Anderson Cooper’s recent program “The Bully Effect” launched a renewed interest in this currently-hot topic. What I like best about Anderson Cooper is that he is often careful to point out that bullying is a “complex” issue, which means that it is not a cut and dry story of the bad guy bully causing mental or physical anguish to the good guy victim. While I am not here to defend bullies or what they do, I strongly believe that many, if not all, bullies do their deeds for a reason. I’m no expert, but I think most people agree that the reason has plenty to do with whatever is going on inside the bully’s mind – pain, hurt, anger, fear – whatever the source. Those feelings are all negative and they fuel further negative, hurtful behavior.
A few months ago (ok, almost a year ago) after my first blog, a friend of mine suggested I do a blog about bullying. My immediate response in my brain was “Uh-uh. No way. Total minefield that I am completely unqualified to write about.” Until she further explained herself – why not write a blog about “the bully inside”. This made me pause. I know that bully. I know her well. She has been bullying me since I was a pre-teen, to be honest.
Much writing has been done on the various aspects of bullying and I am not going to profess to have figured out any particular question plaguing the search for a solution. However, I think that the bully inside is an aspect that is often left unexamined.
Initally, I only considered the bully inside of the victim, the bullied. What is it about that child or adult that prevents them from standing up against their bully? Is it a lesser physical strength or ability than the bully? Perhaps. Is it some perceived difference like homosexuality or assumed homosexuality that parts of society have conditioned the bully to believe is an acceptable reason to bully? Sometimes. But at the core of every bullied human is the bully inside. That little voice inside their head that allows them to accept and absorb what the bully is saying and doing to them as TRUTH, when it is not. I must stress at this point that I am in NO WAY trying to say that bullying is the fault of the victim. NOT EVEN CLOSE and if you have somehow interpreted that from what I’ve just written, you need to back it up and start again or keep on movin’ because you’re just not getting it. The bullied is not the only victim of the bully inside – the bully is ALSO a victim.
The bully inside is sometimes the worst bully anyone can face, because it is a product of our own minds. The input of all of our experiences and people in our lives and our own interpretations of these factors gather together in a cruel little club to often create the worse possible insults and hateful words that we can hear in our own brain’s dialogues with ourselves. How often have you said to yourself “I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m stupid, I’m lazy, I’m useless”? Even people with relatively decent self-confidence have their demons, their points of insecurity. Children especially are not equipped to argue with the bully inside, and when that internal bully is tag-teamed with a bully outside, there is no mechanism for self-defense. The bullied are powerless. Or are they?
What if the world effort currently being spent on bullying were focused on eradicating the bully inside, instead of the bully outside? Would the bully outside even exist?
What if EVERY child on earth were instilled with a core belief that they were a good person, a strong person, a smart person, a special person, a beautiful person?
What if bullies believed that about themselves?
Naturally, the next question would be who is responsible for instilling such confidence-boosting foundations in all of our babies?
Well folks – IT TAKES A VILLAGE.
Parents are obviously a key component, but when you think of how many people interract with your child in a week, bullying clearly becomes a GLOBAL issue. I will shamefully admit that up until recently, I didn’t really give the subject of bullying my full attention. I worried about it on behalf of my children – no parent wants their child to be bullied, or BE a bully. I asked my children about it to ensure no bullying was happening to them (or from them). I felt sympathy for the parents of the bullied victims in the news, some so tortured by bullies that they chose death. But I have not really felt that bullying touched MY life personally and therefore I was not really responsible for thinking about it for any length of time, or expending any energy on considering a possible solution.
Bullying is EVERYONE’S problem. Because we ALL carry the bully inside. That gives us the power to bully, or to be bullied. Our attention needs to be directed towards ALL of our human interactions and examine them in terms of positive or negative. Because negative human interractions feed the bully inside, and the bully inside feeds the bullies outside. Am I making sense here people?
I’m not going to suggest some “All you need is LOVE” revolution, but I do sincerely believe that each one of us holds the power to change our attitude and our behavior towards ourselves and those around us. We all feel pain, but when we inflict that pain on others, especially children, to try to alleviate our OWN suffering, that’s just passing the buck. We need to start with our own bully inside and slowly starve it to death. We need to begin to see the lies that our bully inside tells us and work towards a self-acceptance and peace that would allow us to also deal with others with acceptance and peace.
My daughter has a children’s book from Sesame Street called “We’re Different, We’re all the Same” (written by Bobbi Kates). I freakin’ LOVE this book. It discusses physical differences in people (hair colour/styles, eye colour, skin colour, body shape/size, etc) and then repeats and enforces the message that even though I have a pear-shaped body and you have a spaghetti-shaped body – we are THE SAME, because our bodies do the same jobs, regardless of their shapes. Novel concept, huh? Now all we need is an adult version of this book that presents the concept that you have certain ideas that might be different from mine, but unless your ideas involve crimes, then ALL of our ideas are ok. Different is NOT BAD.
I’m not naive enough to think that this world mind revolution will ever fully transpire, but if only 5 people read this blog and get the message and begin to say to themselves “I’m totally awesome the way I am, and so are most of the kids and people that I know and meet” and they then begin to treat the people around them with kindness and respect, then that is 5 less opportunities for a bully to be created, as far as I’m concerned. And changing the world 5 people at a time ain’t so bad, is it?
“What you have in your mind is what you put there. Put Good Things in there.” – unknown
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christoper Robin to Winnie the Pooh