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to wonder why I always end up being bullied?

(140 Posts)
bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 19:57:17

Is it just that I notice it happening, and then dwell on it? Do i care too much what some people think? or is it that I am just fundamentally crap in a variety of ways? What can I do to stop it, other than just jumping off a cliff?

Some people seem to always have problems with particular figures. Some people are always "targeted by authority". I seem to have been being picked on by the cool kids all my life. I know that I'm probably too likely to notice and dwell on the quiet comments, the shared smiles, the dismissive put-downs, the eyerolls.

But i should have grown up and got over it by now. I'm nearly 40, and my wellbeing no longer depends on watching my mother and sister gang up on me. It's no longer 5th form latin with the bitchy girls exchanging smiles every time I got something wrong.

It seems that everywhere I can be bullied by someone who likes to bully, they will see something in me, very quickly, and let rip. It probably doesn't help that I've worked in academia, where bullying, appalling behaviour with no consequences, and strange power dynamics are rife. Everywhere I've ever worked I have been deliberately torn to shreds, either by supervisors who've decided I was a waste of space and used every opportunity to subtly or not so subtly tell me I'm an idiot; people competing for a supervisor's attention, who loudly dwell on everything I've ever done wrong, and dissect anything I've ever done right until it looks like a fault; or (more often) by middle-aged women who see something in me and instantly decide to destroy me with very petty schoolyard bullying.

At the moment I'm doing freelance work so i don't have to deal with colleagues because I got to the point of suicide I was being bullied so much at work. The freelance work is fine. But the bullying is now coming from a couple of men in the choir i sing in, who for some reason think I'm useless, and take every opportunity to point out to others that i'm no good. It also still comes from family - my mother and sister don't worry me any more because i see them as pitifully dysfunctinonal - but for example my parents in law think I'm useless, and make sure i know it.

It would be possible to conclude that I'm just useless at everything and other people are giving the reality checks that i need. But on paper I'm not that "useless" - I had a high-flying academic career with a good publication record and lots of external funding. Now I have a freelance career that is going well. I am not that bad at music, or that un-self-aware, that I would have misplaced confidence in my ability to sing in the choir I'm in (and it gets reauditioned every year and i've never not passed an audition). I'm not thick, I read stuff, I observe, I don't witter on with crap or destroy other people, I try to be friendly, helpful and kind. But i'm always on the outside, and am so often being put there deliberately by the "in crowd".

I'm like the archetypal weedy kid in glasses who gets sand kicked in his face - but my life seems not to have the children's story happy ending where the kid ends up coming out on top.

CatThiefKeith Thu 26-Nov-15 20:16:06

Oh dear op. Dh was like this when we met. He was bullied through school and into adulthood.

I think in his case that whenever he came across a bully, the first time they said or did anything that made him feel awkward he would drop eye contact, or hunch his shoulders, or look hurt. In a 'here we go again' kind of way.

I think bullies have it fine tuned, and recognise those signs as 'someone who will take my shit'

Dh has has found that if you pull someone up the first time they make you feel uncomfortable (maintain eye contact and say something like 'are you talking to me?' 'What did you say?' Or 'Is there a problem?' Bullies will almost always back off.

There is nothing wrong with you op, some people are just terrible cunts, and they pick on people who they think are too nice or shy to call them on it.

Does any of this ring true to you? thanks

catfordbetty Thu 26-Nov-15 20:17:52

Have you ever had any talking therapy where you can explore these experiences and the way you see yourself as a result of them?

LaurieFairyCake Thu 26-Nov-15 20:20:12

Does anyone else hear them treating you like this?

The two men in the choir, are they subtle or very directly saying you can't sing?

bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 20:27:47

I do find it difficult to walk the line between being chippy and responding to bitchiness, and thinking "don't give them the attention they're looking for".

Adults who've been bitchy do tend to respond to being called on it with further bitchy questions about why I am so "dysfunctionally sensitive".
In a lab meeting (i.e. in front of about 20 other colleagues) my boss once asked if I was feeling sensitive or might cry because i was pregnant (I wasn't pregnant, wasn't showing any sign of crying, and had responded mildly and politely to a completely unfair criticism, asking the boss to reframe the question with more detail so that i could work out what information she was really looking for).

