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What to do if you are being bullied

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Are you being bullied?

There are many things you can do if you’re being bullied. Different strategies can work in different situations. You can try and work it out by yourself. But if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. Don’t be afraid to let someone know that you are being bullied—other people can be a great help. If you are being bullied at school, find a trusted teacher (or past teacher), school psychologist, guidance counselor, or administrator with whom you can speak.  If you are being bullied at work, seek out a supervisor or a human resources manager.

Working it out yourself

Depending on how bad the bullying is (and as long as you aren’t feeling unsafe, frightened or physically threatened), you might decide to try and work it out by yourself first. Try and remember that no matter how hard you try, the bully might not be willing to change his or her behavior. At this point, talking to someone else can be really helpful.

The following tips might be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with verbal bullying on your own.

When possible, ignore the bully. Ignoring can be helpful, particularly for one-time cases. Bullies are looking for a reaction from you and often lose interest if they aren’t given the satisfaction of making you upset.

Suggestions for ignoring the bully:

  • Walk away when the bully approaches you. Try and imagine that you’re walking away from a friend. This can be a way of making sure your body language (which you’re usually unaware of) doesn’t give away a sense of fear;
  • Concentrate on something else. Try thinking about what you’ll do next weekend, counting to 100, or planning your homework;
  • Have a saying or a statement that you can repeat in your head when the bully approaches you to block out a sense of fear.

Build a wall around you. It might be helpful to build an invisible wall around you by visualizing it in your mind. Any verbal abuse then just bounces off the wall.

Use visualization. Bullies can be pretty scary. Picturing that person looking silly might help to make them less problematic for you. For example, picture the bully’s head shrinking, or picture the bully in his or her underwear.

Stay positive. It can be hard to remember all your good points when someone is doing their best to be negative. Try to think of all the things you do well, and remember that you are a valuable person. Thinking of how bad the bully must be feeling can also help you stay positive.

Surround yourself with people who care about you. Surrounding yourself with positive people who know and like you for YOU can boost your confidence.  This will help you let bullying comments more easily roll off your back. It’s important that you connect with people who genuinely care for you and recognize all of your great qualities.

Hang around other people. You might be safer if you stay in groups. If you are alone, try to identify people who can offer you safety.

Be confident. Bullies usually pick on people that they think are weaker than they are, so it might help if you stand up to them.

Suggestions on how to stand up to a bully:

  • Telling him or her to leave you alone may get a bully off your back;
  • Ever heard of the phrase “kill them with kindness”? Being nice to a bully may throw him or her off;
  • Using humor can also throw a bully off track;
  • Use positive self-talk. Try saying to yourself something like I know I am better than that. I’m not like that. I don’t have to pick on other people to know that I am good;
  • Remember that your friends accept you for who you are.

Keep out of a bully’s way. It might be possible for you to avoid the bully. This can mean getting to school in a different way, or avoiding the places that you know he or she hangs out. By avoiding a bully, you’re not giving in, but looking after yourself and making sure you are happier and more comfortable.

Asking someone for help

To stop bullying—whether verbal, written or cyberbullying — it can be helpful to tell someone that you are being bullied. This can seem scary at first, but telling someone can lighten your load and help you to work out how to solve the problem. Talking to someone is particularly important if you feel unsafe or frightened, or if you don’t have many friends. Asking for help or talking to someone about your situation is not being weak or “giving in.” In fact, telling someone can take a lot of strength and courage.

There are many people who might be able to help, including friends, older brothers and sisters, teachers, family, counselors or parents. Teachers and counselors are specially trained to help you. In the workplace, you could also talk to a human resource manager or union representative.

Identify strategies that work for YOU. There are a number of ways to cope with the sadness, anger, fear, and isolation that can accompany bullying.  This can be something as simple as counting to ten or thinking of your favorite, happy memory.  It’s important that you identify coping strategies that work for you: think about what makes you happy or calms you and try to incorporate those things into your life.  In the moment, use strategies that help you act appropriately and feel better.  It can be a mantra you repeat to yourself or taking calming breaths. In the long term, there are a number of ways we can help ourselves cope with the feelings bullying creates:  exercise, watching funny movies, talking to friends, playing with the family pet…  Find something that works for you and if it helps, even make a list of those things so you can remember all of the activities you’ve found helpful. 

