied need someone to back them up, to be their voice when they cannot speak.
4. Ask for help. Bullying obviously takes on many, many forms. If the bullying is physical or dangerous, it's important to seek help. If you a child or teenager, talk to a trusted adult. If you are an adult, talk to someone higher up (for example, your boss's boss). If you are being bullied at home, find an outside resource or organization that can help you. There is no shame in asking for help -- and that's what you must do if you or someone you know is being bullied. And don't give up. Their might be people who dismiss your concerns or don't take you seriously. Find someone else. Don't let one person's ignorance hold you back from getting the help you or someone else deserves.
5. Seek counseling. If you think you might be a bully, find a counselor or therapist that can help you uncover why you bully and how you can stop. If you're being bullied (or even if you think you might be), find a counsel or therapist who can help you find the most effective ways to address the bullying while also helping you to cope with the negative (and often long-term) impact of being bullied. Even if you have been able to stop bullying or have stopped the bully from bothering you, you may be dealing with emotional issues as a result of having been bullied or having been a bully. Seeking outside help will help you deal cope with -- and hopefully overcome -- these issues.
6. Love yourself. Loving yourself is crucial when it comes to overcoming bullying. Loving yourself will prevent you from being a bully. It will help you stand up for yourself if you feel you are being bullied. It will force you to remove yourself from negative situations in which you might be bullied. It will help you overcome and cope with any bullying you might have faced -- or will face. Loving yourself is essential. Even though it's #6 on this list, it's the most essential aspect of bully prevention. People who love themselves don't bully and people who love themselves don't allow themselves to be bullied.
Though I've been called a few names in the past (who hasn't?) I've never really been really bullied. And, while I wouldn't consider myself a bully, I look back on my past (especially those high school years) and have to wonder if I might not have had a bit of a bully in me. I was judgmental and cruel -- my way of battling my own adolescent insecurities -- and there were times I was downright mean. As much as I would like to go back and relive those years I spent so much time focused on superficiality and popularity, going back is not an option.
Now is the only time I have -- we all have -- to make a difference. If you are being a bully, stop. If you are being bullied, stand up for yourself. If you can't stand up for yourself, find someone who can. The scars of being bullied may never fully disappear, but we have the power each and every day to prevent new wounds from appearing.
For more information on bullying and how you can help prevent it, see the resources below.