It’s been a rough two weeks for me, but therapy always manages to make me feel validated and stronger than ever. Today was triggering for a number of reasons and the minute I sat down on that couch, I let it all out.
Several situations occurred today and over the weekend that led to a deeper discussion with my therapist on bullying. Emotional bullies are toxic – they want to hurt.
When I got into more detail on the situation, my therapist began to describe the defining characteristics of what a bully normally looks like. Realizing that we can never actually win with a bully, she validated my hurt feelings and told me this:
“A bully has this blaring dynamic that whatever they do, they project onto others.”
Simply meaning, their own issues are unleashed onto others in the form of shame, anger, and guilt. Remember – hurt people hurt people. Here are a few other qualities to spot in a bully:
They insult character, not behavior
This took a little explaining, but my therapist gave me an example. If someone insults your behavior, they would say something along the lines of, “You leave your clothes everywhere, it’s so annoying.” When someone insults your character, they would say, “You’re such a slob.” Spot the difference.
They live for a reaction
I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but bullies are fueled by a reaction. No matter the emotion – guilt, shame, fear, anger. They live for something, anything that results from the constant poking and engaging others.
My therapist went on to tell me that a bully is a lot like spaghetti – hang in there, it’ll make sense. They are messy – not unlike the pasta dish – and with each noodle they feed you, you must pick it up, see it, and simply put it back down. This can be equated to darts as well. They throw darts at you, but you must stop, see it, and not let it pierce you. Do not engage.
Before we went into the tools on healthy ways to handle a bully, my therapist – once again – perfectly worded my own situation, and exactly the definition of someone with bullying tendencies:
“They try to get as many people as angry as they are so they can release that volatile anger in a justifiable way.”
Ding, ding ding! These words were like an alarm ringing so loudly in my mind. Not only did it validate my own feelings, I began to see things as they really were. I was a target.
I happened to be a target, and when I no longer engaged, the bully found others to latch onto. Bullies don’t just invade your space. They invade your thoughts, your self worth, and your energy. We must not allow this.
Stressing this section of the session as the highest importance, my therapist taught me a few tips on how to stick up to a bully, and keep your mental health a priority.
Disengaging is a healthy boundary for a bully. Like I previously stated, they live for a reaction, it fuels their fire. While most people might say it’s better to stick up for yourself or confront the bully, that’s not always the healthy decision.
It’s not cowardly to disengage or meant to be seen as shrinking – you are choosing not to give into the poking and there is a power in that.
Having healthy boundaries is an essential part of so many relationships. Disengaging is a healthy boundary, as well as standing in your own truth. My therapist made up a mantra for me when I’m feeling the guilt and shame that can come with creating these boundaries:
I’m choosing not to be around you because you’re mean.
While it might seem a little simple, that is my personal mantra based on my own experience. Modified, it can be helpful for any kind of situation you may find yourself in with a bully. Don’t beat yourself up for building boundaries – protect your heart.
Clarify your truth
Bullies like to create stories. Big, grand stories that sometimes can be triggering for the person who actually experienced the truth. When we are confronted with exaggeration in a bully, it’s crucial to clarify our intentions and move on. Because in the end, we can only control our own reactions, not anyone else’s. Stand tall in your truth and you won’t need to react.
Don’t believe the bully
Wanna know how bullies thrive? By picking away at your self esteem. Something that you already view as a negative, or a flaw in yourself – they will find it and use that. Those unhealthy triggers linked to self worth, guilt, and confidence are waiting to be chipped and chipped until all that’s left is I’m not good enough. And when you reach that thought, they’ve won.
Please, please. Don’t give into that thought process and let a bully beat you down. Know your worth, and realize they are not living in reality.
My therapist ended our session today by telling me that I deserve a trophy for effectively handling all the triggers that have come my way in the past few weeks. I won’t lie, I almost want to have that trophy made for myself. Jokes aside, I truly am proud of myself for how I’ve been handling these situations. Triggers are never easy, but with therapy and finding the right tools to navigate through them, I’ve been able to sit with my emotions and tell my anxiety to take a backseat.
I feel empowered. Right now, at this stage in my life I’m truly beginning to make decisions for me. My mental health. My heart. My emotions. My life.
If you find yourself having to handle a bully – battle them with your truth. You are worth more than the words of someone weaker.
Have you dealt with a bully before? Share your story in the comments below!