Four Ways to Combat Self-Bullying in the Classroom

For National Bullying Prevention Month this October, we’re sharing resources to help those who’ve fallen into a pattern of bullying themselves.

What is self-bullying? It’s not a word used often, so how do we know it’s a real thing?

Self-bullying is an umbrella term that can refer to any self-destructive behavior, including deliberately pushing physical, mental, or emotional limits. Intrusive thoughts, low self-esteem, and isolation are some ways in which we bully ourselves — sometimes even accidentally. It’s okay to get down on ourselves once in a while. But if there’s a level of consistency to our berating or negative thoughts, maybe it’s time to check in with our emotions in order to recognize and interrupt self-sabotaging behavior. Developing a positive bounce-back system takes real work.

It’s important to know that mental health and self-bullying can go hand-in-hand, especially for students. Symptoms of generalized anxiety, like a disproportionate amount of stress in regards to conflict, can compound cyclic and self-destructive behavior. Students of today are dealing with a lot of anxiety —  studies show they’re twice as likely to see a mental health professional as teens in the 1980s.

So how can we use SEL to combat bullying and build habits of self-love?

#1 Understand

Understanding students and their mental health holistically is the first step. Try the “Live, Laugh, Love” equation as a tool to help better understand students, especially those whose backgrounds differ from your own.

#2 Reinforce

In the classroom, positive reinforcement and confidence building exercises can be a great way to start. Think “Classroom Compliment Box” or a guided meditation in which students identify one thing they’re proud of accomplishing that day. Ask students to keep journals with specific daily achievements, or integrate other Project Based Learning tactics. It’s not often that we stop to reassure ourselves. A little confidence can go a long way.

#3 Project

Planting the ideals of self-love in a student is no easy task, nor is it a teacher’s responsibility. But there are ways to identify and aid someone struggling with self-bullying — even yourself. Projecting the situation outside yourself is one way to put it into perspective: What if a loved one put themselves down like this? How would I feel about that?

#4 Be Compassionate

It’s important to embrace failure. Admit when you’re wrong, but don’t berate yourself. Teach students to approach their own mistakes as opportunities to grow. Be clear with students what your behavior means when you forgive yourself for any mistakes  — that self-compassion is the ultimate act of combating self-bullying. It’s a way to grow stronger in yourself and live your truth.

This October, check in with yourself, and be sure to treat yourself with the same level of consideration you treat the people you love.

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