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Anti-bullying Day: Being bullied can scar you for life, but there are ways to tackle it

Bullying, especially in children is an attempt to feel powerful and gain control over others.

Written by Ishita Sengupta | New Delhi |
Updated: May 4, 2017 5:14:21 pm
bullying, anti-bullying day, children getting bullied, causes of bullying, ways to prevent bullying, indian express, indian express news Bullying is not class or gender specific. (Source: File Photo)

Did you know, according to a 2015 study conducted by research agency IMRB and ParentCircle, every third child is bullied in India? Bullying, defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘the use of strength or power to frighten or hurt weaker people’, is not restricted to any class, race, age or even gender. Be in school, at home, at the workplace or even by strangers in public, the possibility of being bullied exists everywhere.

If one has to draw from pop culture, there is the character of Chatur in the film 3 Idiots, who is bullied by the three protagonists, and who, as a result, later turns into quite a bully himself.

When Renata Klein, in HBO’s miniseries Big Little Lies, discovers her little daughter was bullied on the first day of her kindergarten, she looks closely at the boy she thinks is the perpetrator, and says “Little boys don’t get to go around anymore hurting little girls.”

Klein is the prototype of successful woman. She is rich, runs her own business, and evokes envy in other women. She is a woman of privilege. Perhaps this is why her voice reeks of disbelief and anger. Big Little Lies, that deals with women and an adult version of their sisterhood, has a large part of social media talking about it, and not without reason. The show that sets off unravelling the lives of powerful white women eventually manages to cut through their near-perfect exterior and bring forth lives laced with violence and instances of bullying.

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In fact the seriousness of the situation made United Nations declare May 4 as Anti-Bullying Day in 2012. Though the idea originated in Canada, it is now observed the world over, when people wear a pink, blue or purple shirt to symbolise a stand against bullying.

So, what is it that makes a young child use their strength to frighten another? “It is the feeling of being powerful,” says Sapna Zarwal, a Delhi-based child psychologist. “Bullying is essentially a power struggle, and those who bully, in most cases, learn from what they are exposed to,” she adds.

Violent behaviour of parents or fights at home often results in making a bully out of a young child. The idea of exercising power over another is normalised in the household, making a child feel ‘comfortable’ with their own aggressive behaviour towards their peers. Zarwal harps on how regular instances of bulling are, and how a child is vulnerable to being bullied from when they are as young as three years old.

“A bully has both sadistic and masochistic tendencies. They derive pleasure from their actions and want to see how far things can go,” says Kamal Khurana, a renowned Delhi-based psychologist.

If the feeling of being powerful eggs a bully on, it is the fear to retaliate that makes a child an unsuspecting victim of bullying. Those who are bullied may not be necessarily timid or docile, but, in most cases, they are unable to respond or retort. “Those who are bullied do not retaliate, and neither do they ask for help,” adds Zarwal.

Similar thoughts are echoed by Sohini Chatterjee, 24, who remembers being bullied as a child. “I used to get bullied a lot in school. I was in the third standard and there were four-five girls who would gang up against me,” she says, and recollects that once there was a birthday party and how everyone except her was invited. She also remembers how she was once tickled incessantly by those girls and they had continued to do even though she complained of feeling suffocated.

ALSO READ| Effects of childhood bullying may persist for years: study

“I used to feel very left out. I don’t remember much except that I felt very sad and depressed. I had stopped going out to play after that, and had withdrawn myself completely. I used to watch a lot of television and eat to fill the void.”

However, Chatterjee, much like the other victims of bullying, did not retaliate. “I wanted to be liked, I wanted to have friends to play with, and perhaps that is why I let it continue for longer than I think I should have,” she reasons, or at least tries to. But she has not come out of the incident unscathed. “I suffer from trust issues, and am very socially awkward,” she says. “I cannot maintain long-term friendships, and neither do I put in enough effort.”

Zarwal has similar observations: “Being bullied completely damages one’s confidence, and has serious repercussion in their personal and professional life. It impacts their personality and their ability to make friends.” What is alarming, however, is the propensity of the victim to put the blame of being bullied on themselves, much like is the case in other instances of abuse. “The victims feel there is something wrong with them,” she adds.

Beyond childhood

But to think that bullying is restricted merely to playgrounds and school would be far from the truth. Bullying at workplace is also a reality that needs to be addressed. Adults may not be as helpless as children, but they too are subjected to bullying. Zarwal maintains it is more painful for adults since they are aware of what is happening, and desperately seek to help themselves out of it.

But bullying an adult at the workplace follows a different pattern. It does not merely stop at ridiculing or humiliating an individual. Others taking credit for somebody else’s work qualifies as one form of bullying, and so does making one feel inferior without an apparent reason.

“It was ridiculous. It was like we were back in school courtyards where the big kids would bully the weak ones,” says Twinkle Chakravarty, who was regularly bullied at her previous workplace. The 26-year-old fashion blogger remembers how there was no way of placing a formal complaint since everyone in the chain of authorities was involved in the systematic abuse. “There was a crazy pressure to perform and one received no encouragement from the bosses except some more berating and ridicule for the hard work,” she adds.

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Rai Majumdar, 24, has a similar story. She remembers being publicly ridiculed for a small mistake she had done at her work place, and how that incident completely shattered her confidence. “I still feel nervous every time I am asked to write something,” she says.

“Apart from the need to feel obviously powerful, it is often an individual’s own incompetence that makes them belittle those around them”, Zarwal maintains.

It is the role of parents that goes a long way in curbing bullying. A child spends most of their time with their parents, and in most cases confide in them if and when they are bullied. The doctor recounts several instances where the parents, on hearing about their child being bullied, were on detail or took it on their ego.

In fact, parents too sometimes can be a bully owing to their refusal to understand the plight of their children, and in their effort to normalise the idea of getting bullied. “Some parents feel that getting bullied is a good way to prepare their child for the hardships in the outside world. Parents should be accessible and more aware of what is happening. Every child is different and so is their behaviour. It is the responsibility of the parents to observe the child, and notice if there are any alarming signs,” Zarwal says.

“All human beings are essentially good, and it is the responsibility of parents to bring out this goodness in them,” Khurana concludes.

So extend a hand, and be compassionate. Little gestures such as these go a long way in curbing bullying. And mostly, try to be a friend, both to the the victim, and to the perpetrator.

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📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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