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positive ways to prevent bullying



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. 

Just Like You

The Bully Project

Born This Way Foundation

Stop Bullying

United Against Bullying

Bullying Prevention Center

CN Speak Up

using the TAP method to stay present



A 60-year-old man who has never owned a car wins a new car in a fundraising lottery. All of his friends tell him how lucky he is because now he can visit his kids and go to the market whenever he wants. 

His response is: "Lucky? Maybe yes, maybe no." 

A few weeks later, he has an accident in the new car and ends up in the hospital. His friends tell him that it is a tragedy, that he should never have driven and how unlucky it was that he won the new car. 

His response is: "Unlucky? Maybe yes, maybe no." 

While he is in the hospital, there is an electrical fire in his house. If he had been there, he surely would have died. His friends tell him how lucky he is to have been in the hospital and that he will recover from the accident but that he would have been dead if he had been at home.

His response is: "Lucky? Maybe yes, maybe no." 

(via Lee Lipsenthal, based on an old Chinese tale)


As you can see from this tale, we really don't know for sure what the long-term outcome of any choice or situation will be. At the time it might seem like we have it all figured out, but the future has many unexpected twists and turns. For this reason it's critical to focus on what is, rather than what might be. Wondering what will be, worrying about what could happen, gets you nowhere but frazzled in the present. 

I struggle with this constantly. My assumptions and daydreams about what the future might hold often cause unnecessary stress. As much as I strive to be present -- I've made it part of my full-time job! -- it's a constant battle to remember that what is real carries so much more value than what exists in my mind. For a long while, I knew I wanted to be more present and I read everything I could on the subject but I still struggled with it. I would grow frustrated, making my already tired mind more exhausted. 

Though I still struggle with being present (I really would love to know how people like Eckhart Tolle do it...!), I've come up with a method for managing thoughts about the future that really helps me to redirect my thoughts to the present moment. When my mind starts to wander, I do what I can to bring it back to the present by using what I like to think of as the TAP method. 

The TAP method involves taking thoughts about the future and giving them a closer look. While it sounds very fancy, it's basically a series of three questions that I ask myself when I find my thoughts dragging me away from the present. Asking myself these questions almost always helps to bring me back into moment. 


The TAP Method

The next time you find your mind wandering from the present -- dwelling on what could be -- use these questions to rein in those wayward thoughts and bring your focus back to the now.  

1. Is it TRUE right now?

Take the thought you're having and figure out if it's true right in this moment. Let's say you are worried about an upcoming presentation at work or school. In your mind you are standing up in front of the crowd, sweating, forgetting all the points you wanted to make. In your mind you are arriving unprepared, you are mocked by your colleagues or classmates. Now, those are very real concerns, but are they true right in this moment? No. Just like with this example, most of the things we imagine are not true in the present moment. Could they come true? Possibly. But thinking about them and giving them the same attention we would a true thought is pointless. It is a waste of our time and energy to focus attention on what may or may not happen. Also, take another look at the tale above. Even if the worst case scenario did come true, do we know why it came true? Perhaps there is something worse than the worst thing we can imagine. Use this question to focus on what's real and true, not what might/possibly/maybe/could happen. 

2. Is it ADDING anything? 

If the first question didn't help and you have still been able to convince yourself that your thoughts about the future are true (remember: as much as they seem like very real possibilities, nothing is truer than the present moment), this question is the next step for bringing that brain of yours back to the now. Examine those thoughts you're having about the future and ask yourself if they're adding anything to your perception of the world. Let's use the same example we used with question #1: you're stressing about an upcoming presentation and all you can do is imagine how you will stumble over your words and embarrass yourself. Are these thoughts adding anything your present moment? Are they making you more prepared for your presentation? More confident that you will do well? Are they helping you to go over the information you will need to present? Nope! In fact, these thoughts are most likely taking something away from you -- value time and energy that you could be using to prepare and practice. If the thoughts of the future aren't adding value, let them go. 

3. Is it POSITIVE?

You might be able to convince yourself that the future thoughts are true and adding value ("They're preparing me for potential outcomes!" you might argue), but you can't argue with this third question: are these thoughts positive? Imagining what could occur in the future might seem to have it's value, but more often then not the imagined scenarios are harmful to living a positive and present life. Yes, we must all look to the future at times, but dwelling on or obsessing about the future, assuming we know what will come to be, is almost never positive. Look closely at your thoughts -- even those about the past and present -- and ask yourself if they are positive. Going back to our example, you can see that imagining the worst outcome is not positive. But what about imagining the best outcome? That certainly must be positive. While I won't argue that imagining yourself giving an amazing speech is much better than daydreaming of a failed performance, either way you are choosing to focus on something that is imaginary. The most positive choice of all is to focus on what's happening right now, what's real and true


Though it's not foolproof (my mind has a funny way of worrying about the future no matter how hard I struggle to focus on the now), the TAP method has definitely helped me redirect my thoughts from what-could-be to what-is. Importantly, it gives me a process that encourages me to focus on what I'm thinking instead of just letting my thoughts run wild. Learning to question my thoughts, rather than accept them as facts, has made a huge impact on living a positive and present life -- as has recalling the story above every time I think I know what life has in store for me. The future is a tempting place to visit, but it's no match for living in the moment. 

the do's and don'ts of wishful thinking

"Just lying in the bar with my drip feed on

Talking to my girlfriend, waiting for something to happen
I wish it was the sixties, I wish we could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen..."

