Cyber (and other) bullying. Why you don’t have to take things personally

Stop bullying

When you are cyber bullied, you feel violated, angry and betrayed. Your feelings are you feelings and that’s a fact.

After a ‘reasonable’ amount of time, anything between one minute and a few days, but the sooner the better, you have to ask yourself the question, ‘What am I going to do now?’ ‘What’s my strategy for coping?’ There’s no such thing as no strategy. Your action is your de facto strategy. If you aren’t affected then it’s no problem. But if you are fretting, then you need a considered strategy to get some steel and resilience.

Every statement in the universe, including this one, reflects entirely on the person doing the saying. Therefore, consider what the offending post, or insult, says about the person making it. It says that he or she has great insecurity and an inadequate personality. Would you want to put your self-esteem in the hands of an emotionally constipated loser like that? That’s why I never take things personally.

A famous author was offered the Nobel prize. He said, ‘If I wanted my work judged I’d go to a more competent authority.’ Paraphrase that, ‘If I wanted my life judged I’d go to a more competent authority.’

Offence can be given, but it doesn’t have to be taken. A rat can’t insult a lion. Dog poo on the sidewalk is offensive, but you don’t have to step in it. You have the choice to ignore it.

Also consider that the person is trying to negate your position for their own selfish reasons. However, you never have to apologise for living. You have as much right as anybody in the world to be there. In the musical, Fiddler on Roof, the tailor, Motel Kamzoil, asks to marry Tevye’s daughter. Tevye says, ‘But you’re only a poor tailor.’ Motel stands up tall, throws his chest out and in an uncharacteristically assertive voice says, ‘Yes, but even a poor tailor’s entitled to happiness.’

Write down what you are feeling and why you think you are feeling it. When it’s on paper it becomes concrete and not a whole lot of ghosts floating in your head. Make a heading that says, ‘Why am I affected by this?’ The next heading is ‘What am I going to do about it?’ ‘Am I going to collapse or am I going to fight?’ I can guarantee you that the answer will fly off the page, like those pop up books where the castle and the forest and the people come off the page. You will go from anxiety to action.

When you have dispelled the angst about the cyber bullying then you just get on with life. If your friends ask you about it, you can tell them that you’re impervious to the rantings of an emotional cripple. Don’t give it energy or air time.

One way to defuse bullying is to show the bully that what they are saying is having no effect on you. That way it will be like them hammering a nail into jam – no resistance. When we emigrated in 1989 David went to the City of London School. There used to be a (terrible) satirical TV show called Spitting Image. They had a song called, ‘I’ve never met a nice South African.’ Some of the boys were singing the song and teasing David about his height. He asked me what he should do.

I advised him to multiply by three and laugh. He should say, ‘Of course you’ve never met a nice South African. They went out with the dodo. And by the way, you should see me when I stand up.’  I showed him a photograph of the South African rugby team standing shoulder to shoulder and pointed out the captain, Dawie De Villiers, who was five foot, five inches in a team of six footers. The bullies had lost their impact. He had shown that he was impervious to the bullying, even if underneath it all it did sting a bit. Five years later he became the head boy of the school.

If you are unlucky enough to be overwhelmed by the experience, then you need to seek professional help.

The interesting thing is that by exorcising the cyber bully you can bolster your self-esteem. You will have taken responsibility for yourself and asserted your independence. You will have triumphed in the real world. A great lesson for facing future frissons in your career or personal life.

You have the power. Use it.