Ask Sweety: Am I a Bully?
Ask Sweety is a platform for girls to ask burning questions about dating, school, family and anything else that affects their lives. Send your questions to AskSweety@sweetyhigh.com, and we'll do our best to give you the answers!
Dear Sweety High,
I'm a little concerned. I've always thought of myself as a pretty kind and caring person. I genuinely enjoy helping people out and I think I'm pretty good at listening to people's problems and providing my friends with advice if they need it.
But I got in a fight with a close friend recently and she accused me of bullying her, as well as some of our other friends. She said that I'm always making fun of them for what they wear, always laughing at them when they're talking about something they care about and generally putting them down all the time. I have a pretty sarcastic sense of humor, but I think all our friends enjoy poking fun at each other from time to time.
Even though her accusation feels a little unfair, it got me thinking. I am pretty quick to point out people's flaws, and I know there's been more than one occasion when I've hurt someone's feelings. At the same time, I've had occasions where I've had my feelings hurt, too, and I didn't call my friends bullies. I just laughed it off as part of our friendship. I don't know what to think, and I don't want my friends to cut all ties from me for something I didn't even know I was doing.
Am I a bully? And if I am, what can I do about it now to make my friends like me again?
Bullying is a tough subject to talk about. There are obvious school bullies who use intimidation and fear to control the people around them, but sometimes bullying can take forms that are a little less obvious.
At its core, bullying is using the power that you have to put someone else down, whether that is through physical aggression, verbal insults, spreading rumors or any other behavior that makes someone feel inferior to you.
Although it doesn't seem like it was purposeful, it does sound as though you've become a bully to your friends. When considering bullying, it's always important to take the feelings of the injured party into account first and foremost. If your friend accused you of bullying her, you can't just laugh it off. If she truly feels that she has been bullied by you, it's a very clear sign that your jokes have gone too far.
However, it also sounds like you've been hurt in the past as well, and your feelings are equally as important. It doesn't seem like your friend group really considers each other's feelings in your interactions.
We recommend sitting down with all your friends, telling them what they've said that's hurt you and allowing them to tell you how you've hurt them. With everything out in the open, you can start to discuss where you should draw boundaries with your relationships and how you can address this problem if it continues.
Joking is always okay in friendships, but joking at someone else's expense crosses the line into bullying. Try to consider how you might feel if someone made a similar "joke" about you, and make it clear to your friends that they can always come to you and talk things out if they have a problem.
Wishing you the best of luck in your friendships, and remember that a little bit of kindness and understanding will go a long way.
**May 4 is National Anti-Bullying Day. If you or someone you know has been bullied, click HERE to see what you can do about it.
Bullying isn't always an obvious physical threat. Click HERE to see how your words can have an impact, and remember to #BeMore.
Bullying might not always be purposeful, but it still happens. Click HERE for how you can recognize if you've become a bully to your friends.