The worst bullies you will ever encounter in your life are your own thoughts.

-Bryant H McGill

There was a piece in the paper recently about the beginning of the school year. It talked about uniforms and school supplies at first, then touched on friendships and bullying. Apparently, ‘face-to-face’ bullying is still the most common form, even moreso than cyberbullying.

Kids can be really cruel. How many times have we heard that?

One story given in this article talked about a girl (who is now 20) being victimised at her Christian school because she went to a religious youth group. She kept quiet and didn’t tell the teachers. Finally, she did tell her mother, who told the Principal. The bullies were punished and then proceeded to increase their victimisation. The girl ended up transferring. This is a true example of bullying.

Various dictionary definitions of bullying refer to using behaviour to intimidate, threaten, abuse or dominate another person; definitions also refer to the behaviour as being ongoing or habitual.

Children and parents, (and teachers) often use the word bully when they are talking about one-off teasing, or being picked on. This, in itself, is not bullying.

There is a fine line, however, between teasing and bullying; teasing, if it goes on for long enough, becomes bullying.

In my own experience, I believe I may have been the victim of low-level bullying when I was in Year 7. A ‘friend’ decided to not be my friend when I refused to go out-of-bounds with her during the school day. She started off ignoring me, then progressed to name-calling, following me home, ‘accidentally’ pushing me and, finally, trashing some of my stuff. This went on for months. My parents eventually rang her parents – and it all stopped rather quickly. She left the school not long after (her father was in the services, it was a posting).

It is times like these when you realise who your real friends are.

There is no doubt that being teased, mocked or picked on can be distressing, but being bullied can be debilitating and can cause long-term damage. However, I agree fully with Bryant H Gill; we are our own worst bullies.

Clinical depression aside (that is a whole different ballgame) – negative self-talk, negative mindset, lack of confidence – these are thoughts we create on our own. They may be inspired by the people around us, but in general we are in charge of the way we feel.

I remember when somebody said that to me when I was feeling particularly down on myself, ‘Nobody can tell you how to feel, Kellie. You are in charge of your feelings. Nobody can make you feel sad, you choose to feel sad. Yada … yada … yada…’

This person was lucky they didn’t get a punch in their patronising gob.

A psychology teacher I had once said that if you are otherwise mentally healthy, and are strong enough to do so, you can choose to banish the negative voice we all have in our heads; and to look past the things you can’t do and celebrate only the things you can do.

This is all well and good, but try telling that to the bully in your head. Bullies are bullies for a number of reasons, but in general they seem to have one quality in common – they are stubborn. The same could be said for that voice in our head; we can do all we want to minimise it, but it’s still there.

The biggest difference between ‘flesh and blood’ bullies and our ‘inner voice’ bully is that we can actually physically remove ourselves from the former. This is why the bully in our head is so much worse.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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