Posted by: Judy | April 30, 2015

What is bullying?

I need this to help me put in perspective the insanity I live in.
n. noun
1. A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.
2. A hired ruffian; a thug.
3. A pimp.
v. verb
1. To treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner.
2. To make (one’s way) aggressively.
3. To behave like a bully.
adj. adjective
1. Excellent; splendid.
Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally.
1. archaic. a: sweetheart. b: a fine chap . 2. a: a blustering browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker…

I fear that too many are classifying anything that hurts feelings as bullying. It isn’t. Hurt feelings does not equate bullying. I confess, I can have my feelings hurt when I’m overtired and stressed and someone makes fun of something I like. That is not bullying, unless they do it as a habit.

Yes, I was left out of a lot of activities. My feelings were hurt. It wasn’t bullying. Finances and my capabilities excluded me from things. It wasn’t bullying.

Outside of what happened at home: In elementary school, other children called me unpleasant names, including pizza face. Some of my teachers felt the need to put me in my place, to make sure I knew I wasn’t special just because EF worked at the school. Those were bullying. It was repeated and intended to make me feel small.

When NM substituted in one of my classes, she belittled me in front of the class to make sure everyone knew she wasn’t playing favorites. It only happened once, but NM was bullying; something she did at home migrated to another location. I have exactly two memories from that year, that one and a brief glimpse of walking outside the classrooms during class changes.

I honestly don’t remember much else.

In middle school, my best friends decided they couldn’t be friends with me in school because being friends with me wasn’t popular. I was never in the popular group, never wanted to be. I didn’t consider that bullying. They chose a different direction.

In high school, I was teased about different things, but I’d reached the point where I simply didn’t care that much. It was trivial compared to what I lived with at home.

They keep telling me they love me and can’t understand why I don’t reciprocate, even though I’ve told them: “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

I am painted as mean, unforgiving, angry, perfectionistic, cranky, hateful…

The other side of the coin: Promises are made and repeatedly broken; simple boundaries are ignored; I am held accountable for things they do.

I can’t believe anything they say because they’ve lied so often, but I’m the bully.



  1. The stories highlight well how the book definition can be misinterpreted. I have had hurt feeling but not b/c someone was trying to hurt them but b/c of my own triggers. I couldn’t get my head around what it was and when I read Braiker’s book on manipulation I realized that she put forth a simple definition – it respects NO boundaries. And sometimes, it isn’t clear if we have crossed another’s emotional or mental boundary. Once that person becomes aware of it and the bullying doesn’t stop, it becomes bullying.

    Smearing tactics are a clear boundary violation. Controlling the perception of someone even in a compliment can be a form of bullying. Actually, your post jogged a thought about compliments and how I thought my problem was I couldn’t take them well, and then I thought that sometimes when compliments about my behavior are extrapolated to my character – it is in fact a way to control what I think about myself or when others are in a room, control other’s thoughts. I know that I do this to other’s. This got me thinking.

    • “NO boundaries” makes sense. I remember my counselor telling me that I wouldn’t have to set boundaries with people who are healthy because they don’t violate boundaries.

      Good point about personal triggers. That’s where most of my hurt feelings come from.

      Ugh, the backhanded compliments. I’d “forgotten” about those.

      The same counselor mentioned above told my sister that everyone manipulates. The question lies in whether it is intended to harm/take advantage. I wasn’t comfortable with his perspective at first, until I chose another word: Negotiation. We’re always negotiating what we want with what others want. It’s normal. It’s healthy. A healthy negotiation is when both sides are happy or at least comfortable with the outcome.

      • A very good point. Everyone is trying to get what they want, it is a degree to how clear the intention is of what they really want. Influencing someone is when the purpose is clear to both like that of a parent/child, teacher/student relationship. Chronic manipulators/bullies, from my understanding, is when someone believes that in order to win someone has to lose. So the win-win is, as you stated, a healthy negotiation.

        • Yes! Someone has to lose. It’s a real battle to remember that NM frequently says that something is win-win, but it’s because she says so not because it actually is.

          • I think that is a good way to look at it, as negotiation instead of manipulation. Manipulation involves a power imbalances, as does bullying. Negotiation and compromise involves two parties who view each other as “equals”.
            My MIL uses compliments towards me to control people’s images of her (and to put me into a “lower” position). It’s hard to explain why someone’s compliments (blatant flattery) is offensive to you and I look awful when I do. But the compliments are not meant to make me feel good, but are to show what a wonderful person she is. I always feel used and manipulated when she does this.
            Thanks for this post clarifying the terms, Judy. I’ve been looking up the definition of this too. I think too much of it has been blurred and we are missing the point. And I think it’s important to recognize that hurt feelings are not always the fault of the person who ’caused” the hurt feelings and that we can’t always be held accountable for other people’s feelings.

            • I hate compliments from NM, too. There’s always an underlying meaning. I know it’s there because I recognize the pattern, but outsiders don’t have the long-term history to go with it. ((Jessie))

  2. Thanks Judy.

    • You’re welcome, Ruth.

  3. Okay, you gotta admit it. Despite the not-funny reality of your living situation, that scraggeldy-haired hamster is pretty funny. Reminds me of the Professor in the Back To The Future movies. 🙂

    • I love the hamster. He makes me laugh every time I look at him. And you’re right about him looking like the professor. 🙂

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