“People bully to distract themselves from their own issues.”

When I was younger I was a little naive. I thought that once you get out of school, everyone suddenly grows up. I thought that everyone would learn how to put aside petty differences and just get along.

Wow, was I wrong! Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting older – that just happens, but growing up is a choice. And some people don’t actively make that choice.

After finishing school, I got my first full time job. Everything was going great. I had made some new friends and was enjoying my time. Then my co-workers found out that I was from the “wrong side” of town.


They started to leave me out of conversations and other things that they were doing. Soon my co-workers started to make unkind remarks and verbally attack me. At the time I would have preferred it if they just kept leaving me out.

I was only 18 so I wasn’t really sure about how to deal with it. I was also in shock that it was even happening. After all, bullying stopped when school finished, didn’t it?

This went on for about two months until I finally found the courage to confront the ring leader. One day he was insulting me about where I live, and I told him that I couldn’t see why he kept going at me. I said

“Come on mate, you are in the same position as me, we earn the same money and you still live with your mum too”.

I boldly stated that he may live in a nicer suburb, but he wasn’t the one paying for it – he was living off his parents’ back, not his own. So how could he be better than me? Amazingly, that was the end of it. He never said anything unkind to me again. We actually became friends after a while and had a lot of fun together. He even became willing to visit “the wrong side of town” to hang out with me.

As a therapist and stress consultant helping people who’ve been bullied, the first thing that I teach is that a bully is an insecure person. Often they go on the attack because they are unhappy in their own lives. They try to hide their insecurities in the hopes that no one will notice the things they don’t like about themselves. They bully to distract themselves from their own issues.

These insecurities can come from their home life and upbringing, or from challenges they are going through at the time. Every one of us has insecurities, but how we act is up to us. We get to choose whether our insecurities control us or we control them. Some people bully just because they have never been shown kindness or taught empathy.

Either way, in some situations standing up to a bully can end bullying. You have to be willing to back yourself up because there’s always a chance that the bullying will escalate at first. However, if you are confident enough to stand up for yourself, many bullies stop within a few instances.

One way to build the resolve to stand up to bullies is to increase your own feelings of self-worth. Bullies belittle and drain you of self-confidence, making it even harder to stand up to them. The more self-respect and self-confidence you have, the easier it is to stand up to a bully.

Strategies to help build your confidence

Compliment Yourself

A good way to build inner strength is to compliment yourself. Each day for thirty days, write down five compliments about yourself. If you are a parent helping a child, do this exercise with them. At the end of the thirty days you will have complimented yourself with one hundred and fifty different compliments – no double ups.

Remember Your Successes

Look back at past events where you have risen to meet challenges- and won. Did you confront a bully in a similar situation? Did you have the courage to state your expectations with friends or family? Have you ever done something you were originally afraid of? Build your confidence bank by recalling your successes. This is helpful to do on the day you plan to confront a bully.


In movies, camera angles, music and lighting show villains to be big and powerful. Sometimes we do similar things in our own mind. We see a bully as big and strong. Visualisation techniques can help diminish this. One technique is to visualise the bully doing something funny. You can imagine them wearing a Mickey Mouse outfit or polka dot pyjamas. Or you may imagine them shrinking to the size of a mouse, and then picture yourself stuffing them into a helium balloon, and letting it go outside so that it floats away.

Doing this helps you to see how amazing you really are and that you should be treated with respect from others, and more importantly, from yourself. As well as increasing your confidence to confront a bully, it undoes some of the emotional damage inflicted by bullying.


Leo WillcocksAuthor: Leo Willcocks is the author of DeStress to Success.
A therapist and stress consultant from Sydney, Australia, Leo works helps people resolve stress and build confidence in every area of life – from the school yard to the boardroom, and everywhere in between. DeStress to Success has been recommended by Sean Covey (The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens), Brian Tracey, Denis Waitley, and many others. Find stress relief that actually works at www.leowillcocks.com

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