Bullying ruins lives and toughens you

RomeWhat, both? How is that possible? If it toughens you, doesn’t that set you up for life rather than ruining it for you? Well, yes. That’s probably true. The fact is that bullying doesn’t affect everyone in the same way and that’s probably because of the different ways we react to it.

So if a group of other children laugh at you and say, “You’ve got your shirt on inside out,” do you say, “That’s OK, I like it that way.”? Do you cry? Or do you keep quiet? I chose the third way, keeping my feelings locked inside and making them think I didn’t have any.

When people have said that they were also bullied and the experience made them stronger, I used to blame myself. I thought it must be my fault that it didn’t have that effect on me.  Now I think: Good for you! But how does that relate to me? How could I have known, as a child, that I should have reacted in a different way?

All roads lead to Rome, and, no matter which I follow, I always come to the same conclusion: it’s up to adults to provide guidance. Parents, teachers, whoever comes into contact with the child. Because children are not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions. 

PS  My life wasn’t ruined – just spoilt.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

10 replies on “Bullying ruins lives and toughens you”

Interesting thought, Miriam. I think that you are suggesting that nature has no influence on how we turn out – rather that the adults we turn into are all a product of nurture. I don’t know whether I agree but I wasn’t sure if that was what you meant

No, I think it’s a mixture. As far as social anxiety goes, I think certain people are born with the potential to get it. Whether they do depends on their experiences.

I guess it’s an either/or – it can’t do both to the same person and what devastates one, makes someone else more determined. It’s not a choice. The choices are in the hands of the perpetrators.

Yes. Unfortunately, the perpetrators don’t understand the choices they’re making.

When I was bullied I said nothing. I walked away, looked the direction, or whatever it took to put it out of my mind. You’re right about everyone reacting to things differently. I’m an only child, but I’m often amazed by siblings who turn out so different though they share the same environment.

That said, I don’t always know what people mean when they say they are stronger. For some people that may mean less feeling. Maybe they take fewer risks? Lose sympathy? Maybe they have great wounds but have them buried deep? Who’s to say.

Now that I’m a parent, I can see where I have influence and where I have none. He is his own person–and parts of him I can never change.

Certainly, parents can’t influence everywhere. Teachers also have a responsibility. Maybe others, too. And even if they all cooperate, they can’t dictate how the child will turn out.

I’ve been thinking some more about this. In your example about the shirt, I don’t think the person who says I like it that way is being bullied because they don’t see themselves as a victim. The crying or silent response are being bullied, in my view, because the bullies have hit on a weakness/failing etc that the victim recognises in herself. They feel weak, ugly, different etc so the bully is reinforcing that feeling.
I know my own weaknesses and failings so if I think it will be an issue I tell the joke against myself, e.g. I exaggerate my lack of culinary skills so that the listener laughs with me and I am in control. It doesn’t mean that I don’t mind or that the subsequent responses don’t hurt

Your strategy is probably the best there is. I certainly wouldn’t want people to be afraid to talk to me for fear of hurting me!

Good post!

I’ve personally come across literally hundreds of bullying cases, through various mediums, and consequently have come across just about every excuse to condone or defend bullying. One of the all time most common that I’ve come across is the “it toughens people up” line.

*insert rude word*

In most of the cases I’ve come across where a victim has learnt to stand up for his or herself in environments where he or she were bullied they’ve usually come away from the experience with a lot of underlying psychological problems or even worse end up becoming bullies themselves. I always remember reading the account of an inner city gang leader who, when in private, admitted that he only joined that gang in the first place to present himself as less of a target to those other pupils who were bullying him. Sadly he quickly rose through the ranks by get involved in increasingly scummy activities until he was effectively gang leader, probably to assert his status and present himself as an increasingly hard target.

There are probably rare cases of bullying actually “toughening” people up but I would say it’s very rare and it’s very likely the experiences will have caused them a great deal of underlying psychological problems that perhaps even they aren’t aware off.

There are far more efficient ways to toughen a person up mentally and at dealing with confrontation without subjecting them to bullying. More often than not in my view the “it toughens people up” excuse is usually only used by current or former bullies to try and justify their actions.

I’m not trying to set myself up as an expert here, before anyone starts asking which school of psychology I went to (I didn’t), just as a well read and well experienced victim with an obsession for bullying cases. 😀

Yeah even if it does toughen some up, the ruining lives is more devastating and outweighs the former. My bullying experience did toughen me up in making me resolve to never be a doormat again and to stand up for myself and others, but I could have learned that in other, less harmful ways.

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