“Time for bed Hun” Bethany lightly coaxed her daughter from downstairs. She could see the bedroom light on, and it was already past her bedtime. “Taylor? Are you on your phone again? I told you…” her voice trailed as she entered the room. Over her daughter’s shoulder, she saw the comment section of a of the recent social media post. She knew her daughter had experienced bullying at school, but she thought the efforts she and the school administration had made were making a difference, so she was stunned. Comments stacked up “what is she wearing? She knows she is too big to wear that?” The viperous statements went on, but she stopped herself from reading worried she would invade her daughter’s privacy. “Taylor, are you ok? Do we need to talk about the bullies at your school again? Her daughter was slow to respond, but eventually turned her chair around with tears in her eyes she sobbed…” Mom.”  Taylor ran into her arms. “Does it ever stop?” Taylor muffled through tears, “The bullying MOM! Does it ever stop? First, it was me at school, and now you?” Bethany stepped back from her daughter’s embrace. Confused she turned back to the laptop and recognized her social feed as Taylor explained, “I went to your page today and I saw these comments. Aren’t these some of our neighbors? Mom, I’ve been talking to my guidance counselor at school, and she warned me bullies can get older, but they don’t have to grow up?”  

Bethany’s situation is all too true in our world today. We regulate bullying in the hallways of our schools, but it doesn’t end when the bell rings. While adults can more likely defend themselves from the physical bullying of yesteryear, there is no graduation from the emotional and psychological effects bullying can cause in every avenue of our lives.

With the emergence of social media, the world has gotten an invitation to participate in the good and bad of our daily lives and has limited our ability to succeed or fail in private. It has made us susceptible to the opinions of people both around the corner and across the globe. This makes social media a perfect platform for a Narcissistic bully. You know the type – those self-centered people who only feel good about themselves when making others feel bad. They do this without remorse or concern about consequences. They can say whatever without regard because they believe they will never see you in the real world. Their confidence exists in the b/w of text, and they realize the power and lingering effects words have.

As do Verbal bullies. Their comments are made face to face and normally by those you know personally or professionally. These types can come in the form of the oft-overlooked comments from the ‘perfect’ PTA mom who makes off-handed comments about your contribution to the last bake sale flanked by the Secondary bully, who stands by idly permitting the damage in hopes of preventing themselves from being the next target. These are real-life versions of The Heathers and Mean Girls. Or the bullying can be more insidious spreading rumors and gossip among your professional and social circles in hopes of tearing apart your reputation, career, and consequently your self-worth. The results of which can have a long-reaching effect on you and those you care for.

In the Workplace, bullying can range from the disruptive colleague who refuses to assist with projects and then demands credit for the work once completed to the overbearing supervisor who openly criticizes their team members and creates a hostile work environment.

At home, our family can succumb to the pressures of their own lives and become Impulsive bullies, lashing out at those closest to them. The danger with this type is this is often the bullying we easily overlook and quickly forgive because we aren’t the intended recipients of the anger we receive. The bully’s actions may not be premeditated, but they are no less hurtful. We all have things in our lives that trigger us but lashing out isn’t excusable.

“Adulting” can be difficult enough without the added pratfalls of others using their words, power, and influence to our detriment. When this happens, it can often feel like we do not have a way to make it stop or a method to fight. This isn’t true.

Find your voice. Speak up for yourself. Ignoring your bully can sometimes make it worse. While you do not need to engage them in the comments of your socials, you can report your attackers to the authorities (a work supervisor or HR or take legal action where possible).

Find your support system. Bullies thrive on making you feel you are alone, and no one cares. Use your friends and family to fill your time and energies with positive reinforcement.

Find a therapist (or other resources): Websites such as BetterHelp can connect with a licensed therapist that can help you navigate the resulting feelings of bullying and help build/re-build your self-confidence.