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How to overcome bullying at school

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There are many initiatives in place nowadays to help stop bullying in schools. Source: Tasia Wells/AFP

Being in secondary or high school can be tough. There’s the pressure of a heavier workload, expectations from parents to do well, and choosing a lifelong path for yourself after graduation. 

Outside of this, there’s also a level of peer pressure you’ll have to deal with — and sometimes, that comes in the form of bullies. 

Bullies are described as people who consistently seek out others more vulnerable than themselves to intimidate, make fun of or harass.

It’s often hard to stop bullying from happening as it can be done in very subtle manners. 

This makes it very important to understand what constitutes bullying and when it’s happening to you.

We look into the actions that define bullying, what to do if you suspect you’re being bullied, and the steps you should take if you are. 

Many schools have events to raise awareness about bullying. Source: Monica Schipper/AFP

How to define bullying

Bullying is an unpleasant and sometimes traumatic thing to go through. It can have severe effects on your self-esteem, affect your confidence, and ability to trust other people.

This can hurt adults a lot. It’s even more so for young students still growing up. 

Still, how do you stop bullying when it’s so difficult to define? After all, it’s normal for your friends or classmates to playfully tease each other and poke fun once in a while.

How can you tell if they are crossing the line? 

The first thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to how you feel when your friends tease you. Are you able to brush it off without feeling any certain way?

Or do you feel bothered by it but think you should let it go? 

If it’s the latter point, that’s a big sign that you should bring it up. Talk to your friend about their comment or action and tell them how it made you feel.

If they care about you, they should be willing to apologise and refrain from repeating said action. 

If they are unwilling to stop their behaviour even after you’ve explained that it hurt you in some way, it’s a sign that you have been bullied or belittled by them — or could be in the future. 

Pay close attention to how you feel when you’re around them. Here are some signs that you are experiencing bullying: 

  • You feel anxious when that person is around
  • You don’t like being around them
  • They keep crossing your boundaries despite your protests
  • They mock, belittle or physically threaten you
  • They are not afraid to disrespect you on a daily basis 
  • You feel less confident in yourself when they are around

You might find it helpful to talk to someone about your experience. Source: Ina Fassbender/AFP

How to deal with or stop bullying from happening to you

It’s important to remember that bullying, no matter who it comes from, is never your fault.

However, there are certain things you can do to help you deal with the situation or stop bullying from happening altogether. 

Talk to someone about it

The first thing to do if you feel you’re being bullied is to tell someone. Ideally, this would be an adult you trust or feel safe around.

If you don’t want to do this, you can always confide in a friend you trust. 

They’d probably be able to help you either confront your bully or point you towards someone who can do so without jeopardising your safety.

If you’re unhappy, your parents might even make the decision to move you to a calmer, more accepting school

Most importantly, they can help you process what has happened to you in a safe way. 

Report your bully to your school

This might seem like a scary thing to do — but it is often the most effective. 

Your school can do things your parents or friends might not be able to do, like suspend your bully or make clear to them that their behaviour is unacceptable.

They might also be able to offer you more layers of protection, like making sure teachers are aware of your situation and looking out for you. 

Avoid your bully

If you are being bullied, the best thing to do is avoid the situation where you can. Of course, this can be hard if you’re in the same class as your bully or see them often. 

In this case, try to surround yourself with people who can distract you or keep you busy. Bullies are less likely to confront you when you’re in a group.

Plus, you’ll have the added advantage of a support system to help you through. 

Speak up

It might seem frightening, but the fact of the matter is that bullies thrive off your silence.

If you start speaking up and openly talking about your experiences, you might find that people are a lot more supportive than you think they are. 

More than that, this can help raise awareness and stop bullying from happening to other students in your school.