Karen Belz
March 21, 2013 6:00 am

There have been numerous stories about bullying these days – and they’re all absolutely upsetting. Every day, articles seem to crop up about teenagers being truly evil to each other – both in a school setting and over social networking.

I, myself, suffered through a few bullies back in middle school. Being pretty awkward up until college (where I finally accepted my individual quirks and strengths), I was somewhat of an easy target. A bit chunky with glasses that engulfed my entire face alongside pretty terrible hair – I didn’t realize I was naturally curly until late in high school, so I sported a triangle-shaped ‘do with bangs that curled up – I escaped by identifying myself through music and writing. I battled through by being nice to everybody, no matter what – and I ended up fine, with a solid group of true friends.

Yet I always told myself that this is just what kids do – they pick on people who are different or who have a reputation outside of the “norm”. And I was special for figuring out my individual interests early on, regardless of whether or not they were popular. “When I’m an adult, everyone will be on my level,” I told myself.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Some people are bullies throughout their entire lives. And while they may not pick on you for being outside of what’s fashionable, they’ll pick on you and make your life miserable based on other aspects. Either they’re unhappy in their own lives and need to take it out on you, or perhaps they’re jealous of the strong individual you’ve become. Almost always, there’s an insecurity they hold deep. But one thing hasn’t changed: It still hurts.

My parents were fantastic with making sure I treated adults with absolute respect when I was younger. From teachers to lesser-known family members, I knew my place. Yet now, nearing 30, I have come to the harsh realization that not all adults are necessarily charming people. The one difference between adolescence and adulthood is that sometimes you need to face these bullies on a daily basis to pay rent.

Here are some tips on how to deal – most can be applied regardless of your age.

1. Stick Up For Yourself. In a professional setting, try not to cause a scene – but let people know if a comment or action offends you, right off the bat. Say it with a smile. Certain bullies may be saying something negative to get a rise out of you. In forum terms, “don’t feed the troll”. The more you make it obvious that their comment upset you, the more they might continue to spew negativity your way.

If it’s truly offensive? Tell your boss. Or Human Resources, if your place of employment has it. If it’s a threat, definitely alert them immediately.

2. You Are Amazing. (Sure, this might not seem like a tip, but let me elaborate.) You were hired – or placed in your professional setting – for a reason. Especially today! Jobs are extremely hard to get. If someone doesn’t like you for reasons other than “you’re not doing your job”, that’s their issue. While I personally love to be social at work, I know it’s not the most important reason why I’m there. Do what you do best. And if your bully tries to undermine your job performance, listen to their critiques with an open mind. Maybe there’s something you need to work on, and their delivery is just too scathing. Request a one-on-one meeting and show them how amazing you truly are – and how much you care about doing a good job.

If you’re still in school, you are definitely amazing. The things that make you different and weird today will make you unique and insanely intelligent later. Stick with it.

3. Know Your Rights. Read over your employee handbook, if you have one. Review the policy. If your bully is breaking any of these rules set by your boss, you’re in the right. These documents exist for a reason.

In school, if you’re personally threatened or threatened online, tell someone. The internet is amazing for bullying – solely because you have written proof that someone wants to do you wrong. The internet is forever. Any professional will take this seriously, and you shouldn’t be afraid to present the facts to them.

4. Realize That Not Everyone Is Going To Like You. This is my biggest fault. I have a feeling the Belz girls (according to my Dad) were raised in such a positive environment that we overthink situations that others would shrug over. I, myself, am oversensitive. I think of others over myself. Thus, I am completely naïve and sensitive. Someone can make a comment that they’ll forget about five minutes after, while I’d still be concerned about the next morning. This being said, I feel like I don’t possess any qualities that’d make anyone outwardly hate me. And I’m wrong.

There’s nobody in the world that every person likes. Even the most likable person is unlikable in someone’s eyes. And that’s totally fine! Do you like yourself? That’s all that really matters. Be proud in what you do, and who you are, and that’s the most important thing.

5. If Things Are Really That Bad, Move On. Again, jobs might be hard to come by. But if you’re fearing a work bully every day, send out those resumes. Let’s be honest- it’ll be tough to find a place with a completely positive staff, but if someone is making your daily life a nightmare, placement elsewhere may lead to a more positive outlook. Freshen up your resume, and ask your friends for recommendations. You shouldn’t have to wake up fearful 5 out of 7 days.

If you have it bad in high school? Look at colleges that have some organizations that’ll offer something to you. Remember how I mentioned my savior of music? I joined my college radio station and met a bunch of lifelong friends (and my now-husband!). And, I decided to go to college out of state. I had a completely fresh start.

In short: Some people in life are just mean. But, it should have no impact on your own capabilities. You’re stronger than that – and you’re not alone.

Have any advice on how you’ve responsibly handled your own bullies? Share it in the comments. We love hearing about your personal strength and independence!

Featured image via Shutterstock

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