Bullying exists at any age.
"Thank you very much Johanna. That's enough."
It's been awhile since I've revisited my writing roots and today seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. It should be noted that I don't have any resolution on the subject. Kind of an uncomfortable spot to be in but life isn't all sunshine and puppy dogs is it?
So, here's the deal. I think I escaped bullying in my teens of which I feel very fortunate. It's one of my biggest fears as my girls get older and take a deeper dive into elementary school. Now, as an almost 39 year old woman, I am experiencing it for the first time and I get it. I finally get it. I understand how degrading and abusive and toxic it really is. I also understand the ramifications of speaking up and how it can affect the surrounding relationships that you might want to preserve in the future. Finally, I understand the effects of a toxic relationship on my personality and home life. Just ask my husband if you don't believe me.
The short of the long is that I have had a friendship for a couple years now that is simply heading straight into a dead end. My friend has an affect on people. She can draw people to her like a moth to a flame. She is energetic and always smiling. People gravitate towards her and for good reason. She is fun! She makes me laugh and often, I crave her approval and affection as well. At times it is given in front of others, if she is in a good mood, but behind closed doors...she is degrading and makes me feel like I am never enough. She questions my actions and behavior behind my back and I know because people tell me. Often she tells me that I am not enough or quite frankly, doing a poor job handling xyz. I feel she favors our other friends, which is okay...I know you can't be everyone's #1 all the time, and often she puts extra emphasis on her affection for others and almost dotes on them in front of my face. I know it's intentional because I know this type of person. And like the saying goes, "When someone shows you their true colors...believe them."
I think the final straw occurred recently when I spoke up amongst a group of friends only to be cut off with a "Thank you very much Johanna. That's enough." It feels embarassing and condescending. Probably doesn't sound like a big deal but after several rounds of feeling the size of a coffee bean...well, I'm kind of done and what typically happens is I shut down, go submissive and try to turn the other cheek. And turn the other cheek I will, because I don't want my other friends to feel uncomfortable or jeopardize their relationships. I guess one could argue this is uncharacteristic of me and it is...I am usually pretty opinionated and vocal. In many ways I'm exhausted and in others, I just want to move on. Any positive energy I have is not worth investing in someone that makes you feel this way.
I definitely don't have the answers but maybe some of you feel like I do. If today's post strikes a chord with one of you or helps you feel comfort in that you are not alone...well, you're not. And if you have advice on how to handle it and make the situation better for me - I'm all ears.
Here's what's worked thus far:
- Close your mouth and clamp down hard. You cannot change this person.
- "Rudeness is the weak person's imitation of strength." Recite and remind yourself of this quote. Rise above. Or recite Michelle Obama's famous quote which is also a great one.
- Take a deep, cleansing breath and smile. Force it. Offer no reply or even agree with them if you want to completely throw them off guard. Do not offer a retort. Illustrate to the crowd that you've got class. <aka "fake it till ya make it">
- If the relationship means a lot of to you and you are losing sleep at night, ask the person to coffee or call them. Ask them how you can work on the relationship together. Ask for feedback and then, only then, gently describe how you've been feeling.
- Do not cry in front of this person. Ever. Do not show weakness.
Disclaimer: I have not performed #4. I am contemplating it. But to be truthful, I probably won't move forward because I think this individual is set in her ways.
And you are worth it. You are good enough. You are smart enough. So am I.