What Is the Connection between Bullying and Self-Esteem?

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  • Written By: Debra Barnhart
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Self-esteem is the belief in one’s own worth and ability to take on life every day. A number of connections exist between bullying and self-esteem and, not surprisingly, victims of bullies are more likely to have low self-esteem. Conventional belief suggests that bullies themselves suffer from low self-esteem, but some studies have challenged this way of thinking. Incidents of childhood bullying get a great deal of attention from mental health professionals and educators, but adult bullies exist too. Adult bullies also have an impact on self-esteem.

Bullying is defined as any form of intimidation, either physical, verbal or mental, of a weaker person. The victim’s weakness could be psychological or physical. Studies have shown that victims of bullying usually have lower levels of self-esteem. Experts are unsure of whether the victims of bullying are targeted due to their low self-esteem, whether bullying causes low self-esteem, or both. The effects of bullying and self-esteem can be long lasting. Children who are bullied suffer both psychological and physical problems from the abuse and may retain their self-perception as a victim when they grow up into adults.


Some psychological theories of bullying and self-esteem suggest that a bully's need to intimidate is evidence of a lack of self-worth. According to other studies, however, bullies may well have too much self-esteem. Their inflated self-value often has little basis in reality, but it comes in handy when bullies justify their antisocial behavior to themselves and others. Theories of bullying and self-esteem suggest that while bullies do not suffer from low self-esteem, they are especially sensitive to shame, and do not want their faults and inadequacies to be visible to other people.

Most often, bullying and its victims are thought of in relationship to childhood. Physical and mental bullying is prevalent in schools and gets a great deal of attention. Bullies grow up, however, and may still be bullies as adults. Some people who were not bullies as children decide to become bullies in adulthood. In fact, some of them may become corporate leaders. Coercion, or using power to gain acquiescence, can be a common corporate tactic, making it hard to draw the line between bullying and management style. Low company morale can be an indicator of this.

Adults may be less prone to talk about bullying or to even recognize it when it occurs. Going with the flow and avoiding confrontation sometimes seem easier than confronting a bully, but these incidents have an impact on self-esteem. For those who are the victims of adult bullies, it may be worthwhile to seek counseling to learn ways to cope with bullying.


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Post 3

@ZipLine-- There is a great quote about this. I don't remember it word for word, but it's something along the lines of "it's not what we go through that matters, it's how we react to it." So I'm sure that personality has something to do with bullying and self esteem.

I think that adults are less likely to develop poor self esteem from bullying than children. And when adults' self esteem does suffer, I think that recovery is easier. The issue with bullying during childhood is that children's psychology is very sensitive and vulnerable.

These types of traumas in childhood tend to affect the sub-conscious part of the brain. Characteristics of low self-esteem can become embedded

in a child's mind and turn into automatic reflexes that controls them for the rest of their life. Recovery is certainly possible in these cases as well. It just takes longer and requires more work. Professional help is a must for children who are bullied. If they are given the support they need early on, some of the damage to their self esteem can be prevented or restored quickly. So parents and teachers need to act fast and reach out to these kids right away.
Post 2

I wonder if the connection between bullying and self esteem has to do with personality? Many people are bullied at some point in their lives. Some people turn out to be bullies themselves later in life but others don't. Why? Isn't it because of their personalities?

Post 1

Let's not forget parents. Some parents bully their children and I think that most people who develop self esteem issues in childhood do so for this reason. Bullying at school is a big problem too, but bullying at home is worse because the child has no way to defend himself. Unfortunately, in most cases, this bullying is just psychological, so even experts are not able to do much.

I was bullied both at home and at school while growing up. Considering the circumstances I lived in, I actually think that I turned out okay. I definitely have self esteem issues but it's not very severe. I'm able to work, care for myself and make friends. I wanted to share

this because I want everyone who is being bullied right now to know that the effects of the bullying on self esteem don't have to be permanent. You can improve your self esteem and develop and maintain a positive outlook to life.

Who had a perfect childhood or perfect parents? No one. So we all have to find ways to get through it and try to change ourselves for the better. It all starts with loving and accepting ourselves as who we are.

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