Looking at the etymology of the word bully, it dates back to as early as the 1530s as a combination of the Dutch word ‘boel ‘and the German word ‘buhle’, and bullying itself is something that has been prevalent in society since institutions came into existence, but we hear a lot more about it now than we did back in the day. Is it because there are more cases now than there were in the past? Or perhaps because people now have a better understanding of bullying and therefore it is talked about and addressed more openly? It’s a bit of both in my opinion, because while the number of bullying cases has risen significantly in recent years, boundaries of social conduct have also become more clear, which has resulted in highlighting the intended hostility in actions that would’ve been perceived differently in the past. This has also led to more people becoming comfortable with sharing their stories and experiences with the world which has created more awareness regarding the topic. However, it’s not that simple, and here’s why from a bullying survivor’s perspective.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word ‘bullying’? For many the image is that of harsh verbal or physical actions, and while that is pretty common, I’m here to tell you that it’s not always the case. When I got bullied for instance, it started with exclusion from group projects by my classmates or annoyed sighs by a certain group of people every time I was assigned to work with them in class, and then eventually turned into hurtful comments and me being completely isolated and ignored, but that did not make my experience trivial or any less agonizing, just different.
Something that I do want to mention here is that I was aged around 12 at the time and my family and I had just moved to a new country due to my father’s work. Having lived and studied in the same country all my life, I had never really come across anything like this before, so the idea of people not liking me or looking down upon me was completely alien, and so was the concept of bullying. It seemed so distant; something that I grew up watching in high school movies, something I never thought could happen to me until it did, and I was left clueless about how to deal with it. Due to this, I didn’t even know that I was being bullied which made it even more difficult for me to seek help and speak up because all I knew was that I was having a difficult time settling into my new school, an idea that was enforced by the people around me as a result of my lack of ability to express what I was truly going through. Having said that, I believe that everything happens for a reason and while the experience was challenging, I came out of it stronger than before with my family’s support and ended up taking a stand and moving to a different school which came as a blessing in disguise because up until this day, I still cherish and regard those years as my most precious ones. This brings me to my first tip, which is to talk to and confide in someone about what you’re going through. This is because a lot of times when we’re going through a rough patch emotionally, it can cloud your judgement, and so talking to someone can give you clarity and also allow you to view your situation from a different perspective, ultimately giving you an opportunity to derive a solution in the process. While asking for assistance is always a good idea and something one should never hesitate to do, it is never too late to stand up for yourself, especially for people who prefer to deal with personal matters independently. This is a lot easier and effective than presumed because more often than not, bullies are individuals of insecure and cowardly nature and will most likely back down and crumble when confronted. This next piece of advice is to be applied if the earlier ones don’t lead to desired results, and it is to turn to authorities for assistance to lodge a complaint against the bully, which would be your school teachers and principle if you’re a student, and possibly the HR department at your workplace if you’re an employee. Our mind is an extraordinarily strong tool and its power and impact on us individuals is often underplayed, speaking of which my last tip is to focus your mind on the positives in life, regardless of how miniscule they may be, and use them to counteract the difficult times and negativity.