When my 14 year old nephew got in the car one afternoon I pointed out one of his fellow classmates that I know. When describing him, I said he is really nice and my nephew replied that you can’t be really nice in school or else they are going to be mean to you. My heart broke. Is that really how kids feel? If you are too nice or different in some way people are going to be mean to you? I wanted to shrug it off, but in my gut I knew it to be true.
I know it’s true because it doesn’t stop when you finish high school, you may find a way to ignore them, but bullies always exist. That had me thinking of all of the bullies I have encountered in my adult life and I am sad to say there are way more than I anticipated. Dealing with adult bullies can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep loss, frequent sick days, eating disorders, and even suicidal ideation.
My husband’s advice has always been to just ignore them, but some forms of bullying are discrete and even intimate. I’ve created a list of the types of bullies I have crossed paths with in my adult life, maybe you will recognize some characteristics in people you know.
The first thing that came to mind when thinking of passive-aggressive bullying was a bit from my favorite comedian, John Mulaney. In his New In Town stand up show, Mulaney says that they could not make an Ocean’s 11 movie with women because they would make passive-aggressive comments the whole time like “I love how you just wear anything”. That’s hilarious and incredibly sad because it is so true! Passive-aggressive comments hurt so much because they come from people who are, on the surface, friendly. These small snubs begin to chip away at your self esteem and make you question yourself, just as intended.
I am so lucky we didn’t have social media when I was in high school. It is a harsh world on social media and many people feel they can be bullies without consequences. It seems some people are just looking for any opportunity to be vicious and offensive. Now bullying has reached new heights because people can hide behind their screen and lash out at others. Adults are just as guilty of this as young people by sharing pictures or posts to make fun of others and adding rude comments. Sometimes people will ban together to bully an absolute stranger or post about the wrongdoings of another. Social media certainly tests your self esteem and need for validation from people you know and sometimes complete strangers.
This type of bullying happens more often than many victims are willing to admit. Power bullying is when someone uses their job or material possessions as leverage to dominate the victim.
This particular form of bullying has happened to several people who are very dear to me. In their relationships they were made to feel as though they were not smart or good enough for anything. They were completely dominated by their partner through harsh words and guilt tactics. It is often used to coerce a partner into physical intimacy before they are ready. Emotional bullying is also the common dynamic in some families that I know. Using guilt and threats of withholding something from a family member is how some people in the family operate to get the things they want.
This one is scary and usually develops over time. It may begin as another form of bullying, but morph into physical bullying. This is the type of bullying that includes the threat or actual use of physical harm to the victim. Domestic violence, date rape, marital rape and all other forms of physical violence to prove a point are atrocious forms of this type of bullying. If you are in this situation you need to go ahead and get out. I had a boyfriend and he was a really wonderful guy until he became angry. When he was angry he would yell and hit objects and I was so afraid that one day he would hit me instead. So I ended the relationship and I know that was the right and safe choice.
I know there are other types of bullying, but these are the ones I have come in contact with the most. Ignoring people sounds like an ideal situation, but you should really stand up to the bullies that are bothering you or other people. Tell someone and get help, you do not have to endure bullying.