Life & Culture

‘Bullies can make you feel isolated, scared, worthless or even suicidal’

This week is national anti-bullying week. This 15-year-old girl outlines the problems which forced her to leave her Jewish school


The well-known image of the standard bully is someone who is large and intimidating, stronger and taller then you. This is inaccurate: they could be small, thin and innocent-looking, but the dangerous thing about these bullies is that no one believes you if you say they bullied you because they look so innocent.

Bullies make you feel isolated and sometimes turn your friends against you, or make them lie about you to others, and once someone has an unfair impression of you, it’s unfortunately very hard to change it. Asking someone out as a joke, prank-calling someone, even laughing about someone are forms of bullying. It might get so bad that the victim is feeling scared, worthless or even suicidal. Bullying is no fun.

Spreading rumours is another key element of bullying, and what’s really mean about this is the person doesn’t always know things are being said about them and why other people are avoiding them. Deliberately and purposely excluding people is another form of bullying. Believe it or not, always letting the same person be chosen last for your team at PE, letting someone sit by themselves in the corner of the lunch hall, or leaving a person without someone to work with in class are all forms of bullying: not including someone is excluding them.

One of the worst impacts of bullying is that it can change who you are. I know a lot of people who haven’t been able to cope with it and who have turned to self-harm, alcohol or drugs. It’s true that bullying can make you stronger and wiser in some respects, but it also lowers your confidence, damages your self-esteem and leaves you feeling insecure — which changes how you make friends in the future.

It also has a major impact on learning. I was unable to concentrate when I was worrying about possible comebacks, insults or what was being said about me. This can affect how teachers see you and can impact badly on your grades, making you feel unmotivated, unable to concentrate and frustrated.

What I (like many teenagers) found hard is telling people you have been, or are being, bullied. This is because they usually don’t respond in a way that actually makes you feel better. They usually react in one of three different ways: Doubt — “Are you sure it’s not just a few mean comments?” Then there’s blame — “maybe you should do this or that differently”, which makes you feel you deserved to be bullied, and disbelief — “I don’t think you’re the type to be bullied”.

These reactions are almost the worst part of bullying, as it’s hard enough to admit that you are being bullied in the first place only to be told that, somehow, what you’re going through isn’t valid or is your fault.

I do see how it is hard for a teacher to be aware of what is happening. Sometimes what they see is not what happened or doesn’t tell the full story. For example, once someone provoked me by poking me under the table and making rude comments and I shouted at them to shut up — which was all the teacher heard. I was punished and told “it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other” which only made the bullies feel they could carry on and get away with it. I think teachers — like everyone else in this world perhaps — tend to believe the majority.

Bullying isn’t always visible to the naked eye at all: you think people would bully someone else in front of members of staff if they knew there would be consequences? No. So they find more sneaky and secretive ways to bully people, so that they won’t get caught. This can be online, with sarcastic remarks or excluding someone from a party list, a game or a group of friends; or even making nasty remarks online if they see their victim has been added to the same online party list as them. And there are many other ways to bully someone online as well.

The other unpleasant aspect of bullying is that people assume that you are a fair target because you have a fancy house or you’re different in some way (even though that isn’t always a bad thing).

They may assume that person has a better life than them but they don’t know how their victim feels inside and what insecurities they might have. Nothing justifies putting someone else through continuous pain. I think it’s important that instead of judging each other based on what people post, wear, look like, or the grades they get, we should only decide what we feel about someone after we have met them in person, with an open mind, and formed our own opinion.

There are some techniques for coping with bullying. Firstly, ignore it. Often I’ve ended up in bad situations because I have retaliated, putting myself somewhat in the wrong as well. If you have to respond, don’t say anything that could get you into trouble. Also, showing the bullies how upset you are often only encourages them to go further and shows them how to provoke you. Be polite and constructive and maybe even witty while getting your point across. Rather than responding online to cyber bullying, if you have something to say, do it in real life, because bullies often delete their side of the messages and post only your responses, making you look like the bully. Find a hobby or club and meet people out of school to remind yourself that there are kind people out there. And the hobby itself can be a great way to feel better about yourself, whether it’s sport, music or any other thing that you enjoy doing. School isn’t the be all and end all, and it’s healthy to have friends from other places who may have a completely different outlook or background from your own.

Finally, I want to talk about bystanders and the people who didn’t start out as bullies but found themselves caught up in it. Perfectly nice people often join in with bullies for fear of being rejected by their group of friends. Some have even admitted this to me. They see what the bullies have done to others and don’t want it to be their turn next, so they join in. There are also those who don’t defend the victim for the same reason.

I have never been one to sit by and watch. I know how it feels to be that person who is wishing someone said something or stood up for them. It is also not a good feeling knowing you could have done something to make someone’s day a little brighter. It may be described as “sticking your nose in”, but other people may see it as standing up for what’s right. I always stand up for what I believe in. I would even stand up for my enemy if they happened to be in the right. No one should be without defenders. Often my opinions are different from others’, but who wants to follow the crowd anyway? Let your opinion be heard. I always stand up for what I believe in, and sometimes I do stand alone.

If you are the one who is hurting someone, stop, because you may be the reason they don’t want to come to school.

If you see that person you prank-called or insulted? Say sorry and stop, because that might make someone’s day better. If you see that person crying over there? Go over and help because kindness doesn’t cost anything and has the ability to help so many people.

Every word you say to someone who is already down has such a big impact, so don’t hurt that person, because what you may see as a joke can badly impact on someone else. Sadly, one insult creates a bigger impression then one act of kindness, that’s why we all need to show lots of acts of kindness.

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