The topic of bullying was thrust back into the spotlight during Wednesday night’s episode of The X Factor when contestant Jillian Jensen revealed her painful past of severe bullying during middle school. Simon Cowell, the show’s creator with a notoriously sharp tongue, was visibly choked up, while pop star and judge Demi Lovato, a very vocal anti-bullying advocate, actually cried during Jillian’s confession and emotional performance.
Jillian Jensen displayed immense courage by revealing her pain on national television and transformed that pain into a passionate performance that won the hearts of all four judges, the live audience, and millions of viewers at home.
Given my background as a talent agent, when I became a therapist, my practice was naturally filled with working actors and performers. Many of my successful clients were also bullied in school. People project a perfect life experience onto celebrities, who seem to “have it all,” but jealousy knows no boundaries.
The human experience is more similar than you might imagine.
Since no one is immune to bullying, why do kids dominate and single out other kids to bully? What drives that behavior? More often than not, kids become bullies because someone is bullying them. Although there is always the argument of nature (born this way) versus nurture (influenced by the home environment), in my clinical experience, bullying is a learned behavior. And with proper intervention, new healthier behavioral choices can be taught.
So, pay attention moms, dads, uncles, aunts, teachers, cousins, neighbors, etc.: the children within your ear and eye shot are soaking up your words and behavior like a sponge. Make sure that what they are absorbing teaches them the proper way of expressing feelings with words, not hostile action.
If you have a problem controlling your own emotions or if you yourself feel bullied by your adult peers (bullying also knows no age boundary) or within your home, please seek help—your life is too precious to be diminished by daily anger, fear, and humiliation, and you have the honor and obligation of teaching your children effective ways to problem solve, which you cannot do if you are not effectively solving your own problems.
In our technified world, cyber bullying is becoming more and more common. CyberBullyingHelp.com says cyber bullying, also known as electronic bullying or online social cruelty, is bullying though email, IM’ing, chat rooms, websites, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, and cell phone text messages.
What can you do to help? Again, CyberBullyingHelp.com offers some great tips:
1. Don’t gossip or spread rumors when you see mean things posted about your classmates (or co-worker or colleague).
2. Post positive messages about the classmate being targeted.
3. Block cyber bullies on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. De-friend them and use hashtag #blockbullies when you notice cyber bullying on Twitter.
4. Become the person’s friend. Talk to her and invite her to do something with you. Treat her how you want to be treated.
5. Tell an adult you trust, and encourage the victim to find a trusted adult to talk to as well.
6. Print the evidence to share with that trusted adult.
7. Confront the student who is cyber bullying (if you feel safe). Tell him/her the behavior is wrong. Bullies stop bullying when they don’t get the attention they are seeking.
While we place the majority of our focus on victims of bullying, the bullies themselves need consideration as well. Both sides of this issue need to be addressed and counseled. No one deserves to be dominated or humiliated by another. And as was evidenced from Demi Lavoto’s emotional response and identification with Jillian’s bullying tale, the emotional scars are deep and lasting.
This Positively Positive community is the perfect place to have an open dialogue about bullying and to share problem-solving techniques. The power of our collective intention to treat each other with kindness and dignity is stronger than the fear that creates a bullying culture. Let’s keep the conversation going right here.
I am interested: Were you bullied? Is bullying a presence in your adult life? Are your children bullied or do you fear they might be bullies themselves? Has there been an open conversation about bullying in your home? Will there be now that you’ve read this?
Terri Cole, founder and CEO of Live Fearless and Free, is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. A cornerstone of Terri’s practice, meditation, was the impetus for her recently released guided mediation CD “Meditation Transformation.” In Fall 2012, she will begin hosting a Hay House radio show, giving listeners who are swimming upstream easy tools to flip over and float. Terri can be found on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
*Photo by Robvini.