Susie never expected bullying to happen in the workplace; here she talks about how she coped as an adult after she was bullied by colleagues
I had always thought, upon leaving school, that I would cease to encounter people that bullied. I thought, once the school gates had closed for good, I would be free of torment and prejudice.
Unfortunately, I would come to realise, I was wrong. Over the years I have worked in many different places, and much like school, the office can be a tough environment. I have been bullied and watched other people being bullied and not known what to do about it, or how to combat it. As an adult, you are inclined to talk through these problems, to see if you can find a resolution in a quick and efficient manner – but in my experience, these matters did not get taken seriously – I never found one understanding person to talk to at work; there didn’t seem like there was anyone who could help me.
I spent days upon days crying and hiding in the office toilets, but eventually I decided enough was enough and handed in my notice. Some people may disagree with this, and believe I should have stayed and stood my ground but, it was honestly too much to bear.
I took years out of work to have children, and it was during this time that I happened upon a lovely article in a magazine about a mother and daughter who were interviewed about body image and self-esteem. The mother was a life model (someone who holds poses while artists draw them), and well into her 50s – she talked a bit about her work in the article and it inspired me to research further. In my youth I had trained as a dancer, and felt that life modelling was probably something I would be good at, as I already had the practice and core strength required to hold poses for a long period of time.
Compared to my previous places of employment, I have found the art-world to be full of polite and respectful people, and in all the years I have worked there I have never once witnessed any forms of bullying. Everybody is treated with the utmost respect, regardless of age, race, gender, class, disability or sexuality. I often wonder why it is such a different environment from my other places of work; is it because people are more at ease with themselves in this industry? Are they more fulfilled? The happy, self-confident people I have met just don’t feel the need to belittle others. It is so refreshing. My new career has given me the most valuable gift of all; confidence. People that bully can take that away from you, but if I overcame my insecurities, so can you!
I no longer think about, or give energy to the people who once called me ‘worthless’. I like to think, that one day, as they are wandering around a gallery or museum, they will happen upon a painting or a statue and recognise that it is me; someone who has now found happiness and success, and is quite the opposite of ‘worthless’.
Charities like Ditch the Label are a marvellous and vital source of support and advice, and can help you combat bullying. Growing up, these online resources were not available – I didn’t even have the internet! The more that people unite against bullying, and stand up and speak out – the easier it will be to eradicate it altogether.
Written by Susie