It is easy to stereotype a bully as a large, rough, unlikeable monster but in reality bullies come in all shapes and sizes – girl or boy, young or old, troublemaker or high-achiever, outgoing or reserved. They do however all share common characteristics in that they often have poor social skills and judgement with few feelings of empathy, compassion, guilt or remorse towards other people. To overcome their own insecurities, they like to dominate others and put them down so that they feel more powerful or interesting.
Some people bully for a year or two and then grow out of it; others who were bullied when they were younger become one themselves as they get bigger and gain confidence; some act like a bully to only one person who they see as their own personal punching bag; others pick on anyone they believe they can hurt in order to make them cry; some have personality disorders which only mental health professionals can address; others are unaware of the damage they are doing.
Despite bullies coming from every range of social, emotional, physical, intellectual, family and environmental backgrounds, they generally fall into one of several categories:
- The Reactive Bully – is intensely hurt by something such as a family crisis and lashes out at others as a cry for help;
- The Anxious Bully – suffers from low self-esteem, deep insecurity and emotional distress due to his/her life circumstances and experiences, and bullies to gain confidence and status;
- The Sadistic Bully – has high self-esteem and a history of intensely aggressive behaviour while showing little or no sympathy, remorse or guilt towards victims and bullies because he/she enjoys causing pain in others;
- The Homegrown Bully – comes from a problematic home where he/she was bullied and learned the bullying behaviour while believing that physical attack is the only form of control;
- The Underachieving Bully – is struggling academically and seeks status by bullying others;
- The Bully/Victim – has been bullied him-/herself and vents the hurt and anger on someone weaker than him-/herself.
Learn more about why people bully.