Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Some people are used to bullying. And it’s hard to stand up to them because it could be intimidating. I was bullied a little in middle school and got others to stand up for me because I was too scared to stand up for myself. Some tough words or threats made me try to hide behind my people pleasing ways. No more!

In my post, Behind the Face of a Bully I talked about how I saw the girl who bullied me at my school reunion and how she confessed that she acted tough to keep from being bullied herself. That can be a way to keep from being bullied. I found the best way is to try to stand up to someone who’s trying to intimidate me. I refuse to cower or give in on autopilot. While I don’t want to fight with anyone, I take each instance on its own merit and decide how to handle it.

For example, I like to run regularly in Central Park on an exercise path and tend to adhere to the rule commonly used–stay to the right. Not everyone does but I believe that’s the norm. One day as I jogged on the right side of the path, a big guy came toward me in the same lane—his left. This happens all the time. I even stay in that lane if no one id coming towards me. But normally the person on the left moves right as a courtesy, me included. But not Big Guy. He came straight toward me. I was in a flow and continued straight toward him, figuring one of us would move before we crashed.

In the past I’d have deferred to him, even though I believe everyone should keep right. As I stayed my course, he swerved before we collided, and was raging. He yelled at me, “You must be used to always getting your way!” I smiled instead of asking why he expected me to move when he was on the wrong side. Big Guy was the one used to getting his way and it angered him that I “won.” Women are still expected to defer. I felt empowered by holding my ground, silently. I forced myself not to make a retort back. In the old days I would have needed to say something back or to defend myself. But now that I’m empowered, I also have self-control.

I don’t need to prove myself and knew yelling back at him would do nothing positive for me, so I just smiled and kept going. I couldn’t stop smiling for a while because it felt so good to hold my ground and not get knocked down. I also laughed at his absurd comment. Of course we shouldn’t put ourselves in jeopardy by standing up to a bully type. But usually bullies have their limits and sometimes you can get your way if you stay your course like I did. I choose my battles and had he not moved when he did, I would have. It’s not worth getting hurt over. But It’s good to test people, and yourself, to stand up for yourself when you can. And it’s a great confidence booster!

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