Monday, January 13, 2014

Bullies: Take a page from Kristen Lamb

Isn't she beautiful? Kristen Lamb
Yesterday I went scrying back for an old post I had read from author Kristen Lamb
entitled Brave New Bullying, primarily on the topic of anonymous trolls and bullies who attack authors just to drum up numbers for themselves and be extremely cruel. Just for the hell of it.

While I think she covers this topic extremely well, I do want to add a few words myself about bullies and my own experience.

As a kid I was awkward. My mother described it as painful to watch, seeing me stick both my feet into my mouth and stagger around as the laughing stock of others, unable to comprehend why people looked at me strangely, thought I was weird, or made extremely cruel remarks. Often, I misunderstood what other people meant and said something back that made no sense, inciting their meanness.

Then there was my distinct germaphobic behaviors that everyone took a shot at, and was made worse.
However, I can pinpoint it to one teacher, Mrs. D. Mrs. D. would yell at me, mock me, and ridicule me in front of the other students, to the point that other parents noticed it and said something to my mother. I remember she even called me stupid once.
She put me in remedial reading because she thought I was stupid; truth was, I was so terrified of speaking out and being corrected that I refused to read aloud. I loved the reading help classes, because for forty minutes every day, I got to leave class and go spend my time with two sweet ladies who encouraged me, joked with me, and were kind. It was the one bright spot in my day. And when they told me at the end of the semester that I was going back to Mrs. D's. class because I really didn't need to be there, I was upset. I was being damned to hell again.

And all the other students followed her lead in damning me as well. My awkwardness made my fear of her worse, and they saw an opportunity to pick on me.
It carried over from grade to grade, third, fourth, fifth, and even into middle school, where the kids from the other grade school that bused in also picked up on it.

Life was a miserable hell. My "friends" picked on me, were critical of the work that I did, when I did well or when I did poorly. It didn't matter. I was the whipping boy, the post full of nails. Sometimes maybe I deserved it because what I said was idiotic and insensitive.

But I do want to thank those bullies. These days, I tell people to f*ck off, in no uncertain terms, mind their own business, or stand my ground and call them out for what they are. If I hadn't learned to stand against the people that tormented me, I wouldn't be as hardened and tough as I am now. Don't get me wrong, I am a nice person, and I am kind. But I am not a doormat; I will not take abuse nor will I be taken advantage of. I stand my ground and I fight back. 

Do you remember that J.Lo movie Enough?
Enough (2002) Poster

When I saw that film in 2002, I knew that I had had it. I'd had enough. It is not the greatest film ever made; but it is a good film about learning to defend yourself and holding your ground. What gives bullies power is the ability to intimidate you, to hit you when you're down and to strike. As the film says, "Because as sure as he is a coward, he will strike you." Learn to strike back, in your own way. 

I learned how to speak properly, became more socially intelligent, and to never back down or take anyone's crap. This doesn't always make me friendly and has affected relationships with others. But I am never a victim because I refuse to be one

Kristen Lamb is right; for the trollers and bullies on the internet, they've become more insidious and cowardly because they can hide their face behind a digital smoke screen. But behind the fancy effects, they're nothing. In the workplace a bully can ruin your career; but they do not own you. And yes, you can walk away. 

So my list for bullies

  1. Learn to pick your battles. If you can walk away with dignity, others will see that in you and respect you. The bully will still be a bully. That will never change. 
  2. If you have to fight, be steadfast, be honest, and be brave. Speak the truth and be strong. 
  3. Call them on their bad behavior.
  4. Do not resort to name calling and fallacious arguments like ad hoc, ad populi, or non sequitur. These will not win your case or your fight.
  5. Maintain a calm demeanor and do not rise to their bait. That's what they want you to do.
    1. In particular, do not give them your power or any power over you by taking the bait. If you let them control you and your emotions, you've already let them win. And that's not going to help you out in the end.
These are not hard and fast rules for life, but they have done me well. Over the years I've had people say (even people who picked on me) that they admired me for taking a stand, even when everyone was against me, and holding my ground.

Bullying is never ok. It is never kind and it is painful, beyond words. And most importantly, it is never funny. Those who do so are trying to build themselves up because they desire a sense of importance and power. That's all. Beyond that, they're nothing more than a sneer and a lot of hot air.

It's a hard battle to fight and often feels overwhelming. But it is not impossible. I am still alive today because I chose to keep fighting and not take my life when I hit my lowest point. There are days I still struggle with that. But I remember what I have to live for, and it gets me back on my feet and out of my pity party.

Stay strong and fight on.

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