Bullies are people we deal with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’re our coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers, and, yes, even family and friends slip on their bully masks from time to time. (Some more than others!) No matter who, where, or why, bullies can make you feel miserable and about as small as the period at the end of this sentence.

Male or female, young or old, short or tall, fat or thin—I think you see where I’m going with this—bullies aren’t easily recognizable by outer appearance. Anybody can be a bully. It’s what they do, what they say, and their motives behind both that define their bullying behavior.

Has anyone ever made you feel like you’re a bad person, not good enough, completely unhappy, scared, angry, anxious, or depressed? Or perhaps he made you feel so bad that you shut yourself off and started believing him? To some degree, most of us have been harassed, picked on, put down, belittled, intimidated, humiliated, criticized, and degraded—in other words, victimized. Why do we allow ourselves to be victims? The bully certainly isn’t worthy of us bowing down to him.

Bullies are know-it-alls and like to think that they have the answers for everything. Don’t be intimidated! They’re no better than you, even though they act like they are. Angry most of the time and prone to violent outbursts and destruction of property, bullies thrive on being in control and hurting others with no responsibility or remorse. They believe that their anger and violent behavior are justified.

The best thing that you can do is to stick up for yourself. Before responding to verbal bullying, take a deep breath and think for a moment what you’re about to say. Show him that you’re strong and can’t be taken advantage of or used. Assert yourself. Look the bully in the eye, and explain how he’s making you feel. If that doesn’t work, firmly tell him to stop. If the bully refuses to listen to you or becomes verbally abusive, walk away. Ignoring a bully or nonreacting takes away the power he thinks he has over you. When he sees that he’s no longer getting to you, his control game is over. If enough people stand up to a bully, eventually, the bully will be forced to change, but don’t expect a bully to change overnight. People change only when they want to change.

Bullies need to be in control of situations and enjoy gaining power from inflicting injury on others. How did they get that way? Why do bullies treat us like something they scraped off their shoes? I could simply say because they’re jerks, and leave it at that, but to understand their behavior, we have to go deeper. They don’t feel good about themselves, and you are their distraction. Arrogance is not high self-esteem. If someone really has good self-esteem, they don’t feel the need to control others, and that is what bullying is about—control.

A lot of times, bullies are angry because they’ve been bullied. They started out as victims. I call this the “bully cycle.” Don’t get sucked in. Powered by all the anger and frustration within their own lives, bullies will try hard to make you think there’s something wrong with you. Always remember that you are okay and that they’re the ones who need help.

A young bully may have been exposed to violence in the media. Friends could have been bad influences, or caretakers might have lacked in nurturing, supervision, or the time to teach how wrong it is to hurt others. A spoiled child may think that he can do anything he wants, including bullying.

The recipe for bullying is the same no matter what age: mix what a bully is with why he does it, and add one heapin’ cup of what you can do about it. These ingredients can also be shared with your children and applied to their bullying dilemmas as well. Children who use violence to resolve conflicts grow up to be adults who use violence to resolve conflicts, so yesterday’s school yard bully may now be your boss!

Bullying abuse ranges from physical (a punch to your nose) to emotional (a punch to your self-esteem). Bruises to your self-esteem can last a lifetime, but counseling, knowing your self-worth, and taking back your power are the best medicine to help rebuild it. Never forget that you are the only one in charge of you. Nobody can make you feel anything. Choose to be happy, and be yourself. Arming yourself with this important knowledge of understanding abusers and how to deal with them will result in a significant change in your life.

The positive, preventative steps we take all add up and along the way help us to improve self-esteem because we feel really good about taking excellent care of ourselves. When we eliminate those bully abusers from our lives, our self-esteem rises and helps us to live guilt-free and in integrity, which is the root to healthiness and happiness.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways.html

Author's Bio: 

Kathy Noll studied writing and child behavior, won awards for her articles and stories, and authored Taking the Bully by the Horns and Encounters with Every-Day Angels, self-help books on bullying and character development for school and home. She discusses abusive behavior on radio and TV shows, including Montel Williams, with coauthor Dr. Jay Carter (Nasty People). She’s a consultant for TV news and talk shows, gave expert testimony for a children’s literature infomercial (Buena Vista/Disney), is an NBC News monitor for classroom bullying, and networks with antiviolence organizations, schools, mental health professionals, and antibullying advocates around the globe, helping children and adults with bullying and self-esteem issues. Free articles and advice, books and videos, and workshop information is available at KathyNoll.com.