Do people you know make comments about an ugly divorce you experienced? Do your in-laws tell secrets about your spouse that cause embarrassment for both of you?
If so, you’ve experienced adult bullying. It’s hurtful, and it can cause you decades of bad feelings. To protect yourself, think ahead.
“Jealous people can carry some very sharp sticks,” says a psychologist we’ll call Jason. “Those who see you as happy, moving on with your life, and financially secure can be mean. It pays to practice going temporarily deaf when certain people are around.”
Jason says that adults bullying each other follows the same patterns as teenagers bullying each other. But the key is to avoid the bullies as much as possible. Attend family functions, but simply keep your distance. Do decide which individuals are friends or foes.
“Mean people are very unhappy people,” says Jason. “I’ve heard all kinds of stories about women cutting down other women in family groups. Insults from calling someone fat to making fun of family members who aren’t having luck with getting pregnant are common. The ones doing the insulting are not satisfied with their own lives.”
It pays to live life from your own perspective. Stay in control of your own goals and plans. Seeking approval from other adults is a dangerous way to live.
“My 30-year-old son is a full-time musician,” says a nurse practitioner we’ll call Liz. “My family members always made fun of him and labeled him as a loser. Last year, a top music publisher chose three of his songs for a very famous singer. My son is now making more money than anyone in the family.”
If someone is making fun of your lifestyle or choices in life, remember to be true to yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:
— Where do I want to be 20 years from now? To get where you want to go, you have to focus like a laser beam. Getting distracted by bullies is not an option.
— What daily routine do I enjoy? Your overall lifestyle must support what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s why you have to plan the “rhythm” of each day. This harmony protects your mental health.
— Is my lifestyle hurting anyone else? As long as your goals and projects aren’t injuring your spouse or family, you have the right to stick to your chosen path. Review what’s going on periodically, and do make changes if you have to.
“When I started a home remodeling business, my two brothers-in-law made fun of me,” says a small business owner we’ll call Tyler. “They are stuck working for other contractors, but I had the nerve to borrow money and hire my own crew.”
Tyler says that reaching for more always causes conflict. Every single time you do something, there will be somebody who doesn’t like it.
He’s absolutely correct. Each of us make others look a little inferior if we’re trying something different. People can grow jealous of you because there’s a chance you will succeed.
“Make sure you like yourself, feel comfortable within your own skin, and desire to invest your time in reaching your own unique goals,” says a career coach we’ll call Robert. “When you feel good about yourself, you can look any bully in the eye and ask, “Well, what’s eating you today? Do you need some new goals?”
Avoiding bullies doesn’t mean we can’t confront them. “By asking a question of the bully,” says Robert, “you’re giving that person a little shove backwards. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Judi Light Hopson is the executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist. ©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC