The first time I experienced workplace bullying, it took me about 6 months to recognise it. I’d always see the best in people and would rather blame or doubt myself than believe somebody was purposely trying to undermine my self-confidence. When I finally realised what was happening, I got really mad – at myself. I completely bought into what the bully said and did, but worse, I had become the biggest bully in my life – where they left off, I took over – and amplified it for good measure!
To make myself bully-proof, I knew I had to recalibrate and stop giving myself up, shutting myself down, doubting myself or making someone else’s judgments more valuable than me.
I wondered what it would take to enjoy being me so much that I never again cared about what other people thought, said or did? Could I end bullying without becoming angry, jaded or cynical? I wanted a kinder world, and I realised, it had to start with me being kinder to me.
Here are my tips for becoming bully proof at work and in the world, and never letting anyone or anything stop you!
Choose to be happy
Happiness is powerful. Imagine never giving up your happiness, no matter what occurs? How much power would a bully have then? None! If they are having no effect, would a bully continue? Not for long. As Eleanor Roosevelt so famously put it: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
And as my mentor, Gary Douglas, succinctly says, “Happiness is just a choice.” No one can make you unhappy. The choice is always yours. Practice choosing happy. Literally say: “For the next 10 seconds I choose to be happy.” If you really get stuck, ask someone under the age of 9 about how to get happy and they’ll give you plenty of ideas.
Don’t fixate, out-create
Fixating is how you trap yourself in a mental stranglehold. When we feel trapped, we give ourselves two choices – fight (react) or flight (avoid) – neither of which are empowering. What if you out-created rather than fixated? Out-creating is where you allow yourself to see easy and elegant ways of dealing with things without going into reaction or getting upset. Anytime you catch yourself fixating, reacting or avoiding a bully, ask, “How can I out-create this with ease?”
Bullies need something to push against, and the energy of your avoidance or reaction is exactly what they are seeking. When you do out-creation, there is no longer a wall of energy for them to feed off and they have nowhere to go.
Cut out self-judgment
This might be the moment you take to ask yourself, “Who really is the biggest bully in my life?” After all, we really are our own greatest critics. If you truly desire to change bullying in the world – change you first. Empower you. Stop assuming and believing that you are wrong. It might seem like an impossible habit to break, but I know you can and I have some tools to help.
First: Gratitude. Gratitude and judgment cannot co-exist.
Second: Acknowledgement. Look at how awesome you are and what you have created in your life.
Third: Wonder about what else is awesome about you that you can choose to be in the world.
Ask these three questions every day, several times a day:
- What am I grateful for about me?
- What is right about me that I am not getting?
- What am I capable of that no one else is?
Add more to your life that allows you to be you
To steal another quote from my mentor, “The purpose of life is to have fun. Are you having any?” What creative pursuits, hobbies, or interests can you add to make life more fun? How many more ways can you enjoy being you and expressing yourself?
Bullies get their kicks from making you feel wrong for being you. But what is the value of a bully’s opinion in the face of a life deeply enjoyed? You guessed it – nothing! Enjoy being you, have fun. You’ll soon realise it isn’t worth giving up being you for anyone or anything.
Get out of your comfort zone
Bullies pick on difference. Why is this? Because that difference is exactly what is great about you that they don’t want you to be and probably feel threatened by. If you are willing to stretch out of your comfort zone, you will begin to embrace your difference, rather than hide it. You will discover more capacities and ways for you to thrive.
When you turn up your difference in the face of bullies, you also inspire others to do the same. Ask yourself, “What difference can I choose to be today that I haven’t chosen before?
Nurture your body
Are you kind to your body, or do you judge it? Oops! Time to change that? Being judged or bullied doesn’t work for you and it definitely doesn’t work for your body. Start taking one hour daily and one day a week to nurture your body. Use this time to reconnect, have gratitude for your body and most importantly, enjoy your body.
The nurturing you give your body, it will give back to you tenfold. You could even go through all questions and tools in this article and apply them to your relationship with your body. I wonder what that would create?
Do things you think you can’t
One of the greatest bullying tactics we use against us is, “I can’t”. A great trick to get yourself out of the habit is to ask a friend (someone who truly has your back) to say, “You are right, you can’t,” any time you say, “I can’t”. Try it out and notice how often you think, “Shut up, yes I can!” It’s shameless, simple reverse psychology and dynamically effective.
The other thing you can do is ask yourself daily, “What can I do that no one else can?” and then just try something. Have an adventure. Say yes and know that you’ll figure out the rest!
Be honest with yourself about what you desire
Most of us don’t grow up being encouraged to create our lives as we would like, beyond outside influence. We are taught what’s normal and appropriate and how to create our lives based on other people’s expectations and ideals. What if you were the one who finally asked you, “If I could choose anything, what would I choose?” and “What would I like my life to be like?” If you’re willing to be honest and vulnerable with yourself about what you truly desire to create in the world, your true voice will always shine through.
A workplace can be one of many places where you get to enjoy and explore being you and using your capacities to create what you know is possible. Bullies may try to stop you, but are you truly stoppable? When you commit to embracing and enjoying all that is great about being you in the world, bullies will become very insignificant players in the awesome tapestry of your life.
Amanda Holland is a freelancer who works with businesses, companies, entrepreneurs, experts and thought-leaders across the globe. When she realised that her childhood dreams of becoming a modern day Indiana Jones were more exciting in her head than in reality, she decided to go on an adventure and work in a city where she didn’t speak the language – Kobe, Japan. After returning to Australia, Amanda became a Right Voice for You facilitator, a specialty program from personal development organisation Access Consciousness.