I asked one of the men in the choir last night why it was a problem I"d been asked to sing in a sextet with him and he told me to keep my hair on and not get all upset. Again, I was showing no sign of being upset or aggressive - I asked calmly, with a smile, after he'd been saying "who's singing that part on Sunday" and when I said "me" he pulled a face and said to the room at large "oh f***, that'll be f***ing awesome, not, what would be wrong with [other person who isn't available on Sunday]?"

bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 20:30:49

catfordbetty - I did, years ago, but the patterns have continued, so these days I suspect I need different strategies. Then it was about developing social life because work life included dysfunctional bullying. I think the counsellor didn't anticipate that I would eventually get the same kind of thing happening in my social life.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Thu 26-Nov-15 20:36:08

So change tact. Be direct.
Do you mean to be that rude?
I wonder if you are really fine tuned into these situations, that none escapes you?
When I met DH he would have been a good target with his kindness, however he soon learnt you can be kind and have your own boundries, and you can say no, amd you can call others on it.

tobysmum77 Thu 26-Nov-15 20:37:37

Firstly.....the people in the choir sound vile. I'd just say 'O....K....' and walk, never to go back. Surely you can find one with nicer people?

Secondly being sensitive is a positive not a negative. It's strange because people see me generally as someone not to mess with but people have tried to bully me, including as an adult. I am very sensitive and pick up on stuff, as I've got older I've used the information to step back and decide if I like people before I worry too much what they think of me.

I'm not sure who the in crowd are as adults, most people seem to have their foibles if you dig below the surface.

CrotchetQuaverMinim Thu 26-Nov-15 20:39:13

Perhaps you are not actually being bullied, but rather are surrounding yourself with nasty people - maybe some of them are like that to a great many people, and aren't actually singling you out, but you might not see the others? The man at choir, for example - that just sounds like a thoroughly rude and nasty person, who might well act like that to lots of people.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Thu 26-Nov-15 20:39:18

My other thought was, there are some horried people about that i choose to ignore, not mix with. I never give these people a second thought!! Just concentrate on the good ones.

tobysmum77 Thu 26-Nov-15 20:40:56

*So change tact. Be direct.
Do you mean to be that rude?*

Personally as a confident sensitive person that isn't my style at all. I ignore people when they behave in a way I'm not happy with. I avoid confrontation.

catfordbetty Thu 26-Nov-15 20:41:03

In your position I think I would begin some more therapy. And in saying that I do not mean to be unkind or doubt the reality of your experience. However, it seems that you have developed and reinforced a view of yourself that can only lead to more unhappiness.

Squashybanana Thu 26-Nov-15 20:43:55

Research from UCLA showed that teens at least get a fairly even distribution of 'bullying lines' at least initially but that the way they respond to early 'bullying lines' shapes the perpetrator's behaviour. Iirc the trick is to appear unbothered, play along, or be dismissive. Maladaptive responses include bring obviously upset, showing defeat in body language, or 'calling out' the bully (which I think might be what you are doing. They feel ashamed and attack back, however mildly you correct their behaviour, unless you are a 'social superior' like a boss or the teacher with a student). So responses might be witty lighthearted 'I know I'm not that delighted to be singing with your ugly mug either but the powers that be have spoken so looks like we're stuck with it', unbothered eye rolls or 'hey, think I like being stuck with you?' Or play along ' yes I have no idea how I keep passing those auditions I clearly sound like a cat being dragged down the motorway poor you smiles sympathetically'.
This doesn't make it your fault of course, but it seems like your current strategies aren'f working to minimise the bullues enjoyment of you as a target, so maybe worth a try? I would say, playing along is safest if you are unsure how vicious your bully can be. Basically, if you agree with them and appear unconcerned you stop being fun as a target. I used this approach very successfully go stop bullies who were calling me fat (I was 9 stone, would kill to be 9 stone now!) I laughed along while crying inside for a few weeks and they realised they couldn't upset me, I got a reputation as having a great sense of hjmour (v ironic) and they left me alone. Good luck.

YakTriangle Thu 26-Nov-15 20:47:44

You did very well not have just told the choir bloke to fuck right off, TBH. At the very least you should ask him what on earth his problem is with you. Dick.

bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 20:48:38

catfordbetty - thanks - it's probably a good idea as I no longer really feel able to deal with it.

