Why does a bully bully?

As always, I would like to recognise the beauty of being human. The diversity, the uniqueness, the treasure, the freedom to choose.

As such, this article is MY take on the issue. You may not agree. That is okaaaay.

Sometimes not all choices we make are the best ones. And that’s okay. Sometimes though, it’s not okay. Like when the choices we make adversely affect those around us.

To bully is a choice. How we react and respond to bullies is a choice. How we let bullying affect us is also a choice.

This is an “issue” rife in children’s playgrounds as well as in the world of so called adults.

Actually, it is not an issue. It is a symptom. But more about that later.

First, let’s talk about how it feels to be bullied.

It’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end of a bullying attack. As we probably all know, there have been unfortunate incidents where people have taken their own lives because of the amount of bullying they have been the subject of. Makes me angry and I’m sure it makes you angry too.

And there are other cases which happen on a daily basis, which are less extreme but still painful.

To be bullied makes you feel really bad about yourself, makes you doubt your self-worth, decreases your self-esteem, makes you feel scared and physically sick to go to a place where you might by chance encounter your bully.

Why do bullies makes us feel this way?

Because we let them.

We make a choice to allow them.

To borrow a quote from one of my favourite movies: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

If an individual has a strong sense of self worth, is loving and accepting of others, loves oneself and understands that there is no person who is better than them or worse than them, only different; than that person has absolutely no reason to believe the bully and allow them to make them feel inferior. If anything, that person will feel sorrow and compassion for the bully. The bully’s actions speak only of the bully not the person being bullied.

Let me spice this up with a couple of examples.

End of last year, we moved. The kids changed schools. For the very first time in his life, my six year old was bullied. After his dad finally got him to talk about what was happening, my six year old said, all of his own accord: “It’s okay, I know they are doing it because I am the ‘new kid’”. As a parent, my heart broke, but I know that it is something he had to go through and something he was clearly quite prepared to and able to comprehend.

Start of this year, my daughter started high school. Last week, she got bullied by a girl in a grade above hers. She cried, there was drama and we had a talk where we concluded that her “bully” mustn’t have a very happy home life and has a low self esteem. (Madison was mainly doing the talking, she’s really smart)

Secondly, how do we react when we are bullied?

Well, the way I see it, the bully is doing what they do to cause a reaction and gain attention. If neither are achieved, they may persist for a while but will soon move on to a different target (unfortunately).

When Madison was little, I always said to her: “if someone is rude or nasty to you or anything like that, take a breath. Smile sweetly. Say “thank you”. Walk away.”

As this is not the response most bullies expect, they end up completely confused and pause, giving you enough time to move away from them before they keep carrying on.

Unfortunately, sometimes the bullying involves physical violence and then it is not that “easy”. This is what my son went through and what my daughter was threatened with. This is when the “cause” really needs to be addressed and the bully removed. This brings me to my next (and last) point:

Why does a bully bully?

When a person is derogatory to others, what they are trying to achieve is to make others feel “small” and thus make themselves feel “big”.


This is where I conclude that bullying is a symptom of a cause that is much larger. This is why no matter how hard we try to eliminate the symptom, i.e. the behaviour (think the orange “no bullying days” etc), it will not work unless we focus on the actual cause.

Bullies generally come from a place of low self-esteem, a place of hurt and pain. They do not love them selves, they do not hold themselves in high regard; how can they then be expected to show these things to others? They are searching for something to make them feel good about themselves, for that instant “high”. Instead of turning to drugs or seeking help, they take their frustration out on people around them. They are energy vampires. They take your good energy by making you feel bad about yourself so that they may feel good instead. If only just for a second. It is all they know.

I feel ultimate sadness for people like this. Sometimes I doubt if they even realise how scarring it can be to the people who are on the receiving end of their behaviour. Probably not. But even if they did, would they stop?

Have you sometimes had a REALLY bad day and you were rude to people because you just could NOT be bothered and everything was going wrong no matter what you did? And then maybe a perfect stranger was unexpectedly kind to you? And it made you stop and pause and take a breath and bask in the knowledge that someone could possibly actually care? And it wasn’t all that bad after all?

Imagine if we could do that. Imagine if we all loved ourselves enough to be strong enough to make a choice to not allow others to make us feel inferior. Imagine if we could react to bullies and their behaviour with kindness and love.

Do you think that might make an iota of a difference? Do you realise that even one drop in the ocean can still create a ripple?


This article was also published in the Elephant Journal on 25/03/2015

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