Do You Have a Bolshie Bully in Your Life? How You Respond to Her Negative Behavior May Be Out of Your Control.

Do You Have a Bolshie Bully in Your Life? How You Respond to Her Negative Behavior May Be Out of Your Control.

In its truest sense it is a rivalry with ourselves. 
We should seek each day to break the record of our yesterday. 
We should seek each day to live stronger, better, truer lives; 
to master some weakness of yesterday. 
We should seek each day to repair past follies, to surpass….ourselves. 
And this is but progress. 
–W.G. Jordan

Bolshie. |bōlSHē|. adjective. a person or attitude. deliberately combative or uncooperative. defiant. rebellious.

bully. |bu̇-lē|. noun. a blustering browbeating person. especially one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable. to treat (someone) in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion. 

Have you ever been in a situation, either at work or personally, where you felt verbally attacked or bullied? Did you feel like you had lost your voice? Did you feel paralyzed with disbelief, shock or fear? Did you feel ashamed because when the incident occurred, you didn’t stick up, respond or fight back? Did you think there was something you could or should have done differently with your own behavior that would have prevented the negative experience from happening? Did you think, perhaps if you had changed your behavior or said something else, the confrontation would not have transpired…. At some later point after the conflict took place, did you think of all the things you could have said, done or behaved in which to regain your power or find voice? Later on, were you also angry? At yourself, at the other person? 

If any of this resonates with you, you are not alone. There is a reason why you responded as you did. It is not uncommon if you are bodily attacked, or feel verbally attacked or bullied, that your brain will take over and you physically freeze; and cannot respond as you normally would.

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I recently read an article about female bullying in the work environment. It stated that 70% of high-performing females in leadership positions feel bullied by other women at work. These women also felt, that by being the recipient of a workplace bully their professional growth was negatively impacted. Additionally, it was reported that someone who has been bullied is more prone to bullying someone else as the result of what they have experienced. 

These insights are staggering although actually, sadly, I am not surprised. Professionally and personally, female competition has no boundaries. When it comes to a rivalrous attack, nothing is off limits. And when it escalates to a constant, repetitive, ruthless rivalry, it is bullying.

Rivalry and bullying types of behavior have the same effect on the victim and perpetrator. In both types of behavior, the victim feels powerless, intimidated and out of control. In rivalry and bullying types of behaviors, it is not uncommon for a victim to lose their self-confidence, their voice, their passion.

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If you’ve been the recipient of rivalry, bullying, physical or aggressive behaviors, empirical evidence claims there are factual reasons why you lost your voice and may not have been able to defend yourself. 

Victim Blaming: Is when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. Victim blaming is real. When indiscriminate acts occur people do not feel safe. It is human nature to look for causes as to why harmful incidents take place. As a result, it’s not uncommon to end up doubting our own behavior and questioning our actions, to find blame within ourselves…. “I must have done something to make her mad” or “She misinterpreted my behavior” or “She’s ignoring me because I spoke out of turn during the meeting.”And while victim blaming most definitely occurs, there is also another side…

Flight or Fight: There is the physical sensory side. When someone feels attacked or bullied in any fashion, they freeze. The human brain has a defense circuitry system that triggers at signs of danger. The amygdala is a part of that system and includes the flight or fight or freeze center. “When an individual is bullied or feels attacked in any manner, the amygdala, the brain’s fight, flight, or freeze center, is triggered. When this happens, the prefrontal cortex, the logical thinking part of the brain, shuts down, preparing the body to save itself.” 

When an attack occurs – emotionally, verbally, physically, sexually. It’s frequently not possible for someone to fight back. They simply cannot respond to their attacker. The backlash or response to the traumatic event may not materialize immediately. It could surface within a matter of minutes, a few hours, a couple of days… or even years later.

This makes me think of an altercation I experienced several years ago when I was confronted by an infuriated female. She was a peer from work that I interacted with, not on a daily basis but at least several times a week. In that situation I wasn’t bullied, but I was verbally attacked. She was upset over something she thought had occurred when in all actuality, her impression had several partial truths which very much distorted the facts. She was shaking, livid with emotion and anger as she accused me of things that were untrue. In her rage, she also brought up incidents from the past that she was upset about; things that were totally unfounded and quite frankly, ludicrous. Mind you this is someone who frequently gave me the cold shoulder for weeks at a time. So should I have been bothered? Absolutely not, but I was. 

