Bullying is not something we do. It is something we allow to happen.
It begins with our own inner bully and inner victim. There is a dance between bully and victim that takes both partners to complete. If either one changes the steps, the dance falls apart. My antidote to bullying is a liberal use of the 3Rs and the power of the pride (your support system of like-minded friends). I found the power of the pride in South Africa, where I witnessed a pride of lionesses acting together to accomplish feats that were impossible to do alone. In the teenage girl world, lioness power is translated into girl power. Bullying is the antithesis of girl power. A liberal use of the 3Rs (respect for self, respect for others and responsibility for your actions), as well as a focus on building a support group will end the bully/victim dance.
Each of us chooses to play the role of bully or victim within ourselves every day. Every time we talk meanly to ourselves, "I can't believe you did that! How could you have been so stupid," we are feeding our inner bully. A practice of positive self-talk is one way to treat yourself as if you were precious--because you are. If you can pattern self-care for your teen, she will see it as a normal state. That way she won’t buy into catty behavior since she respects herself too much.
Respect others by recognizing that your sisters, both biological and social, are part of your pride. Build respect for others by courting compassion. You will have lots left over if you practice on yourself first. When you strengthen your pride by building them up--instead of being snarky--you will have a support system to ask for help when you need it. You won't feel like a victim anymore, and you won’t pattern that for your teen. Show her that no one can bully you, if you don't play the victim. Change the dance by sending compassion far and wide. Show her how to use her girl power for good.
Take responsibility for your actions when you mess up--and you will because we all do. Fess up and apologize. Taking responsibility shows that you have courage, and that you believe in yourself enough to admit when you have made a mistake. This is especially important when you are apologizing to your child.
When you can walk away, instead of engaging in catty behavior, you show your teen what that looks like in practice. You have a lot of girl power, so use it to increase the level of loving kindness in the universe, thereby becoming impervious to social media negativity. When you practice this daily--by forgiving other people for cutting you off in traffic or taking their sweet time to wait on you--you will empower your teen to forgive the mean girls and not engage in similar behaviors.
We are not superwomen, and we cannot do it all ourselves. Be a good friend to people who have similar goals as you and build your pride. Then you will have someone to call on for help. This will teach your teen that she does not have to be an island. She can make good friends by being a good friend. And she will have support when she needs it.
Other peoples’ opinions of you are none of your business. If you continually focus on other peoples’ opinions, you will lose your sense of self, which is the basis for your self-respect. For approval junkies, this takes practice. Begin today by unplugging from the opinions of others to build your own happiness.
A focus on competition leads to “compare and despair.” When you continually compare yourself or your life to the lives of others, you will lose your own identity. You will merely be a shadow of someone else. Only you can change your focus away from comparison and toward connection. Try to see past the shiny exterior of someone you are jealous of--for whatever reason--and send them compassion instead.
When you have an outward focus for the source of your problems, the solution remains elusive. You are dooming yourself to a life of victimhood. If you have made a mistake, own it. Take all the energy you would have used pointing fingers and put it into making amends instead.
There is no expert or shining knight on a white horse who will ride in and save the day. Only you can save your own day. As harsh as this may sound, it is actually good news. Since you are in charge of your own actions, you can begin today. There is no need to wait for someone else. Take care of yourself by practicing compassion and self-care, and then teach your teen to do the same.
You cannot change other people or their past actions. Do not dwell on the actions of others because it is a waste of time. You cannot change other people, and you definitely cannot change the past. You can only change your actions in this moment. Take all of the energy you would have used dwelling on the actions of others and use it on self-care. Take a walk, read a book or take a bath. All of these are a better use of your time.
How do we stop bullying? We begin by treating ourselves better, thereby ending the allure of victimhood. When we practice self-care, we have energy left over to treat others with kindness. We use compassion to build a pride of supporters, and then ask for help when we need it. We take responsibility for our actions and our life, without waiting for someone else to fix our broken pieces.
Bullies don't apologize and victims don't forgive. Choose a different path. Choose courage and compassion--instead of mockery and blame. We must teach girls to use their girl power for good, building up their pride mates, instead of tearing them down. Use your girl power for good and watch your pride grow.
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