Straight Talk Advice

Apr 29, 2014

Teen advised to drop bullying ‘friend’

Dear Straight Talk: I wrote my friend a bad note, cussing her out for the way she hurts my feelings. I regret it deeply, as I almost lost a good friend. After much apologizing, she finally forgave me. The problem is, now I'm walking on eggshells. I want to bring up the way she hurts my feelings, like looking at me like I'm stupid when I ask or say things, and taking a rude, uncaring attitude toward me, but I don't want to blow up again and lose her over a dumb action. When I approach her nicely about these things, she either gets an attitude, or sometimes listens nicely but doesn't change. What can I do? —Age 15 in Falling Waters, W. Va.

Brandon 22, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

This kind of thing happened to me a LOT. “Friend” bullying is a huge issue right now. Some people make a friendship only about themselves and have no problem belittling their friends. Their friends' suffering makes some of them feel great. You'll be in bed crying over their rudeness and they act like nothing happened and have no remorse. These people have psychological problems. Do yourself a favor and remove such negativity from your life. It may hurt initially, but you'll feel better in the long run. Or take a break. Time may mend the problem, or you learn it's unfixable.

Moriah 17, Rutland, Vt. Ask me a question

In eighth grade, I wrote a friend about all the ways she wasn't perfect. Although I took the wrong approach, I was trying to explain how her behavior was offending me. We lost touch for awhile and when we met again, we never spoke about it. She hadn't changed and we lost touch again. I would keep bringing up the problem. If the letter didn't ruin things, your friendship can maybe handle truth.

Breele 20, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

Your letter should have made your friend say, “Wow, look how I'm acting.” Instead, you were blamed. Some friends from high school actually seemed to LIKE putting me down. If I did anything supposedly “wrong,” this one friend would never shut up about it. Something as simple as posting three pictures on Facebook, would get, “Isn't that excessive?” Playing her game back didn't work. She manipulated everything her way. These people are insecure and can't let you shine more than they. (Not that they will ever hear this, so don't bother explaining.) It took a long time to leave her because she was a good friend, she had my back, but I got tired of the daggers. I found new friends and you will, too. My life is now drama free and so much happier!

Ochatre 24, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

You really like your friend while she takes you for granted. You live in fear of upsetting her. I've gone through similar treatment and realized life is too short to chase after people who don't care. It just leads to self-pity, pain and hatred. True friendships are based on acceptance and there is always space for mistakes. You sound like a wonderful lady who deserves better.

Dear 15: I hope the panel was helpful. This is not a healthy relationship. Your friend is insecure and probably jealous of you. That said, being “codependent” to such a friend (meaning, you stick around despite the mistreatment) is also a sign of insecurity or you wouldn't put up with it. I recommend taking a class like dance, swimming, martial arts, yoga, horseback riding, etc. Not only will that make you “too busy” to see her, learning a skill and getting exercise will raise your self-esteem — which is the best cure for codependence. Plus, you will meet new friends.

Editor's Note: The word "codependency" gets thrown around a lot. In a nutshell, when someone is acting "codependent" they keep trying to make a relationship work with someone who doesn't care as much as they do. It's basically a one-sided relationship. However, like most things, it's more complicated than that. The "co" in "codependent" means that each person gets oddly dependent on the other.  The "pleaser" or "giver" (the codependent) is working so hard at pleasing,  and usually is so afraid of being alone, that he/she loses himself. The one being catered to gets lost, too, because he/she doesn't have to stand on his or her own or take responsibility for negative actions because the codependent is always propping him or her up. It's an unhealthy  feedback loop that ”co-depends" on both roles.

The people in both roles suffer from low self-esteem. The best way to get out of a codependent relationship, or avoid one in the future, is to raise one's self-esteem. If your self-esteem is high, you won't touch a relationship like this with a 10-foot pole. —Lauren

Someone acting codependent may recognize some of these personal behaviors (from therapycanwork.com):

  • A great sense of responsibility for the other person
  • Being a perpetual "volunteer" – doing more than called for or necessary
  • Controlling behavior,  a desire to "fix" or "rescue" the other
  • Difficulty with and guilt about asserting your own needs
  • Difficulty setting boundaries
  • A fear of being abandoned
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Need to be needed
  • Difficulty trusting
  • Choosing to be responsible for all decisions
  • Feeling someone else is responsible for your feelings ("you make me feel...")
  • Needing to be in a relationship, almost any relationship, rather than be alone

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  1. By Lisa, age 15, from Carmichael, CA on 04/29/2014

    I’m 15 and my sister is 16.  In addition to being close in age, we had always been very close in every other way.  I’m adopted while she’s our panents’ biological child, but that never made any difference to us in our closeness and our love for each other.  However, lately she’s decided that it’s really cool to bully me in front of her friends and have them laugh when she puts me down.  She even makes fun of the imperfections in my body when I get undressed if a friend is spending the night in our room that we share which is really humiliating when your naked, and I think a girl should be able to undress in her own bedroom in front of her own sister and other girls without being put down like this.  But that’s nothing compared to the worst thing she does.  Lately when she’s had friends over in our room she tells them that I’m not her “real sister” since I’m adopted.  That hurts very, very much and makes me cry and then they all laugh at me.  I could get her in major trouble if I told our mom that she’s doing this, but I don’t want to get her in trouble, and it would just make things worse for me if I did.

