Can't say I've ever really been bullied. Apart from getting whipped at primary school by a nun with an overangelical zeal for times tables and a determination to make me smart! Oh, and being used for target practice by a karate-kicking older brother.
Things turned out all right in the end. In recent years, the nun became my inspiration for Sister Prism, leader of the nasty nunjas in The Runaway Children while, during my teens, my brother proved quite useful, protecting me from unwanted attentions - so, all in all, I've done okay really. Yes, I've had my share of threats, put-downs, snubs and slights but hey, that's par for the course, isn't it? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that.
Except for some people it DOES kill. In recent years, the media have highlighted trolling - a nasty trend for online bullying which has driven some youths to suicide. Why? Did these teenaged victims merit such abuse? Or were they just particularly vulnerable?
Actually, ALL teens are vulnerable. Show me an adolescent who doesn't obsess about his or her appearance, who doesn't suffer paroxyms of angst about their popularity, or who never views unwitting slights as out and out rejection.
The average 13-18 year old may be difficult but, be fair, they have a lot to contend with - homework, hormones, hostile teachers, jealous rivals, indifferent crushes and parents who fail to understand them. There's a whole army out there, waiting to ambush them and lynch their self-esteem from the highest branch. No wonder so many are driven to harm themselves by mocking or downright vicious texts or tweets from manipulative, so-called 'friends'. Easy prey.
Yet, for sheer unadulterated sadism, none of these enemies (actual or perceived) holds a candle to the biggest bully of them all...the willing accomplice, the arch critic, the merciless judge: Just look in a mirror.
A recent survey showed that the longer we look at ourselves, the more fault we're liable to find. Our noses seem larger, our eyes smaller, our hair frizzier and our spots more prolific than those of anyone who ever strode the planet! Woe betide you if your mirror's magnified....Leave those blackheads alone!
And it isn't just teenagers who suffer from real or imagined flaws. Ask almost any new Mum and she'll admit to feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. Having spent many a happy hour trying to remove the bubbles from my baby's sterilised bottle, or receiving disapproving looks from friends and relatives when she wouldn't stop crying, I can certainly vouch for that. It didn't really matter what others thought or said; my own inner bully would set to work with gusto, undermining everything and anything I did. My first year of motherhood was shrouded by guilt, shame, fear, and a total lack of worth.
Qualified Trainer of NLP and Master NLP Coach, Karen Clarke of Powerful Positive People knows a lot about bullies and what makes them tick, and the ones she's found the hardest to cope with tend to be ourselves.
Karen also has an antidote to all those negative feelings. "If you choose to reach deep inside yourself, forgive yourself your frailties, mistakes and perceived failures, forgive others their frailties, mistakes and perceived failures, and see the deep beauty that lives in your heart of hearts and the value and potential that you bring to this world; all external antagonists will pale in comparison. It is indeed as simple as that."*
So don't listen to that carping, critical voice inside yourself, move on from your fears and let nothing and no one stop you being the wonderful person you are.
*Extract from "From Bullied to Brilliant"