‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, bur words will never hurt me.’ We now know that the absolute opposite is true of this. Whilst mostly well-meaning, these well-known responses to victims of bullying can be emotionally damaging and make a bad situation worse, rather than better.
- ‘Ignore them’
The absolute worst thing someone can say to a person in the midst of emotional turmoil inflicted by others. It’s nigh on impossible to simply ignore the incessant cruelty of bullies, who often affect us in environments we can’t escape from, such as work or school. We can’t pretend it’s not happening; and in fact being in denial about emotionally distressing incidents can be counterproductive and harmful in the long run. In turn, it trivialises what’s happening to you and how you are feeling, affirming to you that you may be ‘pathetic’ and deserving of bad treatment.
- ‘They’re suffering too’
Why don’t you cut them a bit of slack? After all, bullies are often chronically insecure people who see their failures mirrored in you and use you to vent their own anger, or are jealous of something you possess that they don’t and very much wish that they did. Whilst this may be true, it does little to help you feel better about your situation. You want an ally, someone who will fight your corner and resent the bullies for hurting you. Not somebody who reserves their sympathy for the people who are making you feel bad.
- ‘Tell someone’
Of course, telling a loved one can be helpful and ease the loneliness, isolation and emotional pain that comes with being bullied. Having someone to talk to and share your experiences with can be invaluable. However telling just anyone, perhaps a teacher or an authority figure you hope will solve the problem, often results in the complete opposite. Sadly, only you can beat the bullies; internally or externally, or by choosing to ride it out. Here in the UK there is very little, both in schools and in the ‘real world’ (unless somebody is breaking the law), that can be done about bullying. Therefore chances are telling a teacher will make your life a whole lot worse (it did for me). Ensure that whoever you trust with your troubles simply lends a listening ear and supports you, and doesn’t intervene to make matters worse.
- ‘They’re just jealous’
This prompts us to discount everything else this person says as untrue, because we don’t see that there’s anything to be jealous of. You feel bad about yourself; you feel the bullies are justified in their torments and actions. You just wish they’d stop.
Words really mean very little. Simply being told things does little to form and strengthen positive core beliefs; being shown, however, has much more impact because it’s tangible.
- ‘Just be yourself’
Another ‘ they’re just jealous’ statement. You feel intrinsically that you are all wrong, after all, that’s why these people dislike you and have targeted you. They make personal comments, which you take to heart/on board. These become facts, which become beliefs. So for you, ‘being yourself’ is the root of the problem, it’s what got you into this in the first place. You need someone to show you you’re good just as you are. Not tell you. Ironically, positive words often mean nothing when they follow cruel words which shape the way you feel about yourself, view yourself and live your life forever.