When children are bullied by their classmates, the most common response is to tell them to ignore it. It is seldom recognized that bullying in school may have long term effects on their self esteem. As a result, many children who are bullied in school may grow up to be bullied by others in the workplace, or even in their own home as a result of that lack of self-esteem. While some people manage to recover their self-esteem after having been bullied for many years, many do not.
Bullying often starts with a pattern of verbal abuse directed at a child. Sometimes it’s because of a bad habit they may have. Sometimes it’s because of their looks. Sometimes it’s because of their perceived sexual orientation. It may even be just because they are an easy target, perhaps smaller than the other children, or in some cases actually more attractive than the bullies feel like they are. Whatever the reason for the bullying, it becomes an issue for the person who is being bullied. They are told that they are unattractive, or stupid, or any other insult that comes to the bully’s mind. Each time one of these negative comments is made, the victim takes it as gospel truth. They hear enough of these insults, and they start to think that when they are complimented, it is only sarcasm. As a result, their self-esteem is completely destroyed.
These kids may become increasingly introverted, even to the point of being unable to face school much of the time. Their grades may suffer as a result of this abuse, because they will skip school to avoid the bullies. Later on in life, these victims do grow into adults. Some of them may wind up in abusive adult relationships, because they believe these terrible things about themselves. Others may grow up and become the bullies themselves, to try to prevent themselves from being hurt. Either way, it is not good.
The only way to prevent these things from happening is to take an active stance against bullying. Teachers, administrators and parents need to work together to help these kids with their self-esteem issues. It may also be necessary to help the bullies themselves as many of them may be suffering from low self-esteem as well, but just handling it differently. The day that these problems are recognized and dealt with will be the day that life will improve for everyone.