"The Bends"


For the first time in quite a long time, Radiohead's "The Bends" poured from my iPod to my car's speakers and I found myself singing along to the song I'd all but forgotten about. Without realizing it, my mind drifted back to college, to the afternoons of driving around aimlessly, smoking, feeling whiny and wasteful and lost. Post-teenage angst had flooded my veins when we'd turned this song up, dousing ourselves in a bath of forlorn want. Hearing the song again now, I can clearly recall the way I'd felt back then: lost, restless, certain that another place, another time, another life would have been happier than my own. Looking back, I see how incredibly typical those emotional thoughts were, but at the time they seemed raw, new, and it had pleased me to hear lyrics expressing how unhappy and unsettled I felt.
Like so many of my counterparts in their late teens and early twenties, I felt incredibly uneasy. I felt like I should have already become someone, like I was waiting to start something. I wanted something wonderfully grand to happen to me. I was bored and, though I had enough self-awareness to suspect my own mind might have been the cause for that boredom, I was developing a selfish habit of blaming the world around me for whatever issues I was struggling to cope with. And in that habit, I found a nugget of hope in wishing. It seemed to consume my journals -- page after page after page filled with "I wish..." Revisiting those journals, I found these words inked there: 

"I wish I could let the past go."
"I wish I were happy."
"I wish I could change this."
"I wish I had more direction."
"I wish I could get away from here." 
"I wish I wouldn't think so much."  
"I wish I could be more logical."
"I wish I knew what would happen." 
"I wish I could be a source of inspiration."
"I wish I could spend all my time writing."
"I wish I could lie in bed all day."
"I wish I could get it together."
"I wish I were anywhere but here."
"I wish I could be my own boss." 
"I wish I had answers."
"I wish I could stop being so negative." 
"I wish I could get out of my own head."
"I wish I would stop thinking and start doing."
"I wish I could live in the moment."
"I wish I were normal." 
"I wish I could be a grown up."
"I wish I could find some sort of inner peace."
"I wish I knew how to let go." 
"I wish I could see the future."
"I wish I could stop smoking, drinking, buying."
"I wish I knew the right thing to do."
"I wish I could stop saying, 'I wish I could...'"

Reading these wishes now, I realize how many of them have come true. I am happy, my own boss, writing every day. I have stopped smoking, drinking, excessively shopping. I am making efforts every day to be positive, to be present. I also realize how many of these wishes did not come true at the time. Why? Because I wasn't trying. I was wishing, waiting, wanting. It was only years later that I realized that if I wanted my wishes to come true, I had to make them come true. I had to take action. 

It makes me sad to think back on my past self, curled up in my room with my books and my computer, making the same mistakes over and over again and wishing things would change. Looking at her from the future, I want to tell her that it will get better, that she cannot just wait for things to change, that she has to get up, get out, make her life what she wants it to me. Of course I cannot go back to her and tell her these things -- but I can share them with those of you who are where I once was, in a place of hopeless restlessness, wishing and waiting. Here's my advice for the girl I once was and for those of you who are still listening to Radiohead and wishing you were anywhere but where you are. 

Do's and Don'ts of a Making a Wish a Reality

Do one small thing every single day.
Don't let yourself become discouraged by big dreams or seemingly impossible goals. Take it one day at a time, one little act at a time. If you want to be more positive, for example, don't feel like you have to start seeing sunshine everywhere. Focus on one little thing you can be positive about and go from there. One of the best ways I've found to turn a wish from a want to a reality is to start taking action immediately. No matter how small, take one little step every single day and you'll be moving closer and closer to your goal.   

Don't underestimate yourself.
If someone had told college-aged me that I would have a site about positivity, I would have rolled on the floor with laughter. But look where I am today. I've been doing this for over three years and I don't plan on stopping any time soon. What seems impossible never is -- it just takes a little belief in yourself. If I hadn't believed in myself, I wouldn't have been able to overcome the obstacles I have. It wasn't always easy to do -- especially when I didn't feel like I was making progress or had set backs -- but it's essential to making a wish something real. 

Do get back up every time you fall down. From the time I wrote those wishes to where I am today, I've faced quite a few setbacks. It's been a bumpy, winding road to get from there to here. Sometimes I found myself going backward, falling down. But I was always turning around, getting up again, redirecting myself. Sometimes it was so tempting to just say screw it and go back to my old ways, but I took it one day at a time. I reminded myself of all I had to look forward to and those thoughts of a happier future motivated me to stand up every time I fell. 

Don't forget what you really want. You've made wishes for a reason. Something in your life isn't what you want it to be. You want something different, something better. Don't forget that when you're struggling, when you're tempted to just wait and not take action. Always remember what you want and why you want it. For me, it was always about being happier, more content. I knew what I wanted, and even though it was so hard to let go of some of the things that got in the way of my happiness, keeping my focus on my end goal helped me survive the times when those a wish-come-true seemed impossible. 

Do share your wishes with others. We've been taught that if we share a wish it won't come true, but I've found the opposite to be true. Telling people what I hope for, what I want, holds me accountable for my actions. If I say I want to be happier and I'm doing something that is making me unhappy, the people in my life can call me out on it. In addition, telling people about your wishes can open doors for you. You can make connections with people who have the same desires, you can find people who will support and encourage you when you're feeling low. Don't underestimate the power of sharing a wish. 

Don't give up. There will be moments when it seems like you will never get where you want to be. Trust me, I've been there. I know how it feels to believe there is no point, that you've given your all and gotten nowhere. But don't give up. There is a teeny, tiny little part of you that has the energy to give a little bit more, to get up again and try one last tactic. When I look back, I see so many situations where I could have given up. I see so many times I wanted to just turn around. But I didn't and I'm so thankful for that. Don't you give up either. It's perseverance that turns wishes into realities. 

No matter what your wish might be -- a tangible thing like a better career or a emotional state like happiness -- you and only you can make it come true. Others might be able to give you a boost or help you along the way, but the rest is up to you. You have a choice. You can stay holed up in your mind, wishing and wanting the way I used to. Or you can get up, take action, make changes. It's all up to you.