If You are the Target of Bullying

1. If You are the Target of the Bullying

You are not responsible for the bullying and you should not have to deal with it on your own.  Ever.  However, there are some things that you can do to protect yourself and build your strength and it’s important to do them – partly because it can help you feel less like a victim.

Standing up to bullies may be one of the hardest things you will do in life, but it’s almost always worth it.   There is no single effective plan for dealing with bullies.  If you are the target of bullying, there are some things you can do, but each person’s situation is different, so there is no single formula or easy solution.  Just consider the possible actions and see which ones you can try.  Sometimes it takes a while to be effective.

Be a “Target” and “Author”, not a “Victim”

First, think of yourself as a “target” (or a term that makes better sense to you) and not a “victim.”  Second, remember that becoming the author of a life is the central challenge of a teenager – going from dependent child to independent young adult – so take on the challenge to counter the bullying knowing that you can develop your ability to be the author of your experience in the process.

Fighting against being bullied is one of the toughest things you will do in life, but it’s worth it.  It’s certainly not easy and there is no recipe for how to do it in every setting, but there are some guidelines and strategies that you can put together to counter the bullies.  Sometimes you have to try different strategies and sometimes in takes some time to work. But see what you can do – and persevere.

There are a number of possible actions that you can take to counter the bullying.  There is no recipe, so it’s a matter of seeing what will work for you in your particular situation.  It might take some experimenting to find the combination that works for you, so keep working at it until you find the best set of actions.

Connect to Others

Dealing with bullies is best done with others – even one other person.  Talking with others can help you keep from feeling alone and isolated and it’s a good way to problem solve.  Bullies operate by making their targets feel alone and powerless, but they rarely bully a group.

Tell an Adult

Talk to a trusted adult.  Don’t wait as that helps to empower the bully.  You’re not being a “tattletale” or “narc.”  You are getting an ally to deal with someone who is wrong – someone who is using power to abuse others (you’re probably not the only person they are bullying).  “Tattleing” is done to get someone in trouble, but telling an adult about bullying is something that is done to stop abusive behavior that is causing damage.

Keep the Bullying “in its Place”

You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can stay true to yourself.  Bullying can come to dominate a life, so if you’re the target of bullying, it’s important to remember that you have a life that is bigger than the bullying.  It’s bigger than the bullying now and it will certainly be bigger than the bullying in the future.  Focusing on the other parts of your life is often where you have the the greatest impact, particularly over time.

If they don’t like you for being yourself, be yourself even more.


Act Quickly and Consistently

The longer you wait to respond to bullying, the stronger the bullying tends to get.  Bullies may try to exert power over you for some time.  So you may need to be consistent and persistent in your responses to get to the point where they lose interest.

Practice – Get Ahead of the Game

Practice ways to respond to the bully verbally or through your behavior.  Practice feeling good about yourself (even if you have to fake it at first).  You can also practice how you might respond is specific situations – what might happen in the situations and how you would act.

This is a process that is used by athletes, business leaders, military special operations, and of course actors.  It can be very effective.

When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper. They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless.


Redirect the Anger or Hurt

Being bullied hurts and getting angry at the bully is a natural response.  But that’s what bullies are looking for (control over you) and it takes attention and energy away from the more productive parts of your life.  It takes some awareness and discipline, but you can say to yourself, “OK, I’m not holding on to this hurt and anger.  I’m sending it to fuel the activities I like.”  That might seem like a stretch and it’s not easy, but it can be effective.

Ignore or Block the Bully

This is similar to redirecting the hurt and anger and this is not easy either.  But it’s a way to say, “I’m not interested in your actions or words.  They don’t impact me.”  Bullies get their reward from the reactions they get and you’re taking away the reward.  Ignoring the bully is obviously not a good idea if it puts you in danger.

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.


If You are Being Cyberbullied

Being cyberbullied can make you feel helpless, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and seek help

How to react to cyberbullying:

Ignore.  Never respond to harassing, negative and threatening responses about you.  There are rare exceptions to this, but cyberbullying is not a dialogue – it’s abuse and the bullies have no interest in your response – other than to feel like they are winning if you are responding.

Reach out.   For cyberbullying, one of the most important things you can do is to talk to an adult you trust as soon as possible.  Parents, a trusted teacher, school administrators, counselors, friends and even police officers can help you deal with cyberbullying. Your state laws or your school’s policies may have rules against cyberbullying that can be used to challenge the bullying. There is no reason to suffer alone when you are the target of bullying.  Cyberbullying is both anonymous and far reaching and you should not have to deal with it on your own.   

Record and keep the evidence of abuse. The only good news about bullying online or on phones is that it can usually be captured, saved, and shown to someone who can help. You can save that evidence in case things escalate.

Keep a record of bullying messages you receive—in hard copy. These are important for showing the abuse and may be useful in working with schools, website admins and police.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

C. S.

Cut off the bully.  Stop all communication with the bully when possible. You may be able to block their phone number, so you no longer receive their calls or texts. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other providers have policies or terms of use against cyberbullying and ways to block bullies.  Your parents or a trusted adult may be able to help in this area.

Protect your accounts and watch what you post. Don’t share your passwords with anyone and password-protect your phone so no one can use it to impersonate you.  And always be very careful of what you post, because once it’s posted, it’s out there forever.

Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’


Social Media Providers Cyberbullying Reporting Systems

In addressing the problem, social networking sites are creating cyberbullying online reporting systems. For example, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have set up cyberbullying informational pages, providing instructions for reporting a violation.


You do not bear the primary responsibility for countering bullying, but you can make a difference for yourself in almost all settings.  Do what you can.  Persevere.  Combine your efforts with the efforts of others.  Do not be isolated and do not allow yourself to stay in a victim role.  Others should be supporting you and confronting the bullies, but you can also play a role in fighting the bullying.