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December 4, 2022 at 11:02 am #411288
Also, thanks a lot for the deer and lion analogy, it helped me understand a lot of things better!December 4, 2022 at 11:00 am #411287
I’m very sorry for the delayed response. I had been having quite a few flashbacks to the incidents which happened back then and was too disoriented to reply back. My low self-esteem and insecurities existed since my childhood, due to being bullied and made an outcast at a young age at school (I’m completely over these incidents btw). But, these issues became severe and new issues were created, when I was subjected to workplace-bullying. Until before joining my job, though I had my insecurities and low self-esteem, I was pretty confident in that I was a decent human being and I never had any doubts about my character and values. But, the bullies made me question my own sanity and my own character. One question which was always in my head – “Am I the bad person here?”.
I think the reason these incidents from 7 years ago are resurfacing again, is because I never got any proper closure. Everybody was pointing fingers at me, so I never had anyone who listened to or understood my side of the story. Also the confidence displayed by my bullies, about being justified in hurting me, about being so sure and convinced that I was the bad person and deserved it, was what made me question my own reality and become smaller in front of them, to the point that I slowly started disappearing even in my own conscious. My perspective disappeared and their perspective took over my conscious. They had a statement which they repeated often, almost like a signature after bullying me, “Does it hurt? That’s how I felt back then”. That confident gaze of theirs, the tone in which they spoke, everything stuck inside my head and my critical brain played it in an unending loop, and now, that’s happening again.
There was another bully Y, who was set out to demonify me in front of everyone I was close to, or getting close to. He wanted to prove to everyone that I was “That kind of person”, though I still don’t know what “kind of person” he wanted to prove me as. He manipulated and created situations where I felt cornered and pressurized to reveal my intentions about people and things. I remember one incident when he demonized me in front of others. There was a colleague(who was not a part of my team) who became my acquaintance through some small talk about breakups( at this point I had broken up with my then bf). She offered me to tag along with her and her friends to speak and vent about our exes, for which I was reluctant to go initially, but my Manager convinced me to go and become more “social”. Bully Y saw that and wanted to prove to her about my “true nature” so he came up with a scheme. I had a good talk with her and her friends and later in the day, all the bullies started questioning me about what we talked about our bfs. I told them that it was just a usual talk where everyone shared their sad experiences. They asked me what I talked about and I said that I didn’t talk much about myself, as the other ladies had much more serious and painful issues with their bfs. The bullies then started twisting my words trying to frame me as someone who felt superior to other ladies because I didn’t have serious problems with my ex-bf(which was entirely the opposite of what I felt about the other ladies btw).
I sensed something wrong and pinged my other female teammate A(the one who recorded me) and asked her if the others are plotting something, and if I needed to be careful about what to say, to which she said no. Though she was also in it together with them, which she later confessed about. I started feeling cornered and anxious again and started loosing my cool and rationality. Now this is where they start manipulating the whole situation and matters start getting worse. They start pressuring me to talk about the other ladies’ stories, and I start feeling that chill down my spine thinking, “It has started again.. they are ganging up on me again.. they are upto something.. I feel cornered and am loosing my rationality.. I am all alone in this again”. I first refuse to talk about any of them and say, “If you are so curious about them, go ask them yourself”. The mini-bullies back-off and I feel relieved for a second. But, the main bully now stands up signalling to someone(I later realize that this person was the lady who invited me to have a chat with her and her friends) and says, “Why are you being so stubborn? It’s not like they can hear us”. Now, I didn’t know that the Lady was sitting right next to my cubicle, and the main bully’s pressure got the best out of me. I shared snippets of their stories with the bullies. I know I was in the wrong for sharing their stories, and I should’ve stood my ground, but I was manipulated and pressured by my bullies into sharing with them. At this point, someone else from my team(I think it was my manager, my memory is not clear about this) asks me what I feel about my ex after listening to their stories and I say, “I now think that my ex was an angel”. I didn’t say this with any negative intention towards the other ladies, I just shared what I felt about my ex, and that too upon being questioned. That Lady has been listening to the whole conversation all the while, and is now angered by my statement about my ex(understandable from her perspective). The main bully gleefully gets up and says, “So your alliance has fallen apart so fast?”. From this point, I became the bad one who felt “superior” to others and gossiped about other colleagues, and my bullies became the “good guys” who revealed about my “true-nature” to others.
