Bullying, or the art of physical or emotional intimidation, can come in many shapes and forms, and has the ability to cripple even the strongest of spirits.
Most of us think of bullying happening at school, with Johnny Big Boots turning your underwear over your head in the playground, or getting all the other kids in your grade to call you names.
In many TV programmes, movies and even novels, bullying is seen as a normal part of growing up – a comical rite of passage, if you will.
In one of my favourite childhood book series’ titled Diary of a Wimpy Kid, for example, the main character, Greg Heffley and his best friend, Rowley are bullied and shunned by the popular kids at school, and see it as something they have to go through as middle schoolers.
But bullying is not funny and eating your lunch in the bathroom is not funny, so don’t feel bad if you’re not simply laughing off these horrible events in your life like the fictional characters from your favourite TV shows. The trauma from these primary or high school experiences can be carried throughout our lives and make us depressed, self-deprecating young adults.
And bullying doesn’t only happen in school. Believe it or not, bullying can also occur at university or college – I’ve heard and seen this with my very own eyes. Of course at university, your oppressor may not be stealing your lunch money or punching you around – at this level intimidation is a lot more psychological than physical.
It’s the sneaky whispers when you walk into your lecture room, the remarks or snorts of sarcastic laughter when you’re delivering an oral presentation that you worked really hard on, or even just the spreading of vicious rumours.
When I was at university, for example, I was never popular. I’d have very few friends, do really well academically and walk around with at least three novels at a time. In short, I was a nerd.
I was never mean to my classmates, but for some reason, many of them built up a really strong dislike for me. There were times I didn’t even want to attend classes because of the way they treated me. The four things that kept me going were: my faith in Allah, my family, my undying ambition to reach greatness, and my best friend, Yolanda who kept me laughing during the most horrible of days.
Another terrible type of bullying is cyber bullying and this occurs when young people are intimidated and victimised on social media platforms. Cyber bullying can either come from your own contacts or social media ‘friends’, or from random people and can be anything from mean inbox messages, to horrible comments on pictures or statuses you post.
The truth is, while social media can be great for keeping in contact with old friends, marketing yourself as a business person, model or blogger and staying up to date with world events, it can also be a horrible wasteland where users are viciously trolled for what they post.
Another rarely discussed form of bullying is the bullying that occurs in the workplace.
And there can be a pattern…If you were bullied at school, the pain that wasn’t dealt with can carry over to high school, which will, in turn carry through to university and the workplace.
Now let me just start by emphasising that there will be…ahem…‘difficult individuals’ in every environment you work in. You’ll have your gossipers, the suck-ups, the bosses who expect the impossible, and your colleagues who do as little as possible and come to work at least two hours late every day.
But when I refer to office bullies, I’m talking about those people who oppress you and make you feel like an outcast by speaking to and treating you with disrespect.
We don’t often talk about this kind of bullying, and it’s hard to know how to handle these situations. So here are some tips for those of you dealing with workplace bullies. It’s easier said than done, but I have found them useful at least to aim towards!
Know why you’re there in the first place
Whether you’re the office intern or working part-time in a clothing shop to make some money on the side, you clearly have a goal and never let anyone distract you from that.
Realise your worth
Work hard, but don’t let anyone push you around, including the superiors in your workplace. We all deserve respect.
Find little things in every day that make you happy
Whether it’s your morning coffee or the little chats you have with some of the colleagues you get along well with. Don’t be afraid to smile and be happy.
Kill them with success
People will gossip no matter what you do, but keep proving yourself and working hard!
My advice to anyone who is being bullied, and so going through a tough time, at school or at work, is to seek help – if not from a friend or family member, then from a professional psychologist.
If you or anyone you know is going through any emotional turmoil, do contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837. Alternatively, you can also find them on Facebook or twitter and drop them and inbox.
Never be afraid to seek help – we all need somebody to lean on sometimes.
Tell us: have you been bullied? How did you deal with it?