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The Bullies Among Us

What does a bully look like? Many of us envision an oversized mean kid able to stuff us inside a trashcan with the help of a few terrified minions into whom he’s pounded the fear of God with his fists. That’s our stereotype. The truth of bullying is that we are never too old (or too young) to find ourselves continually on the receiving end of someone’s–or several someones’ insecurities and inabilities to communicate emotions and frustrations without ripping into another. Siblings, spouses, friends, parents, bosses, teachers, and co-workers all are capable of some really awful and continuous nastiness in their efforts to make themselves feel more powerful, successful, popular and superior. Sometimes they don’t mean to keep us on the awful roller coaster. Sometimes they, sadly, do.

Sometimes it’s straight-up physical or verbal meanness. Often, the abuse is much more subtle. The most confusing bullies make you question yourself. They twist your words around and throw things back at you to confuse. These people can be the people who love you. They might really love you–and you them. But they can still bully you. Our closest friends do it too. If the person is a true narcissist (see narcissist) there’s not much to be done but run. It could be that having some good honest communication with or placing distance between the others might help.

Parenting often means bullying to some degree. But hopefully, done most often with love–though abuse of children is a whole other issue I cannot even begin here. I’ve seen elderly people bullied, and those bullies will hopefully suffer the same fate one day. Passive aggressive bullying isn’t as funny as “Bless your heart” sounds. I am well-acquainted with many of these people and they deserve a spot in the nursing home someday alongside those who bully the elderly. There’s a special kind of wickedness in the words, “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt.”

Bullies crave anything resembling weakness. You may believe affability and attempting to get along above all else will keep you safe. You’re a peace lover, right? They love a peace-lover. It means they can rain terror on you and never get smacked with the backlash. The worst bullies understand how their remarks get to you, eat at your guts and hurt your heart. Finding fault in others somehow makes them feel superior. The things a person finds least appealing within themselves is the target they shoot at in others. How many times have you heard that? It’s so true. Trying to compensate for deep insecurities by projecting them onto someone else.

I’m a peace-lover. I don’t prefer conflict. I’m pretty nice and have mostly good intentions. But I now realize that no one will respect me if I allow them to dis-respect me. Whether it’s the mean-ass clerk who’s had a bad day or anyone who decides to take an undeserved shot at me; I must stand up for myself, even though my first instinct is to back down. Unfortunately it’s taken about half my life to figure this out.

This is for my friend who’s been dealing with an everyday bully for a long while. You are a grown woman. You’re a good person. Put your big girl panties on and stop taking that crap. No one will punch you in the nose if you speak your mind. (they might, but then you can press charges :))

I hope you are all able to stand up to your everyday bullies!



  1. Dana Crawford says

    “You get as much respect as you demand.” Susan, your words bring to light a very real issue for many women! So difficult to learn how to “demand” respect……but I must say, approaching 50 years on the planet definitely helps……and it’s not always pretty. (Not always pretty certainly applicable to both approaching 50 years on the planet and “demanding” the respect you deserve.)

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