Despite the cool morning air, I feel myself sweating as we walk. I'm anxious after second-guessing myself for night and through-out the morning. But I know I need to tell E. I need her to be aware of what's happening so that I can address what's been happening. Sighing, I take a deep breath and speak the words I've been milling around in my brain but am worried will automatically label me as a trouble maker.
"I've been feeling bullied."
Growing up, I encountered my share of bullies. From the boys in grade-school who made fun of me because I was both new and different, to junior high where the bullying continued solely because I wasn't good at defending myself. Later it would be a college roommate who would verbally abuse me and finally another roommate who spread lies about me to my other roommates. Finally there was my hazing into online bullying. In every case, a theme has emerged. A theme of the bully feeling threatened somehow. But also a theme of escalation unless they are somehow made to stop.
And this is where I fail, normally. I fail to confront them. To defend myself from the abuse.
The past couple of weeks things have been escalating. Despite me trying to steer clear, I've found my space being invaded, my work criticized and my general competence questioned. In addition, I've been feeling more isolated from others around me, with quiet looks and odd glances. Something that you want to brush off, but your gut tells you something is off. Yesterday it all came to a head, where I was chastised for a failed experiment that had nothing to do with this person. With that, I cut my day short so I could regroup and formulate a plan.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've been exploring my own history with low self-esteem and how it's resulted in severe feelings of jealousy and exclusion. There's been some hard self-reflection that has come out of all of this, with me having to confront the roots for why I've felt less. As I've been exploring this, I've found myself also learning more about bullying. About what drives someone to tear others down.
The hard thing about bullies is the walls to defend their behavior. They are quick to deny anything is happening, arguing that either certain events never happened or justifying their behavior. They duck and dive, avoiding the harm they are causing. They are masters at the game, knowing how to insert elements of doubt. The whole while avoiding any blame that could be pinned on them. Because with owning their behavior and the hurt they induce, they would have to confront the fact that their behavior stems from a dark place of self-hate and fear. That they feel less and are threatened by their target. So a bully never apologies. They instead fortify those walls.
Following my meeting with E, I confronted my bully. I started by expressing confusion about where they behavior was stemming from and offered to help rectify the relationship. But I also made clear that it needed to stop. Even as my bully ducked and dived, preparing to argue my points, I remained firm on that one point.
I don't expect this will be the last confrontation. Like stalkers, bullies are reluctant to give up on their targets very easily. But I'm documenting and making sure the boundaries are clear. But as of today, I've done something I've never done before. I've actually told someone that I deserve to be treated better, believing it in my heart as well. So even though I'm feeling shitty at the moment, guilty for driving a confrontation and doubting myself the whole way, there's also some pride that is coming through.
Hopefully round 2 is just in my head.
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