How to Baffle Bullies and Build Self-Esteem

Bullies and Bullying

They’re everywhere; work, play, school, social, cyber. They intimidate, dominate, demean, dismiss, abuse, insult, and otherwise mess with your mind.

They are clever and mask behavior when around others. They may even be seen as sweet, kind, and helpful, especially around the boss. They may ask you to do their work for them; would you please write the report? You may feel as though you had a target on your back. Guess what? You do!


The real me                                              Anti-bullying campaign



When I was a kid, a neighbor boy was a biter and I was his target. No matter what route I took home he would always be there and bite the living daylights out of my arm. I told my Dad who, in his own way, said enough!

My Dad and I came across the biter. He pointed out the bite marks on my arm and asked the biter if he wanted something better to bite and offered his ankle. The biter bit. I can still see the expression on the biter’s face and my Dad’s. The biter was stunned. He never bit me again.

My Dad had a wooden leg made of birch with steel shanks and a heavy leather corset. The biter had bit hard into the wooden ankle. My Dad had a look; lips tight, one eyebrow raised and the other straight across his eye. It was a look that conveyed, don’t mess with me. He gave that look to the biter.


Bullies seek easy prey and depend on fear and silence to maintain control. Bullies, in my opinion, are cowards. My Dad taught me to stand up to them and never show fear. A bully can sense fear, much like a shark senses a distressed fish or smells blood. Then they’ll go after you with a vengeance.

My Dad would say, you must be like the Rock of Gibraltar on the outside even if you are a bowl of jello on the inside. He taught me to stand my ground, look them in the eye and speak up; are you sure you want to mess with me? All it took was one experience seeing a bully back down to realize my Dad was right. I felt strong. I found my voice. My confidence grew. Even though I am short, I walk tall.


Bullies are adept at making you feel like it’s your fault. You never know what will set them off. Too much oregano in the sauce = you are a lousy cook. Didn’t get the promotion = it’s because of you. You hold me down. You are stupid. If it weren’t for you….. Does any of this sound familiar?

Do you find yourself walking on eggshells around a bully? Do you feel ashamed? Embarrassed? Alone? Isolated?

Bullies plus your own feelings of ‘less than or self-blame’  perpetuate the victim mindset. Finding your strength and your voice isn’t easy. I was lucky to have a father who taught and expected me to be self-reliant and have a ‘can do’ attitude. The lessons were all tough. He was tough. “You find a way to make it work” was his way.

There are numerous quotes with the same theme; ‘what you think is what you become’. See yourself as a helpless victim and you are.

One of my early influencers was a childhood character, ‘Little Toot’ by Hardie Gramatky. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I have a plan, and I can do most anything if I just think I can.” I have used that phrase my entire life, especially when faced with overcoming bullying and other obstacles.

Remember, YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM!!! A technique to baffle bullies is to change how you react. Bullies and abusers, especially verbal, depend on a predictable reaction. Your reaction gives them fuel for their power and domination. Your reaction makes them FEEL better. And they need to feel better at your expense.

I’ve seen how changing the way one reacts can have the equivalent effect of a gut punch. Instead of apologizing and whimpering about too much spice in the soup, try calmly throwing it out. Added comments can be effective. Too much spice? No problem. Then throw the soup out. Problem solved.

Keep CALM. Don’t react with emotion. Pretend you are talking to the floor. Find a friend, a true friend, to practice by role-playing. Find a role model. Watch, listen, learn.

Affirmations can be useful. Listening and training your mind to think differently about you. Build muscle memory. Practice. It’s as effective as building biceps with weights.

Points to Ponder

No one can make you feel inferior without your permission

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face….you must do the thing you think you cannot do

Eleanor Roosevelt

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within

Maya Angelou











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