Have you ever been intimidated by someone so powerful that they made you feel worthless?
When I was a young boy, I was painfully shy and mostly quiet because of that. I remember one time I was on the playground in fourth grade. This kid in my class who looked old enough to drive himself to school met me on the playground. He arrived with his posse, like a schoolyard mafia boss. Without a hello or any other social pleasantry he said, “Hey, kid, you got some lunch money?”
“Let me have it.”
Now, if I knew then what I know now, I would have approached this differently. But since I didn’t, I reached into my pocket and, without a fight, handed him my five dollars.
My shyness cost me a lot in the world of relationships. As I got older, I promised myself that next year would be different. I would become more social. I would cast aside my inhibitions. I would value who I was and convince the world that they should too.
Today I’m going to tell you how I overcame my fear and how you can do it too.
We all have bullies in our lives. They may not be the big and hairy kind. But they could be just as scary and powerful.
Here are three things we’re most scared of when dealing with someone intimidating.
First, we’re afraid of them because they have a lot of power and they can use it to manipulate us. Chances are they have hurt us in the past, are doing so now, and if we do nothing to prevent them, will continue to terrorize us in the future.
Second, there is the fear of the unknown. If we do stand up to our bullies, what will happen? Will we die or just get hurt? Will they get mad or just laugh it off?
Worse still, and perhaps less unknown – what will happen if we keep reacting the same way to that bully’s threats?
Third, there is the fear that comes from not thinking things through. Since we don’t know what will happen, we retreat to the safety of the familiar. But if the familiar isn’t safe, then is this really a good idea?
You could be risking your happiness, your health, and maybe even your career.
Now that we’ve done the first thing and identified what we’re afraid of, we’re left to make a choice. Will we run or will we fight?
When I say, “fight”, I don’t mean with fists. A lot can be accomplished with peaceful resistance. Martin Luther King changed the status of African Americans in America forever by making stirring speeches. Ghandi freed his people from British rule without firing a single gunshot.
You can make big changes to your own life without even balling up your fist.
This means you must deal with the three common fears.
First, remember that though that person who is oppressing you has a lot of influence, he or she is just another person like you. They are probably insecure themselves and that is the reason they bully you. This may be the only way for him to feel better about himself.
Understanding that doesn’t mean you have to take what he dishes out. You have rights just like he does. Make the choice to stand for them.
Facing the second fear is easier when you consider your response to all the possibilities. What is the chance you’ll die during your confrontation? It’s probably so small it’s not worth considering. You may feel embarrassed if you haven’t stood up for yourself much before, but plan to push through it anyway. The whole affair probably won’t last more than a few minutes. You can live through that.
You can arm yourself to properly think things through by talking with someone else who is more assertive. Ask him how he would handle such a situation as you’re facing. Also read the biographies of brave people who accomplished big things in the face of persecution. You may not have to say as Patrick Henry did, “give me liberty or give me death”, but knowing his story might tell you where he got his courage. That can inspire you to find your own.
Now you’re ready to face your bully.
I had a teacher in junior high who was always pestering me about being shy. He felt he could make me bolder by embarrassing me before my classmates. One particular incident sticks out in my mind. Mr. Cox had gotten angry at my lackluster responses to his urgings. He demanded “Frank, say ‘yes’ as loud as you can!”
I too had become fed up.
My classmates roared with laughter.
Mr. Cox had nothing more to say.
I felt great.
By the way, that is an appropriate response to refusing someone’s demands. Say no and don’t give any explanation. You don’t have to justify your behavior all the time.
In summary, to overcome your fear of the bullies in your own life, remember these three things. Admit that you’re scared and define exactly what scares you. Then, decide to stand up for yourself. Plan what you’ll say and do next time. Then, when the opportunity comes, act on what you’ve already decided.
If you’ll do these things, you can say what you want and get away with it!