Am I a bully? How to stop bullying

We often hear stories online and in the media about people being bullied and the devastating effect it has on their lives. But we rarely hear from bullies themselves. In this article, we’re talking to anyone who thinks they might be bullying someone. If this is you, we’re not here to judge you - we’re here to help you stop. 

Graphic shows a young person engaging in bullying behaviour, but a thought bubble above their head shows they are sad about it and want to know how to stop bullying

Am I a bully?

It’s important to remember that bullying is not a label, but a behaviour, which means that if you are engaging in bullying behaviour, with support, you can also stop.

If you think you might be taking part in bullying behaviour, the chances are you probably are. You might call your comments harmless ‘banter’, or perhaps you only do unkind things because your mates do too. But no matter what your reason is, if you’re calling people names, are posting nasty things on social media about someone or are deliberately excluding someone, this is most definitely bullying. Common types of bullying include:

  • Saying hurtful things, using discriminatory language, or continuing with ‘banter’, despite it upsetting someone 
  • Spreading rumours behind someone’s back
  • Purposefully ignoring somebody or excluding them 
  • Physically hurting, spitting on or touching someone repeatedly when they don’t want you to
  • Harassing someone online or sharing images and personal information about another person without their consent 

It can be hard to admit when you’re bullying someone and you may be feeling guilty reading this. But let us tell you, if you’re feeling guilty, this is a good sign – it proves you have compassion and the inclination to stop bullying. If you can hold your hands up, admit you’re bullying and make a pledge to change, you are a strong person. 

Why do people bully? 

There are lots of reasons why people bully and it’s usually a range of factors. Below are some common reasons. But remember, no matter what the reason is behind your bullying, this does not excuse it.

  • Because your mates are doing it 

It’s common, especially at school, to get swept up in bullying. Perhaps your group of friends have started excluding or spreading rumours about someone. You may feel you have to join in to please your friends and avoid being excluded yourself, even if you don’t want to. Hear Katie’s story about how wanting to be popular turned her into a bully and how she eventually stopped. 

  • Because you’re dealing with something difficult 

Often when we’re going through something difficult and we don’t know how to deal with it, we take it out on other people. Perhaps you’re struggling with your mental health, are having trouble at home or perhaps you’re being bullied yourself. It often feels easier to take our anger out on someone else rather than dealing with our own issues – but this isn’t a long term solution and it won’t end happily. 

  • Because you have low self-esteem  

When our confidence is low, saying something mean or intimidating someone can momentarily make you feel more important and respected. But don’t confuse fear with respect – this isn’t real respect and it won’t last. 

How to stop bullying

Firstly, congratulations on deciding you want to stop bullying. This is a hugely positive step – not only for the person you’re bullying but also for yourself. Here are some positive steps you can take to help you stop the bullying behaviour you have noticed.


What sort of person do you want to be? If you want to be the type of person who stands up for people, who is truly respected and who has positive relationships in their life, you can totally be that person! Keep this in mind and it should deter you from bullying in the future.

Talk to someone 

Talking to someone is one of the most powerful things you can do to help you stop bullying. Choose to tell someone you know will support you to change. That person could be a parent or a carer, a good friend, a teacher or a counsellor.

If you think you’re bullying as a result of low self-esteem or because you’re dealing with something difficult, it could be helpful to speak to a therapist or counsellor. You can find more information about counselling and how to access it here.

Say sorry 

It sounds so simple but saying sorry can be huge. Whether you decide to send a message, talk in person or write a good old fashioned letter, let the person you’ve been bullying know how sorry you are and that you regret your behaviour. Saying sorry is unlikely to end with you holding hands and running off into the sunset and you will have to respect their wishes if they don’t want contact with you, but it should help you to move on and start afresh. 

Clean up your act online

If you’ve been sending someone nasty messages and content online, it’s time to stop. If you’re part of group chats that feel mean, leave them and if you see or read things that feel like bullying, remember you can report them to the social media platform you’re using. Just because you’ve bullied in the past, it doesn’t mean you can’t become someone who stands up to bullies – both online and in person. 

For more tips on how to stop bullying, read The Diana Award’s article here.

For more support on how to stop bullying

Next Steps

By Olivia Capadose

Updated on 14-Nov-2022

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