When I was in my teens, I was bullied over my weight. I was even physically assaulted, having my pants ripped off me and thrown in the street because they looked funny and tight on my “fat” body. I was 6’1 and 260 lbs. I was bigger than most of the kids bullying me. I however, was shy and quiet. I was not a fighter. Even with my size, in my mind, the bullies had all the power. The power of the acceptance I wanted so badly. That was everything to me. If I was to be accepted, I had to take it. I had to laugh about it. I had to internalize it. That’s what I did. There were consequences to holding it all in. Eating Disorders and drug addiction were in my future. I later became a bully to make myself feel better about the taunts I had endured. I become the mob. I am still in therapy dealing with it. That’s me. Not everyone who gets bullied will respond the same way. We are all unique human beings with our own unique genetic make up and psychological pre-dispostions that will be directed by our environment.
When I see the allegedly bullying inflicted on Miami Dolphins player, Jonathan Martin, I see myself. No, I never played football on any level. What I see is a young person who like myself, appears to have taken an internalized alleged vicious repetitive taunts because of the same things I wanted. Acceptance of his peers. To not appear “weak”. He stayed silent. Overpowered by the the stigma of an adult male claiming he was bullied. The nature of his employment multiplying that stigma 1000x. The stereotypes that have to be overcome. Easier to just stay silent and internalize it until a breaking point is reached.
What you say? The guy is huge! He’s a football player. He has power! Bullying is not about size and physical power. It is about a perceived or actual “influence power” differential and repetition. The workplace is no different. While I am generally very outspoken about the general premise that adults have co-opted the word bullying to mean everything that hurts their feelings, there are exceptions and the workplace is one of them. Regardless of what Martin does for a living and how big he is, there can still be a perceived power differential within his workplace that can make him susceptible to bullying. The stereotypes and stigma are overpowering. He wants the acceptance of other players. He does not want to be seen as weak in a man’s world. Because of the nature of he world he is in, there may be no perceived routes to talk to someone about it. He stays silent. These are all factors surrounding bullying that come into play for children, teens and adults whether they are students or NFL players. Children can be bullied, Teens can be bullied, and in the workplace as one exception to my general rule, adults can certainly be bullied. Ask yourself a couple of things to start, is there a perceived or actual power differential. Is there repetition. Don’t ask about muscles.
Brian Cuban is a an author whose Amazon best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD). Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and breaking the male eating disorder stigma. Has has spoken at prestigious locations such as the University of North Carolina Center For Eating Disorder Excellence.