How to Take Care of Yourself When… You Are Being Bullied

Something I have heard from more than one client: “I spent so many years being told I was worthless… even though the abuser is finally out of my life, his voice is still in my head every day, cutting me down.”


You are enough

I wish I could face every child, teenager, and adult who has ever been verbally abused or bullied and say, “You are enough, just the way you are.  Whoever told you you were less than that is the one who is lacking.”


It might not be about you

The way a person makes other people feel is mostly a reflection on that person, not the people they are affecting.  If you are a relatively sensitive / observant person, try this sometime: pay attention to how you feel when you are around someone.  Later, in a quiet moment, reflect on whether that person is someone you would describe as how you felt with them. Very often, an anxious person can trigger anxiety in others.  A depressed person can lower the mood of those around them. A jovial person can make you smile. And a self-loathing person can make you feel bad about yourself.


Hurt people hurt people

In addition to the energy and tone of a person, there is how they treat us- the things they say to and about us.  Anyone who goes out of their way to hurt another person is a miserable person. That miserable person may appear to be the most popular girl in school or your boss who keeps getting promotions, but the fact is that they are miserable.  You see, a person who tries to hurt another is consumed with their own insecurity. They may even hate themselves. On the other hand, a happy person lifts up other people. A content, confident person walks into a room and makes everyone in the room feel seen and appreciated.  A worthwhile associate is someone who is generous in their perspective and looks for the best in others.

It’s sad: anyone who needs to pull others down was probably verbally or otherwise abused at some point, and that cruel voice of their abuser is constantly in their heads, giving them low self-esteem.  Don’t let that person who is stuck in their suffering pull you into the same boat. See them for the broken person they are, offer them healing, and then keep your distance. Hopefully, they’ll find a way to be happy and stop hurting other people.  In the meantime, surround yourself with a tribe that will see your wonderful qualities and appreciate them.

In the practice of forgiveness, there is an adage: “hurt people hurt people.” In other words, in order for someone to intentionally hurt another person, he must be in pain.  Happy people don’t hurt other people. When it comes to cultivating compassion and forgiveness for those who have hurt us, it is helpful to remember this. It is easier to forgive someone when we can see them not just as the person who hurt us, but as the person who has been hurt and carries that hurt around.


Take your distance

Whether someone you just met has attempted to bring you down once or you have lived for years with a verbally abusive person, it’s your right to set a boundary and not let that person speak to you like that.  For a lot more about setting boundaries, this past article of mine addresses things to consider when setting a boundary and ways to speak to make your expectations clear.



It’s possible you are living with the voice of the long-term abuser in your mind, holding you back with insults every day.  Another article I wrote on this exact topic explores daily practices you can incorporate as a response to that voice.

Remember: you are enough, just the way you are.  If any past or current voices are telling you otherwise, it’s up to you to refuse their narrative and make your own.


Important skills you are strengthening:


Looking deeply



Setting boundaries







2 thoughts on “How to Take Care of Yourself When… You Are Being Bullied

  1. Bruce Taylor says:

    Andrea, I read this and immediately wanted to reread in order to soak in these wise and good words. I interact with friends who want to know how to deal with difficult others. The frustration and anger that builds up in victims of bullying is amazing, and this suffering grows because, as in work places, the victim can’t avoid the perpetrator.

    Often a friend tells me that even though demands are outrageous, she loves her tormentor. I think time must pass in some relationships before we realize our victimization, and by then the courage required to say no becomes impossible to achieve. Your idea of recognizing “the energy and tone of a person” might apply as an early warning system. However, we get in too deep with some bullies because they can be seductive. Over the days we hate how we feel around them, but we long for the loving we once felt from them too.

    Your explanation of the bully as miserable, in need of healing, in pain, is what I have come to believe. The key question for me is how can I offer healing? The call to compassion for everyone is right, but too large an imperative in many cases.
    Keeping your distance is the smart move, but in some contexts that may be impossible (work mates, neighbors, relatives). This predicament, unfortunately, can lead to being pulled down into the same boat as the suffering bully. Thanks for the warning.

    Peace, love, ecology


    • Andread says:

      Hi Bruce!
      Thank you for the thoughtful words. I agree, the relationship to the perpetrator can be one where it feels impossible to get away, to set that hard boundary that needs to happen when your emotional or physical safety are at risk. I worked with someone who remained in a terribly abusive relationship for over two decades because the perpetrator made credible threats against her life. It was a daily terror. A situation like that really requires working closely with a victims’ advocate to safely extricate oneself from the situation.

      Other than intimate relationships, I believe strongly that other relationships can be left behind a lot easier than we think. At some point, the cost and burden of moving or finding other employment seem like less of a drain than remaining in contact with the neighbor or coworker perpetrator (assuming law enforcement and human resources support has been unsuccessful.) It’s not a survivor’s job to offer healing to the perpetrator. Getting distance and freedom from the abuse or bullying is the imperative.

      It’s inner work that we do to recognize how miserable the perpetrator is and to wish for them to find healing. That is for the survivor- so he or she can let go of resentment and move on with their lives and not become like the perpetrator. It’s an expansive and free response to an ugly situation. And sometimes, that part comes several years after getting free of the abuse, if at all.

      It’s a process… and the first step is recognizing that you are already enough, and you don’t need to spend time with people who would have you believe otherwise.

      I hope that clarifies!


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