Low self-esteem is often an issue for victims of bullying, as they have to contend with the constant digs, threats, and taunts they receive from the bullies that they encounter at school. Sometimes, the verbal abuse turns physical, so that victims of bullying not only have to put up with the humiliation and shame that they’re made to feel from being teased about one of their many ‘deficiencies’; they also start to fear for their physical well-being. Of course, students shouldn’t have to put up with any of this, but it is often difficult to escape a bully’s clutches.
Teachers cannot always be relied upon to protect you and, besides, sometimes their involvement just makes the situation worse. Thus, you’re forced to rely upon yourself and you either choose to ignore the teasing and insults that are directed at you; or you give as good as you get. If you happen to be a confident person you may be able to come up with quick, witty retorts to the bullies’ nastiness, but quite often being bullied saps any self-belief you once had. You constantly doubt yourself, in terms of intelligence and appearance, so that you may even come to accept the bullies’ criticism of you.
It is easier to ignore what the bullies are saying about you to their friends or telling you to your face than to respond and face even harsher criticism. If you don’t say anything, hopefully bullies will move away quickly and pick on someone else. You don’t really ignore what is being said, though; you simply internalise everything that has been said and let all the negativity wash over you. Just because you don’t say anything about the way you’re feeling doesn’t mean you don’t feel anything.
If you’re actually beaten up and hurt physically then you can’t hide that you’re feeling something, because the bullies want make you feel pain. You may decide to put up no defence, but self-preservation will often force you to fight back. However, when you’re fighting against a group of bullies by yourself, you’re the one who is going to come out of the situation worse. You might really want to hit the main instigator of the bullying, but you’re held back from doing so and you end up badly bruised.
If this is your experience of school, then, clearly, your self-esteem is going to take a total drubbing, since it is at school where you learn to socialise and interact with your peers. When you regularly encounter bullying, whether mild or severe, this is going to influence the opinion you develop of yourself and of other people. If all you ever hear from those around you is that you’re fat, ugly and stupid you may find it too difficult to challenge these assertions and simply accept them as being reality.