I apologize to that Lady immediately and try to explain her that it was never my intention to feel superior to her or to offend her, and she refuses to take my apology. The next day, I take her aside and explain the whole situation about how bully Y plotted all this due some grudges against me and apologize to her again, and this time, she does accept it. Later she goes to bully Y and tells him everything which I told her earlier. Turns out she was also in cahoots with him from the starting. She and the other bullies then come to me and throw their signature dialogue, “Does it hurt?”, smiling gleefully at my tears.
Bully X also played a huge part in eroding my self-esteem as most of the times he was the one who always said, “Does it hurt? That’s how I felt back then”, with a confident, justified gaze and tone. They all loved using false-equivalnces in order to justify their actions towards me, and I was left all confused, hurt and blaming myself for every incident. Bully X’s image of being “the guy who is always right” added to my confusion. If he’s right, then I must be wrong, isn’t it? Also, Whenever they made me out to be the bad guy, I tried defending myself saying, “I am not that kind of person”. To which they always replied, “So are you saying that “I” am that kind of person?”, with the same confidence in their gaze and tone. I now think that they were projecting onto me because they didn’t like admitting that they were the ones in the wrong here.November 28, 2022 at 4:02 am #410883
Sorry for the delayed response. Thank you so much again for your input and validation! Yes, I did see a therapist back then, but unfortunately, I couldn’t attend more than a couple of sessions due to my then circumstances. Those sessions did help a bit, and all the while I thought that I’ve healed, but I don’t know why, these memories have sudenly resurfaced after years now.
Regarding that company, it’s a well-established one, but the same rules of “team-culture” applied throughout all it’s branches. Though a few anti-bullying Laws existed, not everybody followed them well. What you shared regarding mobbing was exactly what I felt – it felt as a campaign of terrorism against me, for my unintentional mistakes or their percieved “mistakes”of mine, despite my constant apologies towards them everytime.
I hope I’m not bothering you too much and that it’s okay to share some more painful memories which I’m struggling with. Back then, I struggled with low-self esteem and had insecurities regarding my looks, and my colleagues deliberately picked on my insecurities repeatedly to hurt me more. They used to ask my other office friends(outside of my Project) about why they were even friends with “someone like me”, implying that I didn’t deserve to have any friends. Also, when I refused to share any personal info about my then boyfriend, they interrogated me like a criminal and made sarcastic, hurtful comments saying that I was “lying” about having a boyfriend. These interrogation sessions were traumatic and dehumanizing to say the least. This forced me to reveal all info about him. They went through his Facebook profile trying to find clues of our relationship and kept up with their “You are lying” taunts when they didn’t find any traces of it. When it was finally revealed that he was indeed my boyfriend, one of them, made a comment, “Your boyfriend really loves you”- which, to me then seemed sarcastic, and I percieved it as, “Your boyfriend must really like you to love someone like you”. We kept going back-and-forth and I finally lashed out at one of them, say X, saying, “My bf looks better than X”. X got angry, and I stated the reason why I said what I said. They said that they didn’t mean it in a negative way and they actually meant what they said. I immediately apologized sincerely to them for misunderstanding them and explained them that I didn’t really mean what I said, and that I was just emotionally hurt by their behaviour and lashed out. They refused to accept my apologies at first, and after apologizing a couple of times more, everybody else accepted, except for X. I felt unheard and hurt that they felt entitled to think about me the way they wanted and treated me less than human, but a single event of misunderstanding on my part was treated as a crime even after sincere apologies from my side.
Things started getting even worse after this incident. Though they said that they accepted my apologies, they still bullied me by making aggressive and sarcastic comments about my character and looks at every chance they got. All this intensified into other bullying events which I explained in above posts.
During my last days in that Project, I tried one last time to have a conversation with X to get some closure. I shared that I had insecurities and that their repeated verbal attacks on my insecurites has traumatized me. To which X replied, “I too have insecurities, you were mean to me too” referring to the one time I lashed out at him. I apologized again to him, but he said that I deserved all the bullying.
