Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

What is Bullying?


To be able to understand what bullying is and the impact it has

What is Bullying? (Hayes & Herbert, 2011, p. 142)

What is Bullying?Bullying can be thought of as any behavior that is unwanted and unwelcome, has a negative impact on the recipient or on bystanders, and is unwarranted. It is the recipient who decides whether the behavior is unwanted and unwelcome. Other people in the same situation may not have the same feelings.

Negative Impact of Bullying (Hayes & Herbert, 2011, pp. 145-146, 150-152)

Some of the negative impacts of bullying include the following:

  • Feeling unhappy and frightened
  • Isolating and withdrawing oneself from others
  • Becoming less talkative
  • Having few friends and limited social interactions
  • Becoming physically ill
  • Having nightmares and other sleep problems
  • Having a decreased interests in activities previously once enjoyed
  • Fearing looking at texts or emails and listening to voicemails

Feeling frightened can contribute to a person not telling anyone that they are being bullied. They might be afraid that the bullying will get worse, that they will not be believed, that they will be seen as a wimp, that they will be blamed for “asking for it”, that they will get the person who is bullying them in trouble, or that they will not be taken seriously. They may silently hope that the person who is bullying them will go away, get bored and stop, or turn his or her attention to someone else.

The person being bullied may feel as though they have asked for it or provoked it in some way or that they deserve it because they are worthless. They may be guilty of using bullying behavior too. They may feel as though they are pathetic if they have not dealt with it or may be afraid that they will be ostracized by their peers. They may doubt their experience of being bullied-thinking to themselves that they may have exaggerated and that the person who bullied them didn’t really mean it.

Who is Commonly Bullied? (Hayes & Herbert, 2011, p. 146-148)

Most people experience bullying at some point in their lifetime. There will always be people who are sarcastic, who put people down, who make others uncomfortable, who criticize, who compare, and who generally cause grief to their peers, subordinates, or people who are weaker than they are. The toll that bullying can take varies from person to person and is dependent upon a variety of factors, such as:

  • Having a series of difficult situations happening at the same time
  • Struggling with work or school performance
  • Moving or changing schools
  • Having insecure, unstable, and unpredictable family relationships
  • Grieving the loss of a loved one
  • Being desperate to be accepted by peers

Here are some common reasons why some people become targets:

  • What is Bullying?Being overly opinionated
  • Being a safe target (hanging the head, hunching the shoulders, lack of eye contact)
  • Being too clever or too slow
  • Being too fat, thin, plain, tall, or short
  • Being too pretty (jealousy of other girls can lead to bullying)
  • Being a loner
  • Being non-athletic
  • Wearing glasses
  • Being different in any way (dress, sexual orientation, race, background)

Bullying is prolonged when the person being bullied is lacking self-confidence and is insecure since that can result in the individual being ill-equipped to stand up for themselves.

Who Does the Bullying? (Hayes & Herbert, 2011, p. 149-150)

Anyone can use bullying behavior. Anyone can be the victim or target of unwanted, unpleasant bullying treatment. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. A person who uses bullying behavior makes the choice to use the behavior or not. Bullying is about controlling others and the abuse of power. Power comes in many forms. People who use bullying behavior are often clever, devious, and less constrained by people’s opinions. He or she might be in a gang, be a member of the “in-group”, be regarded as a favorite by someone in a position of authority, or think that they are the prettiest, the most macho, or the wealthiest.

The person who bullies is typically not happy nor satisfied with their life. In fact, they are probably being bullied by someone else with more power than they have. People who bully can act alone, in a small group of two or three, or in a gang. Joining a gang can insulate members from being targeted themselves and is a form of security for people who will do anything to gain the respect of the gang leader and of their peers. Gang leaders are often deeply unhappy individuals who target others because of their own lack of self-esteem.

Next Step

Watch the following video to learn more about bullying:

Which of the following are negative impacts of bullying?

The person who bullies is typically not happy nor satisfied with their life.

Bullying is all of the following EXCEPT:

Talk to an expert therapist
Talk to a Therapist