Adult bullying often takes a different form than what many experience in childhood. It might be rumor-mongering; it might be undermining a colleague at work; it might be ostracism, just treating someone as if they aren’t even worthy of attention. Or it might be online nastiness–where people say things they would never say to another person’s face, and they might do it in unison with a bunch of faceless others.

Whatever the particulars, you might be surprised to find that protection can take the same form.So how do you truly protect yourself from a bully?

The only real protection is internal: It’s how much you allow other people to impact you, and to cause you to question your own self-worth. It’s about knowing that bullying says much more about them than it does about you.

Someone’s threatened by you. Because mere dislike among adults doesn’t lead to bullying. The other person’s low self-esteem does. They’re trying to elevate themselves by denigrating you.

You know the line about how you can’t let the terrorists win? What it means is that you go on living your life, and living it well.

Bullies are a lot like terrorists. They want your fear; or at the very least, they want your discomfort. It empowers them, and lets them avoid their own issues.

And if you can remember that–this is about them, not about you; don’t let their insecurity become yours–you’ve won.

***Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda (http://hollybrownmft.com/ ). She’s also the author of–what else?–psychological thrillers (http://hollybrownbooks.com/ ).

Photo by Chesi – Fotos CC