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.