Maybe i'm being too black and white in my thinking, but there do always seem to be some people who get singled out for criticism by the bullies, while others have the bullies flocking round them being nice all the time. It doesn't appear to correlate particularly well with objectively being good at whatever the people are doing, though that is often a criticism that gets used by bullies, because it's an immediately-relevant way of beating someone down.

Maybe I need to be nicer and more outgoing with these people. I don't know - I kind of try to be.

IguanaTail Thu 26-Nov-15 20:50:14

So am I right, the conversation went

and when I said "me"
he pulled a face and said to the room at large "oh f***, that'll be f***ing awesome, not, what would be wrong with [other person who isn't available on Sunday]?"

You said: why is that a problem?
He said: keep your hair on and don't get so upset!

I think that's one of the rudest things I've ever heard.

bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 20:51:33

Squashybanana, that sounds very useful advice - thanks.

When replaying htese scenarios in my head at 3pm I need to practise unconcerned, lighthearted comebacks. Maybe I do come across as chippy and sanctimonious. I wish I didn't care as much.

bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 20:53:29

IguanaTail - yes. Though I was less shocked by that one than by the (female) boss, under similar circumstances, asking if i was going to cry now and was that because i was pregnant.

CrotchetQuaverMinim Thu 26-Nov-15 20:57:41

If he said it to the room at large, and not a single person seemed to think that they was anything wrong with saying that (let alone to/in front of you), then it sounds like you need to ditch the lot of them, and start somewhere else! That seriously says more about him than anything about you.

Another good trick is to always assume the best explanation of what someone is saying, even if you feel underneath that they might be trying to make sure you know they think badly of you. If you can just assume that they didn't mean it that way, or said it accidentally, or were having a bad day, or that you reminded them of a hated MIL, or any other explanation, however far-fetched, then it makes it easier to ignore - and then it can be a habit to do that. It is then a lot easier to appear unconcerned about it - it's practically like pretending that they didn't say it - and then even if it was intentional, they will end up stopping because they're getting nothing out of it.

tobysmum77 Thu 26-Nov-15 21:02:14

Maybe I need to be nicer and more outgoing with these people. I don't know - I kind of try to be.

In the nicest possible way no, you need to drop them like a red hot brick and find people who are worthy of you.

bulliedAndEmbarrassed Thu 26-Nov-15 21:02:01

"When replaying htese scenarios in my head at 3pm"
"When replaying these scenarios in my head at 3am"

Given past history I suspect if i left this choir it'd just happen somewhere else. At least this choir is reasonably good.

I think the problem is either me, or my reactions, or both.

Thanks to everyone for some good advice here.

tobysmum77 Thu 26-Nov-15 21:06:53

No the problem is that you think its your fault when they are twats. Nice people would be mortified by their behaviour.

CrotchetQuaverMinim Thu 26-Nov-15 21:23:00

It shouldn't happen in another choir, not like that. Most people are not so horrible as to stand by and let someone say to everyone that you will be f***ing awful or whatever. Even in the worst case scenario and they disliked you or thought you were bad or whatever (which is almost certainly not the case!!), normal nice people do not stand around and let someone say that to someone else in a choir. Really.

Preminstreltension Thu 26-Nov-15 22:05:51

Could it be that your narrative that you are a victim tells you that this is allabout you and your innate bullyableness but actually it's possible these people are just arseholes and it's got nothing to do with you.

The choir man for example - that sounds unhinged. Or like he's got no social skills and was attempting to be funny and it all came out wrong and then he didn't know how to put it right so went all aggressive. And he feels like a loser now but you are convinced he could magically see something bullyable in you and that's why he said that.

I think this narrative of being a person that people bully is very strong with you, from what you say. Counselling might help with that?

RacoonsRock Thu 26-Nov-15 22:30:00

I, too, feel the same way as you, OP.

I often come across bullies like the choir man who basically think that they can say or do as they please but if you say anything back or won't do as they say they say you are being oversensitive or getting upset over nothing.

I currently have an ex friend bullying me as our DCs have fallen out at school and she refuses to look at things objectively, and keeps sending me a barrage of nasty texts. This has happened before with another school mum over something minor but she regularly barges into me and calls me names.

I seem to attract people who just give me crap over stuff. No one else ever seems to get this and they just sail through life. It sucks.

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