Why Do Bullies Bully?


Last week we looked at five different types of bullying; now we will look at what’s behind the behaviour. Many people often question what causes someone to deliberately hurt another. On the surface it seems unnecessary, shallow, twisted and hard to understand. While this may all be true, there is usually a more complicated reason behind hurtful behaviour, which, when understood, can be worked through and even overcome. Here are five common reasons why bullies bully:

1) Some people don’t know any better.

Some people who have grown up in highly dysfunctional homes often haven’t learnt how to treat people well. Maybe their parents constantly fight or they’re always being yelled at or hurt in some way, so the only way they know how to communicate is destructively. As such, they are simply exhibiting the behaviour that’s been shown to them.

2) Hurting people hurt people.

We’ve all lashed out at some point when we’re upset, but if someone has been consistently hurt, chances are they are feeling so bad inside they’ve lost the ability to treat people well. When someone is repeatedly put down, criticised, let down, abused or rejected, particularly by the people who were supposed to love them, they can become so negative and toxic that it flows into other people’s lives. They may not mean to do it or even realise they are, but taking out their hurt on others sometimes seems like the only way to release some of the pain.

3) Most bullies have low self-esteem.

Similar to hurting people, bullies with low self-esteem take out their bad feelings on others. The idea is, ‘if I make you feel like nothing, then that at least makes me something’. It’s a dysfunctional way of trying to feel good about themselves. Putting others down makes them feel powerful, and doing it in front of others makes them feel popular and respected, even if it’s by the wrong type of people. People with low self-esteem will also bully others to try and gain control over them, which again helps them to feel powerful. While having people scared of them and/or in their power seemingly feeds their self-esteem, more often than not they only feel worse about themselves deep down.

4) Some bullies aren’t getting the love and attention they need.

Some people whose parents or loved ones are very busy and pay little attention to their needs may bully others just to feel noticed. They want to be reassured that they exist and have some influence/control in life. Getting into trouble may also be the only way to get their parent’s attention, and what seems like a rebellion may just be a cry for help.

5) A few bullies are just bored and get pleasure out of it.

Occasionally you will meet a bully who seems to pick on others simply for the fun of it or because they’re bored. This is often the case if they finish their work quickly in class and have nothing better to do than irritate others. Some may not have a sensitive conscience and don’t realise that their ‘fun’ can cause damage. A handful of people are even arrogant enough to believe they truly are better than others and can put them down. More often than not, people in this category also bully for one of the first four reasons, and those who don’t are usually more annoying than hurtful.

Why Understand?

Understanding the motives behind bullying is not an excuse for bad behaviour. However, it does show us that none of the above reasons are to do with the victim. Bullying doesn’t occur because the victim has done something to deserve it or because there’s something wrong with them as a person – it’s what’s going on with the bully. It also helps us to work with the bully, to find out why they act the way they do and resolve the underlying issue.

If you know that you bully others, then talking to someone about the reasons why you do may help you to understand yourself better and help change your behaviour. If you are the victim of bullying, then be reassured that it’s not because you’ve earned bad treatment – the problem does not lie with you, even though it has been taken out on you.

Next week, we will look at ways to deal with bullies as we continue to focus on this issue.


Trudy AdamsComment