I Stood Up to a Bully — and Won
Growing up, I was always a victim of bullying. I was bullied in primary school. I was bullied (badly) in high school. And I was bullied in the workplace.
Until I’d had my recent ‘epiphany’ moment (I’ll get to that in a moment), I was always quite bitter about the experience. I always saw the bullies as victorious and that they’d gotten away with what they’d done. It left a long-lasting impact on me. It was as if they had an unseen power over me, even years later, when they’d probably forgotten what they’d even done and had moved on — while I hadn’t.
That changed recently.
Last year I was embroiled in a legal battle with a client who refused to pay me for work that I’d done for him. He tried his hardest to bully and intimidate me into dropping my efforts chasing the debt — but I wouldn’t let him. I was adamant that I had done no wrong and that I was entitled to the money. It was a tough and scary 11-month process, but in the end, I won. I stood up to the bully — and I won.
Months later, it’s only now that I can understand and appreciate what happened. The experience made me tougher, more confident, and less scared. It gave me the opportunity to blog about it and to speak at a conference about it, the latter leading to an enquiry. Yes, that’s right: talking publicly about a negative experience (a legal battle with an old client) led to a positive one (the possibility of working with a new one).
Oh and you know that whole thing that we always hear about how bullies are actually cowards? Despite the nastiness in emails and the bravado in the courtroom, I didn’t get an email or a phonecall telling me that I’d finally been paid — I only found out when I saw the money in my bank account. So I guess that’s actually true after all.
Most importantly of all, it’s helped me to frame bullying as a whole differently, and especially all of my old past experiences. Standing up to this Goliath of a bully and winning has helped me to feel that I have conquered all old bullies to an extent — my Ghosts of Bullies Past, as it were. After all, this guy has probably bullied a lot of other people, but I didn’t let him get away with it. Similarly, as for all my old bullies (in school/the workplace/wherever), I’ve realised that while I didn’t retaliate or stand up to them, someone else probably has done at some point in their lives — and I’m sure that they’ve given them a deservedly shitty time, to boot. So while I didn’t personally get one-up on them, someone somewhere has to have done. I’m sure of it.
Now that this has happened once, I know that if anyone else tries it, they’ll get a piece of my mind. And that’s the thing: now that I’ve gone through the experience and survived, I know that I can do it again. So that’s my recommendation to the fellow former bullied: stand up to a bully. You will feel 10x or 100x time better afterwards.
In the words of the mighty Baby Chaos: “Have Faith In Yourself”.
[Image note: I sourced the image from a graphic designer. If you’d like to use it for your own purposes then please go ahead, but please link back to this blog post when you do. Thanks.]