How To Stop A Bully from Hurting You And Others

By Gabrielle Seunagal |Updated July 8, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Bullies are an unfortunate part of life, and sometimes even society can act like a bully (e.g., if someone is wrongfully "canceled"). Other times, bullies can exist in the schoolyard, our families, or even wind up being our romantic partners.

Regardless of who a bully is, it's helpful to understand the underlying reasons for bullying, that is, how it's often more about the bully's insecurities rather than any defaults of your own. Knowing this can also help prevent you and people you care about from getting bullied, so read on to learn more.

A General Overview Of Bullies

Bullying Says More About The Bully Than It Does About You

Perpetrators of bullying engage in ongoing, mean-spirited behavior that targets other people. Bullying can occur verbally or physically, and it's not always readily apparent, contrary to the classic idea of schoolyard bullying that we have in our collective imagination.

Bullies generally know that their behavior is hurtful and ill-advised, yet they most often persist until they are forced to stop. Various reasons can determine why someone chooses to engage in bullying. That said, nothing justifies targeting and mistreating another individual.

How Do Bullies Hurt Others?

Bullies hurt others with their words and actions. Some common tactics include singling out individuals, making them feel insecure about a sensitive issue, and mocking them in front of others. When this occurs online, it's known as cyberbullying (and it can have devastating effects, particularly on children).

Someone subjected to bullying in the workplace may struggle to perform their professional duties with the utmost quality. Someone being bullied in a romantic relationship may experience diminished self-esteem and ask themselves if something they did is causing the bullying. A bullied child in school may see their grades take a nosedive. The impact of bullying can vary widely, depending upon the bully, the person being bullied, and other existing dynamics.

Why Do Bullies Target Certain People?

People have wondered what prompts bullies to go after certain people for quite some time. While reasons can vary on an individual level, collectively, specific factors are linked to bullying and the people who are targets of this abuse.

One of the most common features uniting those who experience bullying is that they generally stand out in one way or another. They may seem "different" from the rest, and sometimes other people see that as a threat. Insecure individuals often have a pattern of fearing or hating what they don't understand.

The personality of an individual who is bullied also plays a role. In many scenarios, bullies target people who seem nice to a fault or otherwise less inclined to fight back. The reason behind this methodology is simple: bullies thrive on power and control. By going after someone who may be too afraid to defend themselves or fight back, bullies know that they risk little in the way of resistance.

Individuals who are disenfranchised or powerless may also be likelier to experience bullying than their more fortunate counterparts. Bullies may be afraid to go after someone who has the power and means to push back against them. Therefore, they tend to punch down and go after people they view as easy targets. This does not mean that people of high stature are never bullied in life. However, studies have shown that bullies typically go after those who can't or won't fight back.

How To Protect Yourself And Others From Bullies

There will always be bullies in various settings and environments, but this doesn't mean you must put up with it. You can not only stop bullies from hurting you, but you can also stop them from hurting others who are around you. Collectively fighting back against bullying involves people taking steps to defend themselves and shattering the dynamics that bullies rely upon to mistreat other human beings.

Have A Healthy Support System

Having the right support system in your corner makes all the difference in the world. In many cases, bullies are less likely to go after those they believe have friends to back them up. Having the right people in your corner also ensures that you are not isolated or alienated from other human beings. A healthy support system makes all the difference in the world and allows you to support others in your group if they become targets of bullying.

A support system also makes a difference if someone reports bullying to a higher authority. An established pattern of bullying and witnesses can make a significant difference. Solidarity is the antithesis of isolation and the ultimate kryptonite for perpetrators of bullying.

Be Confident

Confidence in yourself speaks volumes and conveys a message before you open your mouth. People tend to pick up on whether someone has high or low self-esteem. In many cases, bullies are less likely to go after people who exude high self-esteem and confidence.

Furthermore, someone who feels good about themselves is usually less likely to put up with mistreatment from others. In many cases, bullies intuitively home in on what they view as easy people to punch down upon.

Speak Up

If you see that someone else is being subjected to bullying, one of the best things you can do is speak up. The way bystanders of bullying handle these situations can truly make all the difference.

If you are uneasy about confronting the bully face to face, you can always take the matter to a higher authority. Letting someone know what you witnessed can not only stop the bullies, but it can also help the person in a tight spot. Standing up for others and doing the right thing feels good.

Don't Blame Yourself

It can be very easy to question whether something you did prompted the bully to lash out when dealing with a bully. Bullies have a way of projecting their issues onto others; this can be emotionally and psychologically hurtful. You are not responsible for the actions of the bully. Each of us makes our own choices in life and must be accountable. Regardless of how a bully chooses to conduct themselves or what they may say to you or others, they alone are responsible for the choices they make.

That said, it is necessary to do our best to understand where these people are coming from—for example, they may be witnessing or even experiencing abuse at home.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Closing Remarks On Bullies

Contrary to what some of us may think, bullies are not "strong" individuals. They may appear to be well-off or in a position of power, but they have a significant weakness at their core that is causing them to bully.

After all, the way we are treated often says more about the other person than ourselves, and bullies generally have personal issues that they need to work through.

Never allow a bully to make you question who you are or what you know about yourself. This may be the bully's ultimate endgame, but they can only win if you allow them to do so. Remaining strong, knowing who you are, and taking the right steps against bullying is imperative.

These steps can also help boost your self-esteem and improve your confidence. Stopping a bully from hurting you and others is a fantastic achievement and can be life-changing. In turn, the bully will hopefully learn a lesson from experience.

Bullying Says More About The Bully Than It Does About You

Considering Online Therapy

If you are dealing with bullying or other challenges in life, you may do well to sign up for online therapy with BetterHelp. Having the advice of a professional in your corner comes with many perks and benefits. Aside from providing additional support, a therapist can get to know you and evaluate your situation. Afterward, you will be given advice and things to think about. Even though human beings may face similar issues, the exact nature of certain situations can vary. Dealing with all of this on your own can present a unique challenge, and you shouldn't feel as though you're in it alone.

Online therapy has changed countless lives and helped people learn more about themselves. Working with a therapist does not mean that you will never encounter a bully or go through tough times. However, it does ensure that you don't have to feel alone as you push forward and overcome. Later down the line, you may also come to find that what you went through made you a stronger and wiser person. Keep the faith and never give up because life has a way of surprising us sometimes.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.