Why do People Bully?
According to our latest research, 1 in 2 people experience bullying at some point before their 20th birthday. And trust us when we say, we know how difficult it can be to go through it, especially if you don’t fully understand the psychology of bullying. In this article, we will be exploring the reasons why people bully, using the latest research and psychology, to give you a greater understanding of the motives of those who are either bullying you right now or who have done so in the past.
You may have assumed that you get bullied for whatever makes you different: your race, religion, class, sexual orientation, line of work, fashion sense, weight, or your political alignment. By the end of this article, you will know that this is not the case at all.
The Psychology of Being Bullied
We will explore the reasons why later on in this article, but most frequently, those who bully others are looking to gain a feeling of power, purpose and control over you. The easiest way of doing this is to focus on something that is unique about you – either preying on or creating a new insecurity with an intent to hurt you either physically or emotionally. What happens is, we, as the people experiencing bullying, start to internalise it and we become self-critical. We want to understand the reasons why we are being targeted and we start to blame ourselves.
As a result, we try to change or mask that unique characteristic in order to avoid the bullying. We dye our hair, bleach our skin, date people we aren’t interested in and cover up our bodies like they are something to be ashamed of. It starts to affect our behaviour and the ways in which we see ourselves, which can go on to impact both mental and physical health.
But the way we see bullying is all wrong. It isn’t because we are different in some way.
The Real Reasons Why People Bully Others
In a recent Ditch the Label study, we spoke to 8,850 people about bullying. We asked respondents to define bullying and then later asked if, based on their own definition, they had ever bullied anybody. 14% of our overall sample, so that’s 1,239 people, said yes. What we then did was something that had never been done on this scale before; we asked them intimate questions about their lives, exploring things like stress and trauma, home lives, relationships and how they feel about themselves.
In fact, we asked all 8,850 respondents the same questions and then compared the answers from those who had never bullied, those who had bullied at least once and those who bully others daily. This then gave us very strong and factual data to identify the real reasons why people bully others. It also scientifically proves that the reason people get bullied is never, contrary to popular belief, because of the unique characteristics of the person experiencing the bullying. So, why do people bully?
Stress and Trauma:
Our data shows that those who bully are far more likely than average to have experienced a stressful or traumatic situation in the past 5 years. Examples include their parents/guardians splitting up, the death of a relative or the gaining of a little brother or sister. It makes sense because we all respond to stress in very different ways. Some of us use positive behaviours, such as meditation, exercise and talking therapy – designed to relieve the stress. Others use negative behaviours such as bullying, violence and alcohol abuse, which temporarily mask the issues but usually make them worse in the long-term. The research shows that some people simply do not know how to positively respond to stress and so default to bullying others as a coping mechanism.
66% of the people who had admitted to bullying somebody else were male. Take a minute to think about how guys are raised in our culture and compare that to the ways in which girls are raised. The moment a guy starts to show any sign of emotion, he’s told to man up and to stop being a girl. For girls, it’s encouraged that they speak up about issues that affect them. For guys, it’s discouraged and so they start to respond with aggressive behaviours, such as bullying, as a way of coping with issues that affect them. This is why guys are more likely than girls to physically attack somebody or to commit crimes. It isn’t something they are born with, it’s a learned behaviour that is actively taught by society using dysfunctional gender norms and roles.
In order to mask how they actually feel about themselves, some people who bully focus attention on someone else. They try to avoid any negative attention directed at them by deflecting. But know they might look in the mirror at home and hate the way they look. There is so much pressure to live up to beauty and fitness standards. We are taught to compare ourselves to others, instead of embracing our own beauty.
They’ve Been Bullied:
Our research shows that those who have experienced bullying are twice as likely to go on and bully others. Maybe they were bullied as kids in the past, or maybe they are being bullied now. Often it’s used as a defence mechanism and people tend to believe that by bullying others, they will become immune to being bullied themselves. In fact, it just becomes a vicious cycle of negative behaviours.
Difficult Home Life:
1 in 3 of those who bully people daily told us that they feel like their parents/guardians don’t have enough time to spend with them. They are more likely to come from larger families and are more likely to live with people other than their biological parents. There are often feelings of rejection from the very people who should love them unconditionally. They are also much more likely to come from violent households with lots of arguments and hostility.
Low Access to Education:
Without access to education, hate-based conversation directed at others may be the norm. They may not understand what hate speech is and why speaking about people in a derogatory way is not appropriate.
Finally, those who bully are more likely to feel like their friendships and family relationships aren’t very secure. In order to keep friendships, they might be pressured by their peers to behave a certain way. They are more likely to feel like those who are closest to them make them do things that they don’t feel comfortable doing and aren’t very supportive or loving.
So there you have it, some of the most common reasons why people bully others. If you are being bullied, it’s time to put the knowledge to the test. Carry on to read our article on overcoming bullying. If you are doing the bullying, here are 7 things that you can do to overcome it.
Let’s talk about it – join the community today to start a conversation about bullying and speak to our amazing digital mentors who can help you without judgement.