Dealing with bullies: advice from those who’ve been there

No matter how many times you chanted it as a child, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’ just simply isn’t true. As social media grows and grows, so does the proof that words can wound.

We’ve all experienced it: people saying mean things, making snide comments or even outright trolling. But just because it happens, that doesn’t mean it’s ever ok.

Finding the strength to challenge negative words, stand up for who we are and love what makes us unique in the face of bullying is a real superpower.

Watch as Olivia, Ghazal, Joanne, Khadija and Will talk about their experiences of being bullied and how they found the strength to get through.

Let’s recap on some of those words of wisdom.

Never blame yourself

Often it isn’t clear why people say hurtful things: they might be jealous, they might be angry or unhappy. Sometimes it’s a reflection of what’s going on in their own heads and their own lives. Sometimes, by making people feel bad, a bully can feel like their own situation isn't as bad. It isn't you, no matter what you might think or what they might say. Mean words hurt though and it’s hard not to take them personally. As Joanne says:

"I just hated myself because I didn’t understand why they were saying it to me."

You should never blame or hate yourself for the things that other people choose to say.

Turn a negative into a positive

Khadija says she “felt worthless” when she was being bullied – to the point where she thought that she “might as well not even continue living.” But then she changed her perspective:

"I started thinking, why am I taking it out on me?"

Don't let the bully's words bring you down. Remember: they are trying to reduce your self-confidence, self-worth and happiness. Don't let them! Turn it around. Instead, remind yourself of your strengths and know that getting through difficult situations can make you stronger. Don't let a bully affect your ambitions. In fact, keeping a focus on your own ambitions and drive can remind you of the wonderful things you can do and deserve to achieve. Do the things that make you feel great about yourself.

Don’t keep your feelings bottled up

If you’re being bullied or receiving negative comments, talk to someone you trust. Bottling up your feelings will only make you feel more alone and isolated. As Olivia says:

"I started to turn things around when I actually told my parents how bad the bullying was. It was a relief for me to actually say out loud what had been happening."

If you are struggling to find someone you trust enough to talk to, you can find advice, information and the numbers for support lines online. The Samaritans, ChildLine and The Mix all have support services you can call or message if you need to talk.

Love yourself

Accept and embrace who you are, unapologetically. Love your quirks, your differences, the things that make you stand out from the crowd. As Will says:

"I think turning things around was finding the ability to accept who I was, and not apologising for the fact that I am who am."

Celebrate what makes you the unique person you are, because you’re fab: fact.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Embrace who you are. Know that people will be around you and, regardless of what you might think at the time, everything will be ok and you will succeed and do what you want to do with your life.

Don’t give up, keep going. You don’t know what your future has in store for you but, trust me, it has great things coming.

Understand that everything that you are going through, right there and then, needs to happen. Just live your life and just be true to yourself.

Everything happens for a reason. For all that bullying and negativity and everything that has happened throughout my life, it’s brought me to this point now and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Where to go for more support

There’s lots more advice and guidance on the Bitesize Support pages. Have a look at:

You could also explore the advice on Young Minds, ChildLine and The Mix.

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