I have been hiding a secret for the past year. It's a secret I'm not proud of. The time has come for me to stop hiding. I have been the target of adult bullying for the past year.
One year ago, I took decisive action to exercise my personal power and stand up for myself and my business. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. I had attempted to say "no" to this person for years, and every time they would push back about why I was wrong. Their perseverance in arguing with me would eventually result in me giving in and allowing them to move forward despite my opinions. Doing this was taking precious time and resources from my business and diverting my focus away from what was really important. I took a stand once and for all with a definitive "no" that terminated the relationship and ignited a year long series of emails, texts, and passive aggressive social media posts.
As an outspoken and empowered woman that does not hesitate to share her opinion, I feel like I should have stood up and said something sooner. That I shouldn't have allowed the behavior to happen in the first place, much less for an additional year. But instead, I have sat back and allowed myself to be on the receiving end of an adult bully.
For about a minute, part of me honestly wondered if the bully was right. Maybe I was the terrible person they made me out to be. Maybe I did abuse the relationships in my life to take more than give, as they alleged. Except then stepped back to look at the situation that inspired the abuse, and the people whose lives I touch on a daily basis, and how I live by my mission to change the world for women. That was when I realized, the attacks had nothing to do with me.
For another quick minute, I actually thought I could reason with this person. I responded to the attacks and asked that we behave like adults using appropriate communication and conflict resolution skills. I indicated that my decision to stand up for my beliefs wasn't personal. But this only led to accusations of my manipulating the situation to my benefit.
I had no idea how to deal with any of this, so I took to the Internet to research adult bullying. What I found was that the majority of the resources online that address adult bullying specifically target workplace bullying. They recommended relying on established structures to deal with the problem. But what about when you're bullied as an adult by someone in your general life? When you don't have any structures to protect you or to fall back on for support?
"It is important to note, though, that there is little you can do about an adult bully, other than ignore and try to avoid, after reporting the abuse to a supervisor. This is because adult bullies are often in a set pattern. They are not interested in working things out and they are not interested in compromise. Rather, adult bullies are more interested in power and domination. They want to feel as though they are important and preferred, and they accomplish this by bringing others down. There is very little you can do to change an adult bully, beyond working within the confines of laws and company regulations that are set up. The good news is that, if you can document the bullying, there are legal and civil remedies for harassment, abuse and other forms of bullying. But you have to be able to document the case." (Information courtesy of bullyingstatistics.org)
So I kept my mouth shut and pretended it wasn't happening, because included in the attacks were threats that this person would "tell everyone" what a terrible person I was. It was just better to stay silent. I seriously hoped that this person would just go away. And they did. For about six months. Until it started again out of the blue.
While the avoidance tactic is probably the main recommendation of how to deal with adult bullies, it clearly wasn't working. Plus, I just didn't understand why I was supposed to look the other way and allow the behavior to perpetuate, when I absolutely do not deserve this abuse. And why should I be responsible for taking the time and energy into documenting the situation to take someone to court, when I'd rather be focused on changing the world?
There were actually two online recommendations that resonated with me: 1. Find a confidante and 2. Ask for people to support and observe. I've chosen to combine these two into this article. I am confiding in all of you and concurrently amassing a collective witness.
This article is my public declaration that I will no longer stand for the bullying of myself or anyone else. I choose to not be a victim and will not be staying silent any longer. The mean girl mentality is not ok as children, in high school, and certainly not as adults.
As an aside, this experience has led me to wonder how the current bullying epidemic among school-aged children will continue as they mature into adults. We assume that people will grow out of these behaviors, but that clearly isn't the case. Bullies don't just emerge overnight. The bullies of childhood are growing into bullies of adulthood.
This pattern is just not going to disappear if it's continually ignored. I encourage all of you to join me in examining and opening a conversation of what can we do individually and collectively to affect change to the culture of bullying.