    Unlike “Age 15 In Falling Waters” who can take a break from her friend or find new friends, I can’t very well drop her and get a new sister, especially when we not only live in the same house but in the same room.  And I wouldn’t want to anyway, since I still love her very much.  I just want to be close again like we always were and have her stop putting me down and be my “real sister” again.

    Lisa

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    1. By Lauren, age mom-at-large, from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 05/03/2014

      Lisa—How sad that this is happening. I advise the same approach that I wrote below for Brina. Let your sadness show. Be real. Be vulnerable. It’s hard to let sadness show in our culture, but if you do, your parents will become concerned and will being trying to pry the info out of you as to what’s wrong. Eventually, after letting the worry build for awhile, a person will usually break down and tell them what’s wrong. This buildup and breakdown is REAL! You really ARE hurt and you really DON’T want to alienate your sister. You love her!  But we have this thing where we don’t let our sadness show to others. I’m saying show it!! Let it brim over from you as it should. Then your parents will take over from there. Please let me know how it goes. Being real isn’t easy, but it’s always the best approach. I would also talk to the school counselor about this to work through the feelings of rejection and abandonment that are already there, at a deep level, for adopted children. Much Love to you! Please let me know how it goes.—Love, Lauren

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  2. By Brina, age 15, from Roseville, CA on 04/29/2014

    In my case its my stepsisters who bully me and like Lisa there’s no way to avoid the situation, since I have to share a room with them during visitations.  They’re very close, but they don’t like me and resent having to share their room with me and take it out on me even though I have no control over the situation.  Like with Lisa, I can’t get undressed without them making fun of my overweight body, but if I change in the bathroom they put me down for being so stupid as not being able to undress in front of other girls since “were all the same” and they go out of their way to be naked in front of me because they know it makes me embarrassed and uncomfortable.

    I also have a stepbrother and he’s very good to me.  It may sound strange, but I would rather share a room with him.  Even though were opposite sexes it could work.  We could get a patrician like I read about in Straight Talk or I could change in the bathroom while he changed in the bedroom so we wouldn’t be seeing each other undressed or naked.  There’s nothing sexual between us, so that’s not an issue.  It would also be less crowded with 2 in each room instead of 3 of us squeezed into my stepsisters’ room, and they wouldn’t have any reason to resent me any more.  But when I raised the subject my stepmom and dad thought the idea was “ridiculous” for opposite sex teenagers to share a room when I can share a room with “the girls.” 

    The bullying makes me dread visitations at my dad’s which isn’t the way it should be.

    Brina

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 05/03/2014

      Brina—I have an idea for you. Please consider letting your sadness and hurt show at the dinner table and really, the whole time you’re there. Let the tears brim up over this (as they well should…. it’s just that we are conditioned to “stuff” our hurt). Eventually your parent and/or stepparent will ask what is wrong. At that point, you can act like there is “no way” you can tell them, and then, let the sadness continue until they become worried. Your stepsisters may be well aware what you are sad about and stop bullying you, or lessen it. Or not. Either way, it doesn’t sound like a pleasant environment, especially when you have an alternative in the other bedroom using a partition. Eventually, you can agree to tell your parent,  or both of them, what’s bothering you but only with their promise to keep it confidential and let you carry out your solution rather than them confronting the stepsisters and keeping you in there…. (I certainly would not want to be in there with a 2-against-1 ratio, especially if they blame you for “getting them in trouble”). We covered how girls can harm each other with nobody being able to see it.

      If they see how sad you are to be there, and how happy this solution will make you, I would think they would agree to it (with a partition). If not, I would consider not going there anymore and seeing that parent one-on-one some other way. The key is to let your true feelings show (in this case, the sadness, which is the primary feeling, not the anger which may have arrived on top) and let THEM come to you begging to find out how to help you. This way, you’re not a tattle-tale. And they will get just how seriously hurtful this is for you.

      Just honestly show your hurt. The world changes when we do that.  Good luck with this. Please let me know how it goes.—Love, Lauren

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  3. By N.D., age 16, from Petaluma, CA on 04/30/2014

    I confess that I used to be a bully.  However, last year I found God and accepted Jesus and am trying to turn my life around.  However, I can’t escape my reputation as a bully.  Due to my reputation, other girls won’t be friends with me and guys want nothing to do with a girl who is known to bully other girls.  Looking back I don’t know why I acted this way as I actually hurt myself more than others, but that doesn’t do me any good now.  I tried becoming active in the youth group at church as a way to try to turn things around, but even there the other kids don’t want anything to do with me because of my reputation.