Some tips for getting help

  • It might be easier if you talk to someone you know well and trust. This person can give you much needed support and might have suggestions for dealing with the situation that you might not have considered.
  • Share your struggle or read others' in the ReachOut community, here 24/7. Register here to post.
  • If you decide to talk to a teacher or counselor, you might feel more comfortable taking a friend with you. If you feel you might get too nervous to speak, write down what you’d like to say on paper or in an e-mail. Don’t feel ashamed about coming forward- teachers and counselors are there to help.
  • If you think that the person you’re speaking with doesn’t believe you, or isn’t taking you seriously, or if that person doesn’t help you take action, it doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid or that the bullying should continue. It’s important you tell someone else and continue to do so until you get the help you need.
  • Being bullied can be upsetting and stressful, and it can affect your life in many different ways, including your self-esteem, relationships, work and education. If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.  There is no shame in asking for help.
  • Remember, if you are in any danger of hurting yourself or someone else, it is vital that you ask for help immediately.

Your rights

Remember that everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. No one deserves or asks to be bullied.

For more information:

If you suspect your friend is being bullied, you might find the fact sheet called What to do if your friend is being bullied.

National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center

Kids Health Dealing with Bullies

Last reviewed: Mar 11, 2013

Where to Next?

Comments

Responses

  • avatar2

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    illuminator

    Sorry if this is an especially long comment, but this is an issue I’ve had for years. So there is a lot to the story, and I desperately need some advice.

    So I go to an international school (overseas) in a small town. I’d be a freshman if I lived in America. Over the past 2 years I’ve been dealing with on and off bullying, and it’s hard to deal with. I’m a reasonably fit, nice, friendly, average looking guy, and don’t really try to make enemies. I’m perfectly happy existing and if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you. There’s not much to bully me about. However a much shorter boy than myself, who I could beat to a pulp easily, began verbally abusing me, and doing little things like slapping me on the back of the neck, or vandalizing my property. I’d constantly find my pencil case’s contents on the floor or hidden somewhere, be told I’m worthless and stupid, and either me or my property has been drawn on. I have tried literally every method to get him to stop. I try being funny, and although he did think I was humorous, he still made an effort to try to embarrass and alienate me in all ways possible. I tried being nice, and that didn’t work. I go to a very small school, so avoiding him is not a question. I don’t really have classes with my friend group, so I can’t surround myself with friends, I’ve told teachers and nothing has been done, and once I even slapped him and held him by his collar against the wall and told him I’d beat him up if he didn’t stop, and that only gave me a few months of freedom from the onslaught of hatred and bullying I was getting from not only this kid, but his friends also.
    I was going to use the toilet in math class just this week, and forgot my mobile phone on my desk as I was using it as a calculator. It was unlocked and he subsequently took my phone and looked through my apps and photos. I don’t really have anything to hide on there, so I just took the phone back and sat down. But today, he showed me a photo of myself on his device that was on my phone of me shirtless. I’m a guy, and I took it as a before picture as I recently began a new diet and work out regime. I don’t care that much if people see it, but he’s using it as a blackmail. I don’t know if it’s a bigger deal than I think it is, but I don’t see it as so embarrassing. Anyway, I don’t want to use violence, but I see no alternative to teaching him to leave me alone for good.
    I really just need fresh eyes and an opinion on this thing that’s been plaguing me for more than 2 years now.
    There’s more he’s done obviously but I’ve mainly just listed more recent events.
    Thanks a lot!

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      We are so sorry that this has been happening to you.  It sounds very upsetting.  It seems like the guy has escalated what he’s doing, and has now moved into cyber-bullying and threatening.  Maybe it’s time for a more serious talk with your school administration?  Stealing that picture from your phone is a real violation of privacy.  You don’t deserve that.  Violence isn’t a good idea, of course, but it does sound like previously, when you let him know that you wouldn’t put up with his abuse, he stopped for a time.  Maybe doing that through administrative channels is the best path?

      If you’d like to talk things over with your peers (anonymously, of course) feel free to join the forums.  You can get there by clicking the word “forums” at the top of this page, or by going here:  http://us.reachout.com/forums/forum.php  We’d love to be part of your support system.

      See you there?
      —The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

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    Colpapa

    Ugg student here, The main editor of our school Newspaper wants all editors out and wants her best friend out to. Teahcers won’t do anything because she’s always nice to them to. We’re enimies and im a goodie goodie to. What should i do? I don’t want her taking newspaper she’s already been unfair to the editors. I completely done with her and I’ve had it. If no teachers will listen to her and my homeroom teacher is out to get ne what should I do? Get another goodie goodie on my side (2nd editor) who she hates me because of her. Plz respond.

