Sometimes a person or group of people can do things to make us feel upset, hurt or humiliated. If they do this again and again, it is called bullying. Bullying is wrong and it is not your fault.
Bullies often pick on people who are different in some way. If you look different, you may have been bullied in the past and could experience it in the future.
In this guide, we share some advice on how to stop bullying because of a visible difference.
What is bullying?
Have you ever been teased? Teasing can be different things. It can be nice – like when someone makes a little joke about you or winds you up, and you both enjoy it or find it funny. Maybe you tease the other person back – this is sometimes called “banter”. Families or friends often tease each other in a jokey, fun way.
Teasing can also be unkind. This might be a situation when you are made fun of, put down, called names, or someone makes faces at you or hides your things. Even if it’s only a few times and nothing much is meant by it, it can be upsetting. Sometimes the teaser is thoughtless, thinking they are funny or clever, without realising how much they are upsetting you.
Bullying is like this second kind of teasing. Bullying is when a person or a group of people repeatedly do things to upset, hurt or humiliate you.
“When I was in Year 3, I was bullied a lot. I was tied up by my hands and legs by two boys who were bullying me. I had pins pushed into the bottom of my shoes which really hurt when I walked anywhere. People threw handfuls of mud at me. Whenever I went to hang up my coat, they would block my path so that I could not get to my hanger and then I would be late getting to class. I did not know how to confront the bullies. I was really upset by the way they were treating me and that they didn’t seem to care how I was feeling.”
Bullying can happen anywhere:
At school or college or where you do sports or hobbies.
At home or at someone else’s house.
In a playground or park or leisure centre.
In the street, shopping centre or at the cinema.
On the bus, train or other public transport.
Phone, email, text, video call.
Online including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or forums and chatrooms.
Sometimes, someone you think of as a friend could be the bully. Just because someone is your friend, it doesn’t make it OK for them to make you feel bad. If they are upsetting, hurting or humiliating you, that is bullying and it is not acceptable.
Bullying and looking different
Often, people are targeted by bullies because they are different in some way. This means that children, young people and in fact anyone who looks different can experience bullying at certain times in their life.
You're not on your own
If other people's reactions to the way you look are getting you down, we're here to help. If you're under 16, ask a parent or carer to contact us by calling or emailing our Support and Information Line.
Posting nasty messages, pictures, videos, GIFs or memes on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media.
Hacking into your phone, email or social media accounts, then sending or posting messages or pictures from you to make you seem mean or gossipy.
Stealing your identity by setting up a new account under your name (and this is also against the law).
Making silent calls, abusive calls or texts, or threats by phone.
Even though it’s really hard and can make you feel less confident, being bullied is not your fault. Scroll down to see our tips on how to stop bullying.
Why do people bully?
People might bully because they:
Are low in confidence and insecure underneath all the bravado.
Are jealous or resentful.
Have been bullied in the past.
Bullying can make a person feel:
Powerful, especially when they see you’re upset.
Big, tough and more confident (when underneath they are none of these things).
Better about themselves – by giving you a hard time.
There are things you can do to stop this behaviour from happening. In the next section, we look at how to stop bullying.
How to stop bullying
It might feel hard to confront bullying. You probably have feelings like upset, worry, anger, shame, humiliation and sadness. You might not want to think about the bullying outside of the situation it’s happening in. You may find it hard to admit that bullying is happening.
You may also be feeling all sorts of things about your appearance, and this can make it harder for people with visible difference to know how to stop bullying.
But the sooner you act, the easier it will be to sort it out so you can move on. Here are six ideas:
#1: Try not to show your feelings in front of those who are bullying you
This is hard. Bullying can be very upsetting – it can make you feel angry, embarrassed or scared. If you are still learning about your visible difference, being bullied because of it can make things even harder.
Try your best not to get upset or react to them. You might want to cry or get angry, shout or be rude or hit back. This is because bullies are often trying to get a reaction from you. This shows they have upset you – and gives them a feeling of power.
#2: Walk away
Calmly walk away from the bully or bullies. Then tell someone how you feel – don’t bottle up your feelings. Make a note of what happened as soon as you can, so you don’t forget.
#3: Keep a record of times you are bullied
Write down what happened, when it happened (day, date and time), where it was and who was there. This way, you will have a record to show the person you tell. Here is an example of how you can keep a record of what is happening:
When (date and time)? Monday 1st June at morning break time.
Where? In the school playground.
Who was it? Jess and Callum.
What did the bullies do or say? They tried to trip me up as I walked past and laughed and made faces.
You might also want to ask other people to write down what they saw. It can be a bit tricky because they might worry that they will be bullied too if they tell. But together you can stand up against people who bully and make sure something is done.
#4: Tell someone you trust
Telling someone is a big and brave step towards getting the bullying to stop.
You might choose to tell a parent, carer, brother or sister, family member, close friend, teacher or other person you can trust.
People who bully assume you won’t tell anyone – or might try to scare you so you don’t tell anyone. That’s often how they get away with it.
You might not want to tell anyone, because you’re worried it will make it worse. It’s not unusual to feel embarrassed or worried or scared – it can seem like a hard thing to do.
If you feel like you can’t do it face to face, try writing it down or sending a WhatsApp, chat message or email.
If you are hurt at school, tell a teacher straightaway and ask them to report it to the school. And it’s very important to tell your parents or carers as soon as you can.
#5: Stay in safe places
People often don’t like to be seen bullying. Try to stay in places where there are other people, especially adults. For example:
At school, stay near teachers or other staff. If anyone starts to bully you, they will be caught in the act.
Sit near the driver on the bus or near adults on a train.
If the bullying happens at the same place in the street or park, take a different route or go to a different place. Leave a bit earlier or later.
If it is dark, try to stay in places where there are lots of streetlights.
If you are going out, take people with you – friends or family – as much as you can. Get your friends to stick with you at school to help you out.
#6: Control your online accounts
Don’t give anyone your passwords.
Try to change passwords often.
Lock your phone.
If you are worried someone has access to your online account, change your passwords straightaway and tell an adult.
Our Support and Information line is for parents and young adults over 16 years old. You can share your feelings and talk through your situation in a friendly, confidential space. Our practitioners can explain our other services and help you decide if any of these might be useful for you.
If you feel like you need support straight away, there are organisations that can provide this. See our urgent support page for their details. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get the help you need.