    My little sister got it the worst since like Lisa, she has to share a room with me and had no way to escape me, and I now feel terrible about the way I treated her and any friend that she tried to have over.  Lately I’ve tried to be super nice to her and be a good “big sister” to her, but she is still cold and distant toward me no matter what I try to do after the way I mistreated her all those years.  I would now give anything to be close with her like some sisters are, but I fear that it is too late.

    I realize that I’m paying the price for my own behavior, but I wish like anything that I could somehow escape my reputation.  I would like to tell anyone whose thinking about bullying others to think long and hard about it, because I can guarantee you that you’re going to be sorry in the long run.

    N.D.

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    1. By Jan, age 16, from Vacaville, CA on 05/01/2014

      I don’t feel the least bit sorry for you, N.D.  You’re getting what you deserve.  As they say, “what goes around comes around!”  I’m a Christian, but I hate it when people suddenly “get religion” and think that all the bad things they did should be forgiven and forgotten.

      And to bully your own little sister!  A sister is someone to love, not someone to bully!  I say this because my little sister was bullied terribly by a group of girls at school just because she was fat.  It caused her to become anorexic and our mom didn’t realize it until it got really bad and she finally made her get help.  We share a room so I see her naked every day and could see how her body was wasting away more and more.  She didn’t want me to tell our mom like others have written about, so against my better judgment, I didn’t.  We share the bathroom, and I’ll spare the details for obvious reasons but I could see that it was also causing her severe “bathroom issues” to put it nicely when she was on the toilet. 

      I’m glad to see that you’re suffering for being a bully and hope that the girls who bullied my sister meet the same fate.

      Jan

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    2. By Heather, age 15, from Santa Ana, CA on 05/03/2014

      As someone who is bullied, I don’t feel the least bit sorry for you either.  It hasn’t been mentioned, but at least at my school the worst bullying goes on in the girls’ locker room.  We have no choice but to undress and expose our bodies when we change into gym clothes and those of us who are overweight or otherwise have bodies that aren’t “perfect”  are constantly put down and humiliated.  We’re afraid to take showers and be completely nude because of this, and then get put down for not showering.  I don’t like having to live with the sweat and smell of not taking a shower and wouldn’t have a problem using the showers even though they’re communal with no privacy, but not when I’m going to be humiliated even further.  I’m not shy about my body with my sisters or my friends and have no problem with undressing in front of them and even with them seeing me nude because they don’t make fun of me, but it’s different when you’re being totally humiliated just because your body isn’t perfect, and I really hope that the girls who do this and think they’re so perfect get what they deserve some day!

      Heather

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    3. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 05/03/2014

      N.D.—We did a column on this last year and maybe it will be helpful. Basically, it is not easy to gain forgiveness of someone you have hurt badly, but it can and does happen, although it generally is a long time coming and only after you continue giving constant and long-term proof of your sorrow and love. How long is usually up to the victim. Some people are naturally more forgiving, or maybe go through an experience such as you did, of finding God, or having a spiritual awakening, that opens their heart.  Both victims and bullies need love. It is the key for both of them.

      Your story as a “recovered” bully is compelling and I’m so glad you shared it. You may not find much forgiveness while still in high school, and even be receiving a “taste of your own medicine” with being excluded, but please keep your heart open anyway. You could do a huge service as you get older—or even now—by speaking to assemblies about the pain of bullying and the long-term unhappiness it brings to both the victim and the bully. This may be a way for you to find redemption and healing. I also recommend counseling to help you keep moving forward. Thank you so much for writing. Good luck to you!—Love, Lauren

      The link to the column on seeking forgiveness is here: http://www.straighttalktnt.org/teen-advice/entry/big-sis-wants-lil-sis-to-forgive-her

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    4. By J.R., age 22, from Northern California on 05/05/2014

      N.D., unlike the other girls here, I do feel sorry for you. I was bullied by being excluded, and it hurt a lot, and I can’t imagine how much you’ve hurt your sister, but I’ve also made mistakes. I am someone who lashes out at the people I trust when I get angry, because my whole life I’ve bottled up everything I was feeling. Afterwards I feel horribly guilty, and sometimes when I apologize it just isn’t enough. That hurts, seeing the pain in the eyes of someone you love, knowing you put it there, and being unable to regain that persons trust, even if its just for an hour or two. I can’t imagine how awful it must be for that to go on for days, let alone months.

      All I can say is thank you for realizing you were doing wrong. It might be hard right now, but someday you will be away from the children around you who think of you as a bully, and refuse to see that you’ve changed. I went to a small private school and suffered horribly from being surrounded by people who refused to change their opinions of me, and had known me since I was eight years old. I was never a bully, but the exclusion and teasing I had suffered over the years shut me down.

      I guess what I want to say is I empathize with how you want to move on, but it’s never that simple. Whenever I fight with my husband if I say something cruel I want to hit myself afterwards, but no amount of apologizing can make things better right that moment as much as I want it to. Give your sister time, keep being kind and helpful and loving. I don’t know if you have or haven’t already, but maybe write her a letter telling her how sorry you are and how much you wish you could make it up to her. I know that I have an easier time writing my thoughts and feelings down than speaking them, but it might be different for you.

      Once again, thank you so much for sharing.

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