Bullies Rule the World: Why, How, and the Pros and Cons

By February 5, 2016 0

Everyone has felt bullied at some point in their lives. I’m a second grade teacher, so I’m told to teach kids that bullying is mean or negative “repeated behavior that occurs more than once.” That whole “more than once” piece is key in determining true bullying from the mediocre nasty stuff that occurs on a day-to-day basis between kids. Since there are now anti-bullying laws, it’s evermore important that these buzzwords are clearly defined.

I think as a kid, I felt bullied by life itself. I was more likely to be pouty, sad, or a spoil-sport than I was to stand strong, take the hit, and move on, so in pretty much every grade there was always a girl, or a group, that I felt bullied by.

In second grade, there was this girl I just could not compete with. She was pretty, she was smart, and I always felt alienated by her. I was somehow her friend, but always her enemy. If she said something nice to me, it was a miracle. But I remember always being around her, despite her propensity to tell me, all too honestly, exactly how she felt, because she was just that type of person—people were drawn to her—and I’m the type of person who is, always, helplessly drawn to those “chosen few” who are just born shitting glitter.

We crossed paths again in eighth grade. I was friends (sort of) with a “popular” girl so I found myself in the same circle as this realer-than-real second grade “bully.” Of course I can’t remember the positive interactions we had, although I know there must have been some, but I will always remember the day, the time, what I was wearing, and what I felt when she said to me, “Jess, you’re pretty. Like, you’re so pretty, that me and my friends all say that if we had to be a loser, we’d want to be you, because at least you’re a pretty loser.”

Hands down, I was the most shocked I’ve ever been. Those were her words, verbatim. I remember standing there wondering what I was supposed to do with such a backhanded compliment.

To be honest, I took it and ran with it.

It was the first time anyone had actually called me a “loser.” It was also the first time anyone had called me, directly and outright, “pretty.” I couldn’t really be all that mad.

In high school, the same girl and I had gym together, and among other absurd things to occur that year, she blurted a rather private hygiene routine I had to the mass of girls that made up our locker room. As an adult, I know there was nothing at all wrong with what she felt she needed to share with everyone, but as a girl, I was, quite plainly, fucking mortified. I never really looked at her the same after that, and I felt genuinely shamed and lessened, somehow, as a person, by the whole event.

Did anyone remember it? Probably not. But did I? Oh, hell yes. To this very day, I think about it, and I wonder what could drive someone to even think to be so crude and cruel, even at such a young age.

Bullies are everywhere. They’re in the workplace, at home, on sports teams, in the grocery store. There is no rhyme, reason, or formula necessarily needed for a bullying relationship to occur. How so, you ask? Isn’t it normally just a bossy person picking on a meek person?

Get this: I’m bullied every day by kids. Again, second grade teacher here. In my professional experience, I’ve worked with kids of all shapes and sizes, ranges and abilities, and those darn kids – don’t tell them this, you can’t let on – bully the hell out of us adults every single day. There are those bad kids, the ones who won’t listen, who break the rules, who keep pushing the buttons of every administrator in the school, and what happens?

Let me tell you a secret: Nothing.

They hear that it’s not nice to be mean. They hear about respect and decency and how to be a good friend. And sometimes they spit in your face during the in-school suspension. Sometimes they scribble hateful messages about you in their notebooks during writing. Sometimes they just outright call you a derogatory, grown-up word in front of a mass of kids. But you know what happens?


Because bullies rule the fucking world.

Psychology Today affirms that bullies do, indeed, have “high self-esteem, but they are very shame-prone…Thus, the bully gives away his shame by denigrating you and, as a result, the bully will make you experience shame about your own inadequacies. This will relieve him of any anxiety that his own shame will be exposed. And you will be left experiencing anxiety and humiliation.”

So, okay, we know that already. Nothing new. But how is it that bullies really are embedded into every facet of society? How are they left to roam free, cause harm, and very often, without consequence? Psychology Today goes on to note, “In evolutionary terms, the expression of emotions, such as pride, conveys information to other social group members regarding one’s social status.”

And accordingly, as adults, what do we do when we’re faced with a bully? We ignore it. For the most part, we’re trained to realize that the person confronting us is clearly not worth our time, and we try to block out or subdue the behavior. Bullying in the workplace is a common phenomenon, and ranges far beyond bosses merely testing their administrative boundaries.

And when a kid is the bully to the adults? I’ve seen answers like: give him M&M’s when he does something kind; make him apologize; write a letter saying you’re sorry; sit here and think about what you’ve done.

And nine times out of ten, it doesn’t change.

The problem with a bully is that there is no right answer to how to deal with them. With teens and kids, you hope they somehow grow out of it, like my second grade bully/friend did. And now, low and behold, I freaking work for her – you know, because the world makes sense. Because she learned, literally decided, she claims, to one day, just stop, and “be nice.”

What happens to bullies that don’t have that awakening? Her story makes me think there is something here, that the hubris and behavior can only ever truly change from an internal level. If nothing ever happens to change a bully’s mind, what do they grow into?

A boss. A manager. A president. The founder and CEO of a blog. A hot-shot at a law firm. A big-wig at a hedge fund.

Quite frankly, I don’t know that I’d have it any other way. God bless bullies and the horse they ride in on. They, at least outwardly, know for a fact that their shit don’t stank, not for a second. They see an opportunity and run with it. Every now and then I catch myself being a super nice person, a doormat, and then feel the consequences of it weeks later; that person at work now expects me to continue doing that same favor month after month. That store clerk who wrongly charged me for my items does it to the person behind me because I didn’t get mad enough about it. My product doesn’t arrive in the mail on time because I wasn’t angry enough at the guy on the other end who told me, “Ah, it’ll show up. Give it a few weeks. It’s just lost in the system.”

Unfortunately, the world is conditioned to respond to bullies. Customer service representatives instantly respond better to my fiancé’s threatening, booming voice than to my kind, yet firm, tone. Fear of altercation keeps the world going ‘round. Ignore, ignore, ignore; placate, quick, placate! Snuff out the bully. Keep him sane, keep him calm. Feed him some more M&M’s. He is the boss, after all.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but a fact nonetheless: Bullies rule the world. They boss you around and make you feel like shit, because it keeps you in your place. Youth bullying is quite possibly one of the worst offences I can think of, because what is wrong with you that you think you’re honestly better than your peers (or elders) at the minuscule age of six or seven, but who do you think those kids turn out to be? They hire you, they sign your paychecks, they pay your rent, and, best of all, they keep you miserable and subservient. Because, you see, the world needs bullies, or we’d all be mindless hippies with empty pockets, fulfilled hearts, and fully-in-tact senses of self.

And what kind of world would that be?