Does Academic Failure Play a Part in Bully Behavior – No

I was never a bully, but I could easily have been the victim. I’m a little guy, 5-foot-4 to be exact. 

But there was something I noticed early on since I was a child. When I encountered bullies, I wasn’t scared. There was something in me that did not trigger a fear emotion, despite the fact it probably should have. So in time I became friends with the bullies.

What was interesting, however, was that I did not realize I was hanging out with the bullies. I saw other little kids like myself getting “punked” by my friends. I would laugh when they told me, yet I felt a sense of betrayal. I was laughing because the story was in fact pretty funny. The way they described it, their animated way of storytelling. I just laughed because, heck, it was funny. 

Years later I began meeting new people, and a few I instantly recognized as being the so-called “victims” of these bullies. I knew them well, and I learned of their distaste for my friends who bullied them. It was then I realized I was friends with the bullies, yet I really had more in common with the victims.

Knowing both sides of the issue, I realized something. The bullies simply hated themselves. My friends who were bullies hated themselves. On the outside, they acted like they loved themselves. But I knew them good enough to see their true feelings come out. They had learned to hate themselves due to external circumstances beyond their control – maybe parents, maybe lack of parents or maybe just an unfortunate life experience.

Because they hated themselves, they saw no reason to care about school. Yes, they failed horribly in academics. In fact, they didn’t even try. Most dropped out by high school.

I look at it like this. Hating yourself causes bully behavior. Academic failure is a symptom of hating yourself. But academic failure in itself does not lead to bullying. A person who loves themselves yet still fails academically will not prey on the weaker in order to feel better about themselves. They already feel good about themselves. That is the self-love. It is ever present within them, so to bully the weaker would be to feed the full. It becomes unnecessary.

This has been my personal observation. The one thing that convinces me is what I saw in my bully friends before they bullied anyone. A hurt child who learned to hate themselves and do everything possible to protect themselves. Because nobody else would. Until that point, they themselves were the victims. Where they went wrong was that decision: Do I love myself, or do I steal someone else’s self-love to fill mine?