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Bully In Progress

“I Am a Bully.”
“Rubbish,” she said, “I absolutely refuse to believe that. It’s just not possible.”
When I said those words to my dear, sweet, friend Melanie, while telling her about Cybersmile, my recent realizations, and the subsequent affectations…she was shocked by my admission.

Truly, so am I.
Yet, when someone I admire deeply made two short comments several months ago, inadvertently leading me to Cybersmile…I began to understand things I had long known, but never truly grasped: the definitive concept of bullying and the lasting and profound effects that bullying has had on my life, confidence, self-esteem and sense of self-worth, my children and relationships (Explore our professional support services for further help).
And since we are all here at Cybersmile discussing and defining the term, “bullying”, in an effort to stop it from happening and to help those suffering from it…I cannot logically continue to examine the lifetime of detrimental effects of bullying upon myself…without also wondering if I have emulated the same behaviors. Where else can I begin but within my own heart?

And so, I have to say it: I am a bully.
Please don’t take that to mean that I’m the kind of person who walks through life roughing people up; I am not. I have to admit that I absolutely love being nice; I love the power that each one of us has to affect another in so many positive ways. I believe a smile is the penultimate and greatest perpetual gift, which I enjoy giving, so freely. I know that my heart is full of grace and good humor; I make sure of it, because I know that sometimes the smallest kindness can make an enormous difference in a lousy day or a difficult life. I choose kindness.

Without arrogance (really, I have none), I can confirm Mel’s notions: that I am a nice person, kind almost to a fault; I do possess a caring, compassionate heart (apparently a little modesty and humility, as well? ;-) lol). I commit random acts of kindness all the time…hold doors open, let people go in traffic, speak sweetly to the errant telemarketer or foul-tempered individual, clean the snow off my elderly neighbor’s truck, pay double at the toll booth for the car behind me…I like to step up, pitch in, help out, lend a hand. I’m too often accused of being perky, peppy, and altogether way too cheery. I actually DO wear rose-colored glasses. Laughter is my favorite past-time.
So, how then, can a woman like that call herself a bully?
Because I have bullied. And I can’t tell you how painful an admission that really is.

Looking Within

I could explain all day long that I have been bullied my whole life, by family, school-mates, teachers, bosses, coworkers, landlords, neighbors, boyfriends, ex-husband…the list seems endless. I could tell you that it is what I know; I have been conditioned to believe that that is how I deserve to be treated, and how my children have also been conditioned to believe that’s what I deserve. I could relay recent revelations as to why I let it happen, why I’m prime fodder for those most likely to bully me, or how I realized that I seek out such individuals because that’s what I am most used to, that it’s why I don’t speak up or stand up for myself. There are solid explanations, galore.
But there is no excuse.
I cannot excuse myself, because, unfortunately, the only two people I can honestly admit to bullying…are my children. Even after considering that to politely use the term “difficult” in reference to the past 12 years of our life is an effrontery to all we’ve endured, I cannot excuse myself. The trials and tribulations of a single parent, any parent, struggling to properly raise and provide for two children with little or no help, support, options or prospects cannot excuse crossing that line between assertion and bullying. But I have done.
Which astounds me, because my children are my reason for being, the very reason I try so hard and put up with so much. I’m the kind of mum who wrote each of her children their own personal lullabies, made their baby food from fresh ingredients and lives by the concept of finding a positive way to say a negative thing; who makes forts out of sheets and loves puddle-jumping after a rain, keeps a host of dead bugs on the hutch with the fine china (courtesy of my budding entomologist), makes birthdays a week-long celebration. I treat my children as thinking, logical entities, and teach them how to be such.
I am tough, no doubt. Mel is certain that while loosing Mumzilla upon errant, disagreeable children may be a necessary part of mothering, it does not constitute bullying; and she’s right. Mumzilla is adamant and matter-of-factly; but also loving and fair. (And from what I can tell, more than a little amusing, as well.)

Bully In Progress

So how can I say I have bullied? Because during those times of outright destitution, financially and emotionally, crawling through the mire of crappy jobs, lousy pay, periods of unemployment from layoffs and/or various injuries, without support, without aid, and having no back up or buffer, when everyone was fighting against me instead of working with me…I felt the need to be forceful. During the worst times, facing nothing but resistance from every angle, when niceties, logic, respect, humor and kindness were completely disregarded, I felt as if I had no choice but to be forceful, with my words and attitude.
Maybe Mel’s right; maybe I never did cross that line between being authoritive and acting like a bully…but I certainly stepped right up to it. I knew during those times that the way I was acting was so much less than ideal, and I can’t explain the efforts I took to redirect myself. Yet, I know there were times I didn’t, or couldn’t, when I felt like there was no other recourse. And it’s inexcusable to me, because those were the very times when my children needed compassion, understanding, love and patience, most.

Breaking The Cycle

Over the past few years, as I have taken great pains to consider before I respond or react, we have become so much kinder and more peaceful. And in the past few months, I have been able to offer myself…and others… compassion and understanding. Sometimes just knowing the monster’s name can help give us the strength to battle and defeat it.
So, why am I here risking reputation and relationships…and maybe even ridicule?
…because I am a walking example of what happens when bullying goes unrecognized, unacknowledged, and tolerated as “just the way things are”, and of what can happen when a person has no resources, no outlet, no credibility, no coping skills. Any amount of bullying has lasting effects and is unacceptable; if it is not stopped before it begins, uprooted before it takes hold, the effects can last a lifetime. So, if my words can prevent any amount of grief either for a child suffering bullying or a parent unsure of how to define it…I will share them.
…because it is far too easy to dismiss bullying behavior, ignore the gravity of it, make light of it, or pretend “it’s just a phase, it will pass; it was a joke, don’t take it to heart”. The only two things any of us has complete control over are our words and our actions. We are influenced from the inside out by everything around us, much of which we have no power to control. But what we say and what we do are strictly under our own command. I have always been careful of what I say and how I say it, I am adamant about the semantics of such. But, I know I have not been careful enough. So, if my experiences give one person cause to carefully consider a new point of view or different perspective, I will write them.
…because labeling a bully as just “a bad person” might seem a logical assumption…yet, while a great many bullies may just be, I have to guess that many…like myself…are not. I’m not a bad person, my children certainly aren’t. I see now the times I’ve bullied my children, my older son bullying me and his younger brother, my younger son bullying the cat. (And of course, the big cat now bullies the small one.) It seems a control issue to me, a method of trying to figure out how assert oneself, a battle against helplessness or impotence, maybe even a cry for help. Most likely, bullies have been bullied. So, if the things I know can help just one person avoid making the same mistakes, or suffering similar hardships, I will voice them.
Why? Because apologizing to my children…and my poor cats…is simply not enough.
Do we know when we bully?” Excellent question. For me, the answer is “no, at the time I did not realize”. Now I do, now I understand. And if my admissions give one person reason to pause long enough to examine their own behavior, I will give voice.
I may not always have courage, but I will always care enough to try.

From Me To You

Music plays an important part in my life, so I like to try and finish each of my posts with a suitable Positive Playlist – I hope you enjoy it!

  • Brandi Carlile – That Wasn’t Me
  • Great Big Sea – Feel It Turn
  • Ryan Adams – Lucky Now
  • Damian Rice – Color Me In
  • Ed Sheeran – Lego House
  • The Avett Brothers – Live and Die

If you are affected by anything mentioned in Kristin’s post or feel the need for support, email [email protected] for a trained support advisor 24/7. To learn more about Cybersmile and the work that we do, explore the suggestions below.

If you would like to contribute to our blog or have any questions/suggestions please email [email protected] and someone will be in touch.