It is a fact universally acknowledged that our modern world is a place of innovation, technology, and progress. We tend to have a better standard of living than previous generations, as well as better conditions for personal development and growth. However, there is always another side of the coin; and in our case, it is not that positive. Today’s internal and external factors (rivalries, social conditions, categorical demands, and shifting ideals about role models, etc.) create a perfect condition for the birth of new problems. One of these “newborns” is bullying. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics 2016, more than one out of five students reports being bullied. Those who are not familiar with the term may wonder what bullying is, and why it is so “popular”.
Teasing, making mean or rude gestures, spreading rumours, inappropriate sexual comments, embarrassing someone in public, and hundreds of other offensive and humiliating actions – all of these are different ways of bullying. They can vary in the way of implementation and character, starting from verbal and social bullying to physical intimidation. However, the feature that all of them have in common is a negative and usually detrimental effect. It seems as if everybody knows, at least superficially, what bullying means and how it can influence other people’s physical and mental health, as well as life in general. Yet, statistics show that we still face this problem and know victims who have serious issues in their lives as a result of being bullied. However, if we look at the individual cases not just as a statistics but think about each of them separately, it is even more terrifying. I believe that the causes of the problem are more than clear, and we just need to accept the truth that it is society and people in particular who create this problem. Still, what about those who suffer? What about all the victims of bullying, and what should they do to find a way out?
Sociologists have been studying bullying for many years from the perspective of dominance behaviour. They explain that indeed, bullying is nothing more than an effort by some to establish power over others, and it finds many parallels in the animal kingdom, where the strong feel the power to attack or harm the weak. That is, basically, what is happening nowadays in schools, on campuses, in social networks, and simply in everyday life. Children search for various means to find and establish their position in society, and often these means are both wrongful and hurtful. Through bullying, some of them become more powerful and “respected” while others become the victims. This creates a so-called imbalance of power. However, if we dive deeper into this topic we can notice a very simple and logical solution.
Imagine a game between two kids. It can be literally almost any kind of game that requires having just one winner at the end. As the process of the game is moving forward, each tries to overpower the other, understanding that the one who wins will get a prize, or will receive encouragement, or will simply feel emotional uplift through understanding that he/she is the best. However, as soon as a child starts to lose, there is a huge chance that he/she will stop the game, and will not be willing to continue. This desire to win, to be appreciated, to realize oneself and feel one’s power, is one of the needs explored in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Hence, all of us have an inner necessity, which is continuously strengthened by the rules of modern society; and as long as we are getting what we want, we are interested in the game.
We can look at bullying from the perspective of the same game but with slightly different players: a victim and a bully. If by a sad coincidence of circumstances you have become a victim, you have to understand one crucial thing. Since haters want to win, they will do whatever it takes for you to surrender and give them the feeling of being powerful and strong. However, there is actually only one possible way for you to lose – and that is by becoming upset and actual caring about what they are saying. Whenever they feel that their actions have a real effect on you, they will keep going and, as the great educator and speaker Brooks Gibbs noted, «the more upset you get, and the angrier you become, the more fun they have». We should understand that bullies are simply people who enjoy humiliating other people and making them angry, simultaneously boosting their own self-esteem. They enjoy what they are doing, and as long as you react negatively, they become the appropriators of your energy and power. Think, just for a second, what would happen if you were irrepressible, emotionally strong, and mentally tough? What would happen if you decided not to care about all the words and actions of the aggressors? What if you decided to be above all of this and to be unreachable?
The answer is as logical as it is simple. When people are no longer getting what they expected or the process is no longer fun, they lose interest. Furthermore, when people start to understand that they are losing, they no longer like to play the game, because to lose means to be weak; and weakness is definitely not something our world teaches us to be proud of. By not getting upset, you make the bullies feel feeble, as they do not get the result that they wanted. Therefore, they will quit trying. Hence, you can change the whole situation just with the help of your attitude and the way you react to them. Furthermore, you can even try to be nice to the offenders, letting them understand that their actions do not have any meaning and they cannot change your positivity and inner strength through bullying. Perhaps you will even teach them that in this way they cannot achieve success, respect, and power. You will make them understand that they have to change their strategy. To make a long story short, it will be you who will influence them, and not the other way around.
The solution to the problem is clear and simple when you understand what the real nature of bullying is. However, it is worth mentioning that we should remember and be able to understand the difference between bullying as hurting someone’s feelings or reputation and bullying which grows into violence and cruelty. In the second, you should undoubtedly take action, and look to adults, authority figures, or any other source of help. You cannot and should not simply ignore the offenders when it is a matter of physical safety, as that crosses all borders; and if any person who has decided that he/she is entitled to harm others, this should be punished.
The truth is that there are many other problems like bullying. Since we live in a world full of different individuals with their own issues, ideas, and characters, it is not surprising that there is a place for misunderstanding, conflict, and incompatible points of view. We cannot change other people’s minds, the rules of society, and the whole system. The only thing we are capable of is changing our own attitudes; and indeed, this is the biggest key to changing everything around you. Treat your attitude as a filter, which protects you from unnecessary and sometimes harmful influences. Do not get upset. Stay strong and positive. Change your own inner world. And show the right example to others – then you are on the right way to becoming a winner in the power game that is called life!