We all know someone who has been bullied, and we are quite aware of the devastating effects it can have on a victim. From depression to drugs and even suicide, being the target of bullying can be truly devastating. With bullying in the spotlight these days, most of us believe we have a clear understanding of what bullying really is and what it looks like.
We have this idea that bullies are the jock who stuffs the nerd into his locker, or the cheerleader who calls everyone a bunch of losers. Certainly, most of us have never considered that we might actually be engaging in bully type behaviors ourselves.
Here are 8 signs to look out for to know if you’re bullying others:
- Criticizing others. Do you find yourself putting other people down? Do you need to believe that you are better than others? Perhaps you always need to have the highest grade, so if someone else did better than you, they must have cheated. Maybe you think you’re the best football player on the team, so if you lose, it was because of someone else’s shortcomings. Maybe you criticize the way someone dresses, their weight, or who they are friends with.
- Taking pleasure in the failures of others. Do you love to see other people fail? Maybe you find yourself saying, “I knew you couldn’t do it” or thinking, “what an idiot”. Perhaps when someone else fails, you actually feel good. It makes you happy that they failed, allowing you to continue thinking you are better than everyone else.
- Using threats or violence. This could be the obvious, such as hitting, kicking, pushing or even outright threats to cause bodily harm. But it could also be more subtle, like saying, “You don’t even want to see what will happen if you do that”. It all has an underlying tone of instilling fear in another person.
- Dominating others. This is most often done through intimidation and/or humiliation. You need to feel big and strong and powerful, so you will say whatever it takes to make everyone else feels small and weak and powerless. You might just stand tall and look down at them with a dirty look to get them to do what you want. It could also look like deliberately embarrassing someone in front of others, or even sharing a secret that they told you in confidence.
- Manipulating others. Have you ever coerced or forced someone to do something they didn’t want to do? Maybe used some clever tactics to get your way? Teenagers often cry or use guilt to get their friends, partners or even parents to give in. This type of manipulative behavior, even when it’s quite subtle, is considered bullying.
- Name-calling, spreading rumors or gossip. You probably notice this happening all the time around you, even with adults or our president. Calling other people losers or sluts or idiots are all bullying behaviors. Talking about other teens’ sexual encounters or making up stories about others that aren’t even true are all extremely cruel and considered bullying.
- Ignoring or isolating. Have you ever given someone the silent treatment when you were angry with them, refusing to discuss what’s going on? Trying to punish someone by ignoring them or purposely isolating them from friends by leaving them out are also forms of bullying.
- Cyber on online bullying. Cyber bullying would include any and all of the above listed behaviors expressed online, on social media, or by text. Cyber bullying can be as simple as commenting on a photo someone posts. For example, my teenaged son once posted a picture from his travels where he was standing on a log which extended over the edge of a mountain. One boy wrote in the comments, “I hope you fall,” basically telling my son he wishes he was dead (since falling off that log would surely have resulted in his death).
The truth is, most of us have done at least a couple of these things on occasion. But if you find yourself doing most of these things on a fairly regular basis, you might actually have a bullying problem.
These can be red flags to bigger and more serious issues going on with you. While bullies often appear to be confident, successful and content, they are actually the most unhappy people and in tremendous pain themselves. Before things get any worse or lead you down a path of destruction, seek help to resolve your issues and improve your self-esteem.
Report any abuse you have experienced or may currently be experiencing in your life. Seek the help of a counselor, teacher or other trusted adult to help you through this. Make things right with those whom you have hurt, and let help in so you can begin to heal your own pain.