What is bullying? | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw




Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Unfortunately, being bullied is a relatively common experience. ‘Bullying’ means repeated actions with the intention of causing distress.

In a recent survey of over 19,000 young people in Ireland, 39% of adolescents reported that they had been bullied at some point. However, despite it being something that many of us go through, people often try to hide the fact that they’re being bullied. This can make it even more isolating and distressing. Bullying is never acceptable.

What bullying is

Bullying can be obvious, like physical violence, verbal abuse, or humiliation. But there are also less visible versions of it, such as emotional bullying or exclusion.

Bullying could be any combination of these:

  • Verbal put downs
  • Embarrassing you
  • Exclusion
  • Damaging or stealing belongings
  • Racial abuse.

Bullying can be a very isolating experience and have a negative impact on our self-esteem.

A close up photo of two Converse shoes on wood paneling
Bullying can leave you feeling isolated, angry and upset. It can also feel embarrassing or humiliating.

How bullying can affect you

The impact of bullying is different for everyone. You may find it having an impact on your self-esteem and mood. It can also cause you to feel down, scared or anxious. Bullying can leave you feel isolated, angry and upset. It can also feel embarrassing or humiliating.

Physical impact of bullying

Even if the bullying you’re experiencing isn’t physical, you can experience physical feelings. It’s not unusual for young people to experience illness, loss of appetite, and headaches as a result of bullying.

Online bullying / cyberbullying

If the bullying is online, it can feel as if there’s no escape. Online bullying can come in the form of abuse, personal intimidation, impersonation, sharing of pictures without your consent, humiliation, exclusion or cyber stalking. Please see our confidentiality and privacy statement for more information.

Long term affects of bullying

Bullying can also affect your ability to do the things you need to or want to at school, college and work. This then can have other consequences, like your grades or work slipping. It can also lead to long term feelings of stress and anxiety and potentially lead to feeling hopeless.

Remember, if you are experiencing bullying it is not your fault and you should not have to put up with it.

Getting support for dealing with it

If being bullied is causing you to feel down all of the time, it might be time to seek help.

If you’re feeling hopeless or having thoughts of suicide or self-harm it’s crucial that you seek help immediately.


Don’t be a bystander

A bystander is someone who witnesses or is aware of bullying going on. As a bystander you can have a huge impact on what happens for the person who is experiencing the bullying.

You can step in and try and stop what is going on. This action also lets the person know they have someone who supports them.

Being a bystander counts online too. There are often things we witness online we don’t really feel any responsibility for. If you see something online that could be embarrassing for someone, report it. Imagine yourself in the place of someone in a cringe-worthy image or video. Think about how that would feel before you share it.

Why do people bully

Anyone can be bullied, there’s no “typical” victim. You might think that you get bullied for whatever makes you different: like your race, sexual orientation, how you speak, walk, spend your time or you’re good at school. But this is not actually the case.

You’re being bullied because of what’s going on for the bully. It is not anything to do with you. It’s a bitter irony that people who bully often have low self-esteem themselves. They might be dealing with frustration, jealousy, anger or stress in their own lives. Bullying is their way of making themselves feel more powerful.

Sometimes people who bully do it because someone else is bullying them. They learned this behaviour somewhere after all. There may be an atmosphere of aggression or violence in a bully’s neighbourhood or home and this is how they deal with the pressure.

Though it can be hard in the moment, try to remember that you are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A bully’s actions is about them and not about you.

The best revenge we can have on a bully is to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Easier said than done, we know.


What you can do if you’re being bullied

In school: report bullying to an adult

If you’re experiencing bullying, it is not acceptable and you should not have to put up with it. Tell someone what you are experiencing. This takes strength but it is crucial to break your silence.

If you’re in school, report it to a trusted adult such as a teacher, tutor, year head, youth worker or family member. If you don’t get the help you are looking for at first, tell someone else until you do. Often, an adult intervening can be enough to stop it.

In the workplace: talk to HR or get advice

Workplaces, colleges and schools have policies about to handle cases of bullying. If the bullying is happening at work, talk to HR. Companies have a legal obligation to provide you with a safe place to work. If you are being bullied it is their problem to solve too.

Talk with a friend outside of work to get some outside perspective and advice.

Record what happens

Write down details of incidents as they happen so that you have a record. Include dates, times when things happened, who was involved. Describe what happened and what was said. If the bullying is online, take screenshots.

Assert yourself

It can help to be firm with the bully, and clearly say that their comments or behaviour is not OK. Remain as calm as possible in the moment and try not to give a reaction. Bullies don’t get the same satisfaction if you seem like it’s not bothering you.

Act confident

Try to look confident. Hold your head up high and make eye contact. Walk with confidence and speak with the steady voice. Bullies are less likely to target someone who looks confident. Another way to react is cracking a joke or laughing. It can help to defuse the atmosphere.

Don’t fight back physically

Don’t respond with violence, it will only cause more problems.

Practice assertive communication

Aim to communicate your boundaries without being overly aggressive or overly passive. Imagine a seesaw where passive is on one side and aggressive on the other; assertiveness is the neutral, level middle ground. It can help to work with someone you trust on how to do this. You can find out more about being assertive here.

Avoid unsafe situations

Make sure to not put yourself in situations where you do not feel safe. Always consider your safety, in person and online. Work out a way you can avoid being around the bully. This doesn’t mean they win. It means you’re getting on with your life and choosing to spend your time with those who make you feel good.

Work on your self-esteem

Bullying can be a very isolating experience and have a negative impact on our self-esteem.

Try to still take part in the things you enjoy and continue to socialise with existing or new social circles.

Look after yourself

Eating, sleeping and physical health will all have a big impact on your mood and mental health. Check out 5 a day for mental health. Experiencing bullying is not your fault and more often about the person doing it. No one should have to put up with it.

Remember if you are experiencing bullying it is not your fault and you should not have to put up with it.

If the bullying is online:

  • Don’t respond, go offline or leave the chat
  • Block the sender
  • Review your privacy settings
  • Report the user to the website or social network
  • Always be mindful of your online safety
  • Give yourself screen free time if you’re having feelings like you can’t escape.

Take a look at cyberbullying for more.

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