Now, I completely agree that I was in the wrong to have made a mean comment about him, but I feel that he was being very unfair in equating the magnitude of effects of a one-time occurence(to which apologies were already issued multiple times), to the magnitude of effects of repetitive harassment, and saying that I deserved it. Could you please your thoughts about this?November 25, 2022 at 12:32 am #410683
Thanks a lot for your input. I am having even more painful memories rushing back to me, so please excuse me if this is all over the place. I was a non-conformist in the sense that I didn’t conform to the existing cultural standards of my country(I’m from a conservative country) and the established status-quo of being a “team-player” in the company. Being a “team-player” in my company meant – apologizing to the whole team even for things which were not completely my fault just to satisify everyone’s ego, taking sides and recording people if asked to. I had no idea about this “team” culture as it was my first job, and the whole thing didn’t make any sense morally to me. I was pressured to apologize and take the blame for things which weren’t completely my fault. The biggest problem was, though I apologized several times to them, they still held deep-seated grudges and emotionally abused me every chance they got. They expected sincerity from me, and though I was as sincere towards them as possible, they never once treated me with basic respect or sincerity. They first made me trust them but back-stabbed me time and again. When I called them out on their behaviour, they didn’t like it. One of the bullies, before leaving the team confessed that she deliberately hurt me because she felt that my initial apology towards the team was “insincere”. All this hurt me deeply and pushed me into a spiral of depression and eradicated my self-esteem slowly.
I was also forced to share my personal details like info about my family and my then boyfriend, and constantly forced to share my opinions on controversial topics, which made me feel extremely uncomfortable. When I tried to set boundaries and refused to speak about a certain controversial topic or share my personal info, they used to get extremely offended and even start mocking me for wanting to keep my personal info private. This behaviour of theirs forced me to always just give up in the end and share my personal info or my opinions on controversial topics with them, in the hopes that they might stop harassing me, but their harassment just got worse. Whenever I shared my personal info upon being asked, they used to probe even deeper into it, forcing me to give even more info and then make comments about my personal life. Whenever I shared my opinions on being forced to do so(which were different than theirs because they always supported the status quo and I was most of the times against it), they often used to give glances towards each other in a way ridiculing me, or downright make mean, hurtful comments and try to tear down my values and opinions. They were also pretty hypocritic with the way they held me to unreasonable standards and nitpick on everything I said or did, but patted each others’ back when they made the same mistakes I made. For ex: They didn’t like the way I spoke to my family or friends(yes they used to over-hear my phone conversations with them and I normally spoke bluntly with my family or friends), but used to be very lenient towards someone else from their group who used curse words at their parents.
I was growing exhausted by all this and started standing up for myself, and when I reached my limits, I lashed back too. Their constant mocking of me made me misunderstand some of their words and actions towards me too, and one time I lashed back with small insults towards them because their mocking was getting unbearable and I partly misunderstood some of their words. They didn’t like it and my lashing back was seen as “disrespectful”. I immedaitely apologized that I was wrong for lashing out and that the misunderstanding was on my side(though it was on both the sides), but they were unwilling to hear me out and made me out to be the bad guy. I felt like my perspective would never be heard and doesn’t matter, but still, I apologized several times.
One of the bullies(more like an enabler who emotionally abused me by being in the sidelines) had the “good guy” image and he was very convinced and confident that I was the one in the wrong and refused to listen to anything I said. When I asked him why they treated me this way, his response was, “If we treat everyone well and not you, then you must be in the wrong”, implying that I was in the wrong and deserved to be bullied. Though, in a later incident, when I’ve had enough, with them name-calling me as “retarded” and called him out, he did kind of apologize, but still refused to acknowledge that I was being bullied and believed that I “made” them act that way.
All this made me enter into this never ending guilt-trap of constantly feeling that I did something wrong and always wondering what I did wrong. I lost my self-esteem, was burdened with intense guilt, always walked on egg shells around them and felt that I deserved to be treated the way they treated me because they made me convinced that I was in the wrong. Because I was all alone throughout the whole situation, and it was a one against a group situation, I also have this fear that if something ever happens in the future, my perspective will never be heard by anyone and no one would be on my side. So, please tell me, was I not bullied? Did I deserve to be treated this way even if I made some unintentional mistakes but immediately apologized for them? Do I deserve to live constantly feeling guilty and not knowing why? Don’t I deserve to lead a happy and confident life?