So last week I began to share my long journey with bullying…and I promised that today I would share with you the next part of the story.
When I moved to an all-girls Grammar school at the age of 13, things changed again. I became close with a group of girls that were in the same class as me. The thing was that they weren’t particularly nice people. I saw them being unkind to other people, but I was just so relieved not to be on the receiving end of it, I said nothing. I didn’t participate, but I didn’t speak up either.
Then came the day that they turned on me…and because we were ‘friends’ they had the ability to hurt me deeper than any stranger could. I realised that by allowing them to behave that way towards others, I had made it OK for them to behave that way towards me…in fact, I’d invited it.
It reminds me of this Holocaust quote:
First they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Starting work would stop the bullying and unkindness…right?
When I finally entered the world of work, I thought my days of dealing with bullies would be over…but I began working for a man who one day, in the middle my giving him a project update, told me “You know Claire, you’ve got one of those faces I’d never get tired of slapping”.
I walked straight out of the office and on returning it was clear I was not going to tolerate that kind of behaviour. I was beginning to set boundaries on what I was going to allow and disallow in the way people treated me.
Then several years later, I set up my own business, Feminine 1st…and from the beginning I dealt with criticism and unkind remarks.
I’ve had a lot of unpleasant remarks come my way since establishing my business…and at the beginning I took them very personally. Although the percentage of negative remarks was miniscule in comparison to the floods of positive remarks I was getting, I was focusing on the bad and taking them to heart.
I’d set up Feminine 1st from a heart-centered place because I wanted to help people avoid some of the pain and heartache that I’d experienced in my life and I felt the comments somehow took away from that…but I didn’t allow it to stop me doing the work I was here to do.
What did unkindness teach me about me?
The funny thing about all these situations is that it taught me about the sort of person I wanted to be. I understood the importance to people of belonging…not just fitting in with the crowd, truly belonging. I knew the value to people of being accepted as they are and of building people up rather than tearing them down.
…and then recently I had an experience which surprised me.
A couple of sources indicated to me that there are some people I know who have recently been unkind about me, the work that I do and the way I do it, sometimes in jest, sometimes much less so.
…and I was very surprised at my reaction.
Not only did I not take it personally, I wasn’t hurt or upset about it at all…but my first feeling was one of deep compassion towards the people involved.
Where does bullying and unkindness come from?
Because in all of my experience with unkindness and bullying I’ve learned some very important lessons.
Unkindness towards others is always a result of a lack within the person being unkind. Maybe a lack of self worth, or self esteem, maybe a lack in their feelings of accomplishment or ability, maybe a lack of feeling loved or enough. But it always comes from a place of lack.
I realised that something must have happened or been happening within them to provoke this behaviour…people aren’t naturally unkind to others when they’re genuinely happy within themselves and living a fulfilled life.
…and behaviour like this might momentarily distract someone from the lack, or make them feel a little better, but it is a short-term gain with big long term consequences, because every act of unkindness to another erodes your own feeling of self worth.
This doesn’t mean that you have to always agree with the people around you or not be honest about your thoughts and feelings. I’m a big advocate of being honest and speaking the truth, but there are ways to do it without being rude, unkind or offensive.
People’s opinions, words and actions can only affect your inner sense of peace and happiness, if you choose to let them. The amount of emphasis you put on other people and what they think and feel should never be greater than the emphasis you put on you and what you think and feel.
By all means listen to feedback…if you’re being given a message, be open to hearing it…but don’t accept it as fact just because someone has said it. Hear it, consider it, figure out what YOU think about it, and only choose to change or take action if it’s your choice based on your own reasoning.
Also, give feedback the weight that it deserves. If it comes from someone who you respect and admire whose opinion you value, then it’s reasonable to give it a bigger weight than someone whose opinion doesn’t really matter all that much to you.
Speaking honestly, I was actually quite impressed that I was significant enough in these peoples’ lives to warrant any kind of attention from them at all! I felt a little bad in some ways to admit that, in the nicest possible way, they aren’t really important enough in my life for me to be particularly concerned with what they think or say.
This last experience I had with unkindness demonstrated to me just how far I’ve personally come. My journey has been a long one with regard to bullying and unkindness and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.
So next week I will be sharing you the 12 lessons I’ve learned about bullying and unkindness, in the hope that they will help you deal with these situations in a whole new way…