The Long-Term Impacts of Bullying

Many people experience bullying at some point in their lives. The lasting impact of bullying doesn’t simply disappear as we mature and grow. The trauma lingers, often appearing in situations and circumstances that take us back to that difficult time.

The long-term impacts of bullying include low self-worth, inability to stand up for ourselves, having a hard time saying “no,” as well as becoming aggressive and reactive quickly when we are confronted by someone. 

Let’s look at the different ways bullying can impact our lives and explore how we can heal from both the shame and the powerlessness bullying creates in us. 

Bullying, Shame, and Powerlessness 

Many people carry shame over having been bullied at some point in their lives. This shame can feel like an excruciating feeling of smallness and being unworthy of respect and care. 

The heavily disrespectful behaviour of the bully gets internalized by their victim as a sense of “I don’t deserve respect.” They feel powerless to create any change in their lives today, just as they felt through their painful and powerless experiences of being bullied. 

Recognizing this invisible shame people carry is a good reminder that we don’t often see the suffering people experience. Remember, healing is possible. Working through the shame and disrespect you feel and becoming aware of your emotions and feelings can help. When you become aware of your emotions, it’s easier to identify hard feelings as they come up.

kid experiencing bullying

How Bullying Can Affect Addiction and Relationships 

The shame and the powerlessness of being bullied can push folks towards using drugs and substances to numb the pain they carry.

Addiction becomes a byproduct of not knowing how to overcome the overwhelming aftereffects of bullying. Shame, powerlessness, isolation, and addiction altogether can create an all-consuming downward spiral.

These overwhelming feelings can impact our relationships, especially with those closest to us. If I don’t feel the self-worth I need to speak up when my partner hurts or disrespects me, then I’m settling for crumbs, enabling bad behaviour in my relationship. 

This is how the impact of having been bullied in the past repeats itself. We relive the pain of bullying now as an adult unless we do the necessary healing to gain our power back. 

Steps to Overcome Shame and Build Healthy Empowerment

  • Recognize that the shame belongs to the person who bullied you. 
  • Remember, you haven’t done anything wrong to “deserve” what happened to you. 
  • Be honest with the toxic patterns that might exist today in your relationship and take steps to address these patterns with a trusted therapist. 
  • Work through your fear of confrontation and speaking up. This is your power in action. Self-expression really matters. 
  • Learn to say no in a kind way and to stand behind your healthy “no’s.”
  • Get into some quality inner critic work. The inner critic is the internalized voice of the bully living in your head. Learn to stand up to this voice. 
  • Learn to protect the wounded child in you. This child is the age when you were bullied. Explore this wounding with a somatic therapist who also knows about developmental trauma. 
friend support friend

And make sure to make plenty of room for joy in your life. Joy and healing go hand in hand.

At Sunshine Coast Health Centre and Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, we provide a nurturing environment where individuals can benefit from various therapies to support their treatment and recovery. If you or someone you know is looking for support with mental health and substance use, visit our website or contact us today.

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