What’s it like to experience bullying?

Young people are sitting in a classroom

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We asked some young people from our community to share their experiences of bullying. Here are some of their stories.  

Bullying at work

(Kee, 24) 

I noticed a colleague becoming verbally aggressive towards me, shouting and swearing at me, for no reason, as well as making sexist comments. 

I shared these experiences, with my boyfriend of 5+ years, he urged me to say something to my line manager so I did. Without him I wouldn’t have reported it. 

For me, saying anything was a big step, one that I didn’t want to take. If I did, I’d be admitting that I was being bullied, and for a 24-year old female in a professional job, being bullied just didn’t seem right. 

My line manager advised me to not go to the other side of the office, where he sat. 

But I thought, why do I have to avoid him? He’s targeting me. I raised it with HR, much to the disappointment of my line manager as he had asked me to keep it within the team, to let him sort it out (but when I tried that, things only got worse). The verbal aggression from the bully turned into physical aggression. 

 The stress of these events had spanned over two months. I wasn’t sleeping because I was anxious, constantly wondering what I did wrong, why me? I wasn’t eating much, I became quiet and subdued, not wanting to cause other people to treat me differently because of this person victimising me. 

I went to HR and put a formal complaint put in, again with my boyfriend strongly urging me to do so. The matter got looked at, and honestly, I’m glad I did it, but in my case, other than them giving him a verbal warning and again me being told to stay away from him not much happened, it didn’t need to. 

After the complaint got closed, he left the team and the stress that his aggression and bullying caused me slowly, but surely decreased. 

Bullying at school

(Anonymous) 

I would have loved for somebody to step in for me when I was being bullied. A friendly face and smile that screams out “It will be ok. You’re appreciated by me.” But that friendly face never came. Instead the faces of bullies were multiplying, and I was left on the outside. Excluded. Isolated in the one place I thought was safe. School. My experience of bullying took on a more subtle form – being shut out from making friends and being generally rejected from my peers. I had no option but to retreat to the teachers whom I had found connection in.  

I didn’t mind detentions in the slightest, because it meant I had an excuse to stay inside and be with a teacher who I knew wanted the best for me. Eventually, I spoke out and received support – but it took a long-time for me to get there. I had feelings of embarrassment, shame and being unworthy of support. For the duration of this experience, I considered “am I being bullied?” when all along, the answer was yes. Bullying isn’t always as obvious as people make out, it can be subtle and hidden. If you experience bullying, subtle or obvious, I ask that you reach out. Tell a teacher. Speak to The Mix. Open up to a parent. You deserve support. I promise you, it gets better. 

The impact of bullying

(Phoenix, 18) 

Bullying, it’s a word we are all too familiar with. We’ve seen it in the early internet age videos, a young girl, her phone pinging with hateful messages, the shutting of the door, the streaming tears. Every teacher has preached the importance of being kind, we’ve had it drilled in, the anger, fear and sadness that comes with bullying. We know this, we’ve been told more times than we have fingers to count on. 

But what is bullying really like? For me, deeper than the typical sadness and isolation was a feeling of confusion. I was lost in this bubble of hate and mockery. I had no idea how to proceed, because I simply didn’t know who I could trust. Young people can be cruel, they can be clever and they can be sneaky. So often was the case for me that it wasn’t the blatant name calling that really got me it was the more subtle bullying, the comments that could be passed off as a joke about someone else entirely. It left me doubting my own perception, of myself, of other people.  

I began to believe the opinions of many around me that I was being too sensitive, because it was often not said directly to my face, my name was not always used, therefore it could have applied to anyone. I was left feeling crazy, my sense of self and my identity was being wiped away because I didn’t even trust myself anymore. That left a scar deeper than any name can, because even today I can’t always fully trust my own perception of the world, making it, at times like this, appear a hostile and difficult place to navigate.  

This lack of trust in myself and my perception resulted in me suffering in silence. This is something I’d never ever advocate, it solves nothing. It just dragged out a situation that could have been solved with some words, bravery and insistent. Always say something. Even if you aren’t sure of a situation yourself, the adults around you can provide a much more subjective, third person perspective that will determine if what you think is happening really is, then together you can tackle whatever the issue is.  

I sat down with some friends to discuss our own different experiences with bullying and this is what they said.

What to say to someone who’s being bullied

“Just to remember that a bully only has power over you so long as you let them have it. If you say the right things and act the right way, they will lose that power. That bullies won’t be in your life forever. And that a person’s access to you is granted by you, and you can take away that access at any time.”  

“Stand up. Prove them that what they are saying is not true. Fight back. Because none of those things they are telling you is true. Reach out if you can.” 

“Reach out to your friends and family, let them know what’s going on, utilise the right channels, school counselor, head teacher, police. Know that your thoughts and feelings and you matter and you are valid.” 

“Don’t let bullying be the end of your story. It’s hard now but things can and will get better. I was bullied for the majority of my school years and now I’m here using my experiences to make a difference, and those words that were thrown at me, they no longer mean anything to me. Words only have as much power as you give them. Keep your end up, one foot in front of the other, the end will arrive.”  

Today and every day, be an ally, be there for those that need it the most. Innocent bystanders seldom exist and you have more power in your pinky finger alone than you even realise; use it to make a change that will last a lifetime. Educate yourself on the different forms of bullying and how they look, share and discuss experiences, speak up on wrongdoing, be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, the list of things you can do to tackle bullying are endless and can be done today, tomorrow and every day.  

You can be the reason someone smiles today or the reason they end their story, What will you choose? 

If you need support with bullying

 Head to our bullying page for information and support.

Read our article on how to cope with bullying at school.

Get in touch with our team who are there to listen and to talk about any issue.

Check out The Diana Award’s Support Centre for a list of helpful organisations.

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • BullyingUK offers advice and support to victims of bullying. Call on 0808 800 2222.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 19-Nov-2020

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