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      It can be helpful to just talk to someone, like a teacher or a counselor, and explain your position.  If you’re worried you’ll get too emotional, try writing your main points out ahead of time, so that you can refer to your notes if necessary.  That way you’ll make sure you say what you really wanted to say.

      Good luck!
      —The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

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    landyn

    Hi I’m Landyn and a girl named [...] keeps telling people lies about me and putting me down and it hurts because people listen to her and don’t want to be my friend .what do I do.

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      Hey Landyn,

      I hope that you can work out this problem.  Be sure you read through the fact sheet carefully, and pay attention to the tips for how to get through this.  There are ways to try to work it out for yourself, but also a point where you need to ask for help.

      We wish you the best,
      The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

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    EndOfTheWorld

    Hi. I Really like this guy, and he likes me. We’re in eighth grade. Well, he’s being bullied by his friends. They taunt him about not “having the balls to ask me out” and everyday they steal his phone and text me pretending to be him and ask me out. I’ve been as supportive as I can and when I’m around, they don’t say anything, but the moment I leave they start being jerks. he’s even started skipping school because he’s so unhappy. I want to tell my school counselor, but last time I had an issue, I told her and she did nothing. I don’t know what to do.

  • avatar2

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    wish

    hi ReachOut crew, so when i’m on my 7th grade i was bullied. i have tried to tell it to my mother but she really didn’t listen to me because she believed that it is “all part of growing up”. ever since then, i never really tried to tell any of them or anyone else. i really did tried in hiding everything that happens to me because i don’t want to cause any trouble but now it really did became even worse. every time i fall asleep i keep on having nightmares about it and it keeps on coming back. it also did affect me with my studies because everywhere i go i could still see those people and worse they are my classmates. what should i do? i’m so scared already that it would happened again? pls. help me.

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      We are so sorry you’re going through this! Have you ever spoken to someone at school about it, like a teacher or counselor? This should not be happening to you. It’s not right or fair.

      You might benefit from visiting our forums, where you could get support and encouragement from people your age.  Just click on the Forums link at the top of this page, or click here:  http://us.reachout.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?13-School-and-College to go straight to the area to talk about this subject.

      Stay strong,
      The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

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    cupcakeluvah

    hi , people I know and use to like me r now being horrible to me calling me fat and a few other things and it really hurts I trusted them and now they hate me for no reason I have blocked them on social media and their number but they always find a way to talk to me they don’t go to my school they use to go to my church and now they hate me for no reason

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      We’re so sorry that you’re having this rough time right now.  It’s hard when your peers treat you in a cruel way.  We encourage you to talk to someone about it, a parent, teacher, friend, or trusted adult. Talking can really help you get some perspective, and remind you that you’re not alone.

      • avatar2

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        cupcakeluvah

        but they just wont leave me alone I feel like an out cast everytime I leave the house

  • avatar2

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    lonelygirl15

    i’m 15(f) and i get bullied picked on and beat up at school almost everyday it sucks because i don’t have that many friends to stand up for me and if i try to stand up for myself it just gets them even more mad at me and want to pick on me even more and its hard for me to reach out to people and talk to them face to face and that is why i joined this website because i know that someone will see this and understand what i am going through and hopefully help me get through the tough times thank you for reading this and just taking the time to realize that you are not alone and that bullying can happen to anyone at any age any place and any time thank you for your time

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      Hey there lonelygirl15. We’re really sorry you’re having a rough time with bullying. We do encourage you to talk to someone that you trust and can help you. If you feel like you can’t talk to someone in person, how about calling the helpline Your Life Your Voice a call at 1-800-448-3000, run by Boys Town (for everyone). That number is free to call, confidential, and not just for boys! There are trained counsellors there available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Give it a try!

  • avatar2

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    LacrosseMan

    Hi I am 14(M) and i have been being threatened and bullied for the past month. Three boys repeatedly tell me they are going to kick my a** if they here me “talking sh*t” which I am not but they continuously think I am and they have me very scared I only have 1 good friend who stands with me but I get scared if he’ll really be there for me. I don’t have many friends but the antagonists do. I am very scared and nervous but I do not want to bring it to a principal or teacher because I fear people thinking of me as a “snitch” I have talked to my mother about it but I have told her to keep it secret people say he is all talk that I have asked and I feel like he is but I cant help but be scared. I do MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) but I still don’t feel confident to the point where I am not scared. Please Help.

