When your bully is another woman it makes it much harder to recognize. Anti-Bullying campaigns like Pink Shirt Day raise awareness of this issue in our society, but is easy to think bullying pertains to just teenagers and children. Many adult women suffer from bullying and often, the perpetrator is a woman. However, the feeling is no less hurtful.
First, let’s be clear on what bullying is. This definition of bullying includes three important components:
1. A persistent pattern of aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Mistreatment that includes such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical, humiliation or sabotage repeated over time.
3. An imbalance of power or strength that causes psychological or personal harm.
We easily recognize 1 and 2 but it is number 3 that causes many to excuse the behavior of other women. After all, what imbalance of power or strength occurs in your social group or family? One needs to dig a bit deeper to find it.
Popularity is a common social ground. Perhaps the “leader” of your social group is misaligning another member by not inviting her to a gallery opening because “she doesn’t appreciate art”. Or the Fashionista who is always dissing another woman’s look in a backhanded way. “Susie you really should consider another hair color; you look like a washed-out puppy”. “Tammy, longer skirts would suit you better. You know you’re a big girl with thick calves.”
Family members can harbor a bully. Aunts, cousins, or sisters can make events that should be happy dreaded instead. “Your husband is drinking again?” “You are not married yet?” “You’ve gained a lot of weight since I saw you last.” Often you hear, “Oh just ignore her…she’s just that way!” What????
Bullying can occur at work. The team leader of your project continually minimizes your abilities in meetings or ignores your suggestions. Over or under assigning work or belittling your opinion can make you feel incapable and cause you to doubt your abilities. Workplace bullying can make you ill.
Now you are saying oh yes, that’s true, but it is not aggressive, so it isn’t bullying. Well, as bullies age their tactics take a more sophisticated approach. Gossiping, teasing, ignoring or excluding are standard forms. Many bullies cover their bullying with words like “I’m telling you this for your own good”, “I always speak my mind” or “Only a good friend would tell you this”.
Are You Being Bullied?
Life is too short to have toxic people affecting your well being. So here are some considerations and steps you can take:
Do not call the bully out in public. Hoping to shame them most often will backfire. You don’t want to resort to the same tactics they are using. Instead, consider that bullies often are insecure and covering up for their own perceived inadequacies. You or situations may be considered a threat. This is not excusing their behavior, but it is not as personal as you might feel.
Take some time to reflect. Come at the situation from that point. Instead of feeling helpless, which is a natural result of being bullied you have a strategic advantage of strength. Adopt an empathetic approach and request a personal face to face in a neutral spot. A one on one meeting, focused on how both of you are feeling may turn the tide.
Draw in your supervisor or HR department. Most work places have processes in place to address harassment and bullying. Again, a face to face to address the issue and ask that the behavior stop is the first step. Be prepared to document the process and follow through.
Consider getting counselling. Accessing some professional wisdom and assistance to put your own self and psyche in a position of strength is very beneficial.
Reassess your options. Finally, you may need to make some hard decisions and consider removing yourself from the situation. You, girl, deserve a supportive circle of friends and workmates.
Are You The Bully?
Many women do not consider the impact of their behavior. So, if you see yourself in the perpetrator role in the above dialogue, shake your head. What are you thinking? Take a hard look at why you may be doing such things.
If you proudly acknowledge being a “B&%ch” you need to reconsider that reputation. Is that hard exterior hiding something that you need to deal with? Change your behavior immediately or get some counselling. Don’t apologize until you have implemented changed behavior for a while. Life will feel a lot more productive and enjoyable when you move this mountain out of your life.
Are You A Bully Enabler?
Lastly, if you are supporting a bully by taking a passive stance when the behavior is occurring, you need to reflect on your part. What are you afraid of? It is pretty well a given that you are feeling uncomfortable and guilty too. If you believe the person being bullied needs to stand up for herself, why would you expect her to be stronger than you?
Women need to support and lift other women. It is in our DNA to be nurturers and that includes nurturing each other. When that order is out of sync, your life will not be balanced. No amount of yoga will relieve that burden. Today is the best day to start to make the change whether that is standing up for yourself, changing your behavior or stepping up to help someone else.
Have you been bullied? How did you handle it? Comment below or share your story here.