Were you bullied at school? Do you feel the experience has damaged your adult life? Want to do something about it?
Last week as part of anti-bullying week, Laura and I got the opportunity to deliver a programme at a primary school in Kent, through Full Circle Education, with the focus on friendship. By the end of it, the kids were all chanting “Be a buddy not a bully” and were able to recognise different types of bullying, that bullying is wrong and how to deal with it.
Having been bullied affects your adult life
It struck me whilst delivering this programme to these young children, how a number of my past coaching clients, now in their 20’s and 30’s, have talked in sessions about being bullied when they were younger and how it affects them now in adulthood. Topics they brought to the coaching sessions were around career change but underneath were issues such as lack of confidence, low self-worth, feeling they were not achieving their potential and having a poor self-image.
What lies beneath
One of these clients was a young professional who came to coaching because she didn’t “feel good enough” to go for a higher career position. Another client was fearful about going to university in case she wouldn’t be able to stick to it and another client who was afraid to ask for more commitment from her partner, because she didn’t feel worthy. So whilst on the outside they were “successful”, on the inside they were battling with these deeper issues which may have come from being bullied.
So it got me curious about the long-term damage that childhood bullying can have on people in their adult lives.
A study, from Warwick University and Duke University in the US, whose results were published recently in the journal of Psychological Science, concludes bullying should not be seen as “a harmless rite of passage”. The study tracked more than 1400 people between the ages of nine to 26.
One of the key insights that they found about victims of bullying was:
Victims tended to be more successful—but less healthy—than bullies in adulthood.
In general, victimized kids grew up to do better than the kids who bullied them. They made more money, had more friends, and were much, much less likely to be convicted of a crime—but they still did worse than those who weren’t bullied at all. And their mental and physical health tended to be worse than everyone else.
So it’s clear as the report says that bullying “throws a long shadow over affected children’s lives.”
Identity and Self-Esteem
In his essay “The long term effects of bullying”, Mark Dombeck says
“If the primary damage that bullying causes is damage to identity and self-esteem, then taking steps to repair identity and self-esteem are in order for people looking to heal from past bullying experiences.”
Mark goes on to talk about different therapies for different problems such Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for depression and anger that have come as result of being a victim of bullying.
“Their feelings of personal safety have been violated and their belief in their own competency and adequacy has been brought into question.”
For empowerment, he suggests as one of many options; “picking out a goal you desire to accomplish (which will assert yourself) and then deciding to make it happen. As with any self-improvement goal, it is good to start small, and to dissect larger goals into their smallest possible elements, so that each step you take on the way to a big goal is manageable.”
Why people come to coaching?
It makes sense that people who have been bullied would come to coaching to explore their “identity” and to regain a feeling of “empowerment”. The coaching relationship is a partnership, which is empowering in itself and together in the coaching sessions:
- We focus on what you want to do and who you want to be in your life going forward and less on the past and why the bullying happened.
- We also help you to regain your identity by looking at your values, strengths and talents.
- We create a sense of your own purpose, thereby building self-esteem.
- From this newfound self-esteem we can create new aspirations and goals.
- And build up the resilience and courage required to make these goals happen.
Coaching and Therapy support
A few of my past client’s who’d been bullied at school have had therapy, which helped them look at the events of past so that they could be brought up for healing. Then when the client felt they were ready to do something about it, they come to coaching. I’ve also had a client who was having therapy and coaching alongside each other.
What’s important is that you get the support you need, be it coaching, therapy or both.
You don’t have to let the past rule your present.