Traditionally I am a very vocal person but in that instant, I wasn’t. I did deny what she was saying but I did not relay more than that. As a result, I was mad at myself for freezing up in the moment. I felt ashamed for not further countering what she had to say, for not sticking up for myself. I was alarmed that this type of conduct had occurred in a professional environment. I was anxious, even though we were not direct reports to each other, that the negative behavior would impact me professionally. I was shocked at her anger. I was in absolute disbelief that something that had happened was so greatly misrepresented. It was an attack on my character but I said and did nothing -- I simply walked away.

I later thought to myself, “How in the world did all of that come about? What could I have done differently? What could I have done to make amends?” But in all realization, the answer was nothing. Had it progressed, I certainly would have escalated it to Human Resources, but I know now, that even if I would have found my voice it would not have been believed. Her mind was made up and there was absolutely nothing I could have done in that situation to change it. 

As time progressed, I self-reflected. I also sat back, watched and listened. I began to understand that it was her, not me. I’d witnessed her project similar actions to other females. Her behavior was nothing I had control of, nor did I want to. I knew what really had occurred. I also knew myself, my character and what I stood for. Additionally, I also realized, someone who intentionally ignored me for no apparent reason and treated me as she did, was not someone I wanted in my inner circle…she was not someone that truly knew me well at all. And quite frankly, that is ok. If you listen carefully enough, if you watch closely enough, someone will always tell you exactly what kind of person they are. It is what it is. I haven’t seen her in years but I wish her well.

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Ramifications: Previous events that happen to you stay with you. They may never fully go away because they morph into who you are and become part of your story, a chapter from a certain point in time. You may have dealt with the situations when they occurred, but they still reside in you. Your experiences always shape who you later become.

If you’ve been bullied or dealt with an intense rivalrous situation, scars from indirect aggressive mean female behaviors can cause pain and life-long negative effects. If you’ve experienced similar types of negative behaviors as a younger girl, even though as an adult you have moved on and are stronger, present day situations can elicit those negative experiences and bring them back up to the surface. Those previous harmful encounters can undermine you, trigger anxiety, instill a lack of trust, and impact your self-esteem. 

Perhaps because of your flight, fight or freeze response to situations you’ve experienced, you’ve never been able to fully comprehend the after-effects of a bullying behavior. You may not understand that your trust was taken, and that the negative behavior changed who you are as a person. It can be hard to move on. Previous harmful events can greatly impact your present day mindset. It is very frequent that if you’ve been the recipient of previous negative bullying, aggressive and rivalrous behaviors from another female it will have an influence on…

  1. If you choose to work for or with a female boss (again)

  2. Who you select as friends and if you are hesitant to make new friends

  3. Who you trust enough to let into your inner circle

I’ve had many women say they will never again work for a female boss and that they are very hesitant about joining a team comprised primarily of women. I’ve had many women voice, that due to being the target of a Queen Bee or the receiver of excluding, bitchy behaviors, their faith in female friendships has been broken. I’ve had many women share, they think they did something to cause the behavior, that it could have been avoided in some way…that they feel broken and sad. I’ve had many women say they do not have a circle, sisterhood, or tribe of good friends. I’ve had many women say they are afraid to make new friends because they do not know who they can trust. 

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Moving On. It is so important to acknowledge your experiences and accept the influences they’ve had on your life. While you can never erase negative bullying behaviors, dealing with the feelings and having knowledge of how you are impacted today, will help you move on. 

Don’t get even – do better. You may not be able to change the other person’s actions, but letting them know they are getting to you, gives them control. Rising above and becoming engulfed in your own life, your own successes, will help you leave the negativity behind. And fundamentally, that is how you win.

Women who uplift and empower one another, are out there. Surround yourself with women who add value to your life, who challenge you, uplift and expand you. Who sprinkle magic into your existence just like you do theirs. Find a tribe, a circle, a sisterhood, a pack. Sometimes it takes having trust in yourself and others to let your barriers and guard down to move forward, but it is well worth it. Find your passion, your to be. And ultimately know, while experiences may shape who you are, they do not own you.

If you have a bolshie bully in your life and are dealing with female rivalry, I can help you with that. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at amber@tobecoachingandconsulting.com. You already are, it’s time to be.

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