    • avatar2

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      palm_tree

      I am very sorry to hear about the situation that you are in right now :( it sucks when people falsely accuse you of talking about them when you know you didn’t (i would know).  For me to get out of the situation i tried to confront them and tell the bully that i wasn’t saying anything bad about them and sorry if they thought that (you should try this although it didn’t work for me).  Then i talked to one of the bully’s friends who wasn’t bullying me and told them about how i felt bad that this person thought i was being rude to them (even though it wasn’t true the friend told the bully that i was sorry and our conflict was resolved). You can also try to just straight up ignore the bullies. Most importantly, remember to stay confident and never stoop to the level of the person attacking you.

      • avatar1

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        ReachOut

        This is great advice!

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      Hi LacrossMan. That sounds like a really difficult and scary situation. We encourage you to try some of the tips in the Fact Sheet above like trying to keep away from the boys or standing up to them. More importantly, we think you should tell someone who can help you. Nobody wants to be called a snitch, but your safety is the most important thing here. Consider talking to a teacher or your school principle. Hang in there and best of luck!

  • avatar2

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    kaykaybruce

    hi i am in high school and i am very shy and cant speak up there are 3 girls that think there all that and they are popular and they spread rumor about me because i am as ma and they laugh at me what should i do reach out last time when we were going to lunch i was walking when they threaten me they said tell your mom or any body we will kill you and i feel threaten i feel like i dont belong i have face book and instragram they post things about me like look at bitch girl or horrible things now they are cyber bullying me and i feel alone this been happen since the 3 day of school i feel like kill myself should i help

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      It really sounds like it’s time to talk to someone about what is going on.  Have you talked to a school counselor, a teacher, a parent, another friend, or someone else that you trust? 

      A great way to get help is to just call the Boys Town Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.  The hotline is available 24/7, and staffed by trained professionals who can give you some great ideas and resources.  We suggest that you call them as soon as possible, because it seems like this situation is quickly getting out of control, and we want you to be safe.

  • avatar2

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    Dida

    I’m in middle school. It’s a tiny school with only 1 class and in it there are 7 girls. I’m new this year. At the beginning of she year they ( 3 of the 7 girls ) started fake throwing things at me and they laugh when I flinch. It was ok then , I laughed to but now they throw real things at me and hurt me badly.
    The other 4 girls are the 3 mean girl’s BFFs. The 3 girls tell me I’m ugly,bitchy and lots of other things. Now they’ve started online. All I want is a friend. Just 1. But the only girls are mean and I spend most of my time crying in the toilets. The boys have started a bit calling me ugly.
    I have 1 friend but she’s only nice to me when the mean girls aren’t around because when they are she’s really mean. I don’t know what to do. . .
    Please please please help me.
    x Dida

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote

      ReachOut

      We’re so sorry that you’re in this rough situation!  Have you tried talking to a school counselor or teacher?  It’s important that they know, so they can help keep you safe while you’re at school.  You shouldn’t have to go through this.  Remember that it’s not your fault.

      We care about you!
      —The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

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    Singingismylife

    Im in middle school.I’m being bullied by 3 girls and I just can’t. One time I was crying because of that in the bathroom alone. They tell me I’m ugly,stupid,useless. Once they said My hair was fake and I said then pull it and they pulled it all the way to the floor. My head was hurting all day.What do I do

    • avatar1

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      ReachOut

      Hi Singingismylife. We’re sorry to hear you’re having a rough time with these girls at school. We encourage you to try to keep some distance from them and to talk to someone who can help you - your parents, a teacher, or other trusted adult. What they are doing is not okay and not your fault. At the forums currently, we have an expert on bullying. Why don’t you come by and check it out at http://us.reachout.com/forums/showthread.php?46485-Problems-with-Bullying-Ask-Dr-Christine

  • avatar2

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    Kryell

    ReachOut crew, so I am 14 years old (turning 15 on Oct) and I am somewhat being bullied […] ReachOut, what should i do? i told my parents about this whole text, they said to just ignore them but […] I am reaching the limit on ignoring them.I know in the future i will snap out again and [...] Sorry for this long Comment but i need help. And i hate it when people say “TELL SOMEONE/A ADULT” because telling off a kid younger than u shows weakness and i dont want that to happen. […] so should i do it again which means more friends and the bullies will stop? or is there another way?
    Thank you for your time smile

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