Wherever she went, bullying seemed to follow her. Whether it was in school, in the workplace or even within family, she never could seem to find any kind of escape. Instead of becoming a victim of her circumstances, she decided to turn her struggle into strategies to combat bullying in any form, in any place, to spare others from having her experience.
Despite having a successful career in finance and holding two professional designations, Kalyani felt something was amiss. She tried her hand at entrepreneurship and ran a successful online fitness business for two years, yet that void she felt couldn’t be filled. She couldn’t quite figure out why she felt so unfulfilled.
The answer came when she volunteered at an anti-bullying workshop at her daughter’s school. She had an entire lifetime of experiences, learning and tools she had developed so why not share it with those who are struggling with bullying? It would be a disservice not to do so.
Armed with this new revelation, Kalyani shut her fitness business down and started from scratch because she had one goal in mind: providing solutions to those struggling, to show them “how” to combat bullying rather than to tell them what to do. And so birthed “Unbullied – 14 Techniques to Silence the Critics, Externally and Internally”.
Her book has been recognized internationally through three awards: The Skipping Stones Honour Award, The Book Excellence Finalist Award and The Maincrest Media Winners Award.
She has been interviewed by many including Hollywood Times and Daughters of change.
Kalyani is also certified as a Quantum Human Design Specialist and has had the honour of hosting a Quantum Alignment Show on The Hidden Effects of Bullying Amplified in our Open Centers. Kalyani continues to seek opportunities to spread her anti-bullying techniques through workshops and speaking engagements. Kalyani firmly believes that if her work helps even just one person, she has fulfilled her calling.
When did you realize that you were bullied and how can you tell our readers what they should be aware of such as what are the signs of getting bullied?
It was the year that I turned 12. I was sent away to a prestigious boarding school out of the country for the sole purpose of having access to good education which was not determined by my skin colour. At the time, I lived in apartheid South Africa and where I went to school was determined by my skin colour and not by my academic abilities.
The bullying started with name calling and escalated to physical assaults, simply because I was different – I didn’t dress like others, nor did I speak like others (English is my third language). I was not worldly aware; I was happy within my own world and comfortable in my own skin which seemed to trigger those who weren’t.
What are the signs of getting bullied? Quite simply – anyone who taunts or teases you for being different is bullying you. Sometimes this can show up as caring for you especially when it comes from family or friends and sometimes it turns into insults/bantering. How do you tell the difference between bullying and bantering? Ask yourself – how does the said behaviour make you feel? Your feelings are your GPS – don’t ignore them.
I know I am casting a wide net because often family bullying falls into this category. Let’s be honest here, how many times have we been told by family members that we “should” or “shouldn’t” be a certain way? Or perhaps we have even been teased for being a certain way that is different from others?
Any time it is suggested that you become anything else except who you are – ask yourself, how does that make you feel? There is a difference between self-improvement and changing who you are to fit in just to be accepted and be acceptable by others.
How do you tell the difference? How does changing yourself, based on someone’s “advice”, make you feel? Don’t rationalize it in your head. Ask yourself how does it really make you feel?
Do you know why and how someone gets picked out to get bullied (who are the victims?).
Bullies target those whom they feel they can dominate, those who are different from them in any way including having different interests, dressing styles, physical appearance (height, weight, hair etc.). Bullies also tend to pick on those who appear to be shy, sensitive or introverted while they also attack those whom they feel threatened by because of jealousy, the latter holding true particularly for bullying behaviour in adults.
If I had to define bullying, I would call it dominance behaviour over another. Bullies target those whom they think won’t give them problems. They love to have an audience, it is about showing off their dominance/power and often the audience become bullies themselves purely out of associating with the bully, the latter remaining the ringleader.
That said, I’d like to state that this doesn’t mean the person who is targeted is “weak.” Though it may appear this way on the surface. There is another layer to this.
The target triggers insecurities in the bully. Rather than addressing their own insecurities, bullies lash out – it is easier to hurt what they fear than it is to face their fears and heal them.
Based on my explanation, anyone can be targeted simply for triggering an insecurity in the bully. However, what I teach in my courses is that the target is not a victim, while they may feel powerless, in fact, they are very powerful. How? If bullies weren’t affected by the target, they wouldn’t do anything, they would leave the target alone.
Why does a bully not target everyone? Simply because every single person does not have the power to trigger the bully’s insecurities. This is what makes the target powerful, not weak.
I have noticed that it is often recommended to ignore and walk away from the bully. Personally, I feel this disempowers the target and causes a loss in confidence leaving them feeling defeated. While another recommendation is to stand up for yourself and talk to a person whom you trust. The question remains – how? It is this question that I answer through my work.
No one is born a bully. Bullying is a learned behaviour. Somewhere in this journey called life, the bully experienced being bullied themselves and feeling powerless against their own bully. If this experience was within the family, it might have been disguised as “character building.” To feel some sense of control or power, they continued the destructive pattern by becoming a bully themselves.
Why do bullies bully? It goes beyond “hurt people hurt people.” Their greatest fear is feeling powerless and hence they try to find power through dominating others.
Tell us something about self bullying, we’re hearing this for the first time.
Have you ever said any of this to yourself? “I shouldn’t have done that!” Or “I should have done that.” Maybe even, “I am such an idiot.” Perhaps, “I should have known better.” The list goes on.
Self-bullying is an inner critic that exists within us, constantly watching over us and passing judgement and criticism. This inner bully makes us doubt and question ourselves resulting in feeling “not good enough” and sometimes even unworthy.
Incessant self-bullying can lead to burnout, the symptoms of which can be physical (feeling tired and drained most of the time), emotional (sense of failure and self-doubt) and behavioural (procrastination).
There are thirteen different kinds of inner bullies, and some are so well masked that it takes a lot to identify them. For example, the overachiever bully has a mile long list of achievements as they seek to find their worth and value in their achievements. If they fail to meet a goal, they feel they are not good enough.
The hero bully hides behind an armour of strength, showing any signs of weakness makes them feel very vulnerable, they refuse to ask for help because they feel it is a sign of weakness while they also feel that only they can do the job right and hence refuse any support or help.
As we work towards our goals, these bullies easily rear their heads and make us doubt ourselves, often derailing well laid plans. This is especially true for the corporate world. I cover how to identify which bully exists within (a person can have more than one inner bully), where did they come from and how to evict them in my course for corporates.
In addition to this, it is important to recognize that self-love is very hard for anyone who has been bullied whether by others or by themselves. To bridge the gap to self-love, I recommend self-compassion, being gentle, kind, caring and empathetic towards yourself.
What about bullying in the office and workplace? Do you have any tips for that?
Workplace bullying creates a very challenging conundrum. Do you stay in the workplace for the sake of pursuing and advancing your career or do you take a stand against the bully, possibly losing the opportunity to continue advancing with the said company while also facing the possibility of retaliation? Which would you choose?
I would recommend starting with putting the bullying to an end using a very simple technique that I call the Sure pumpkin/UR technique which I talk about in my book. This technique leads to two outcomes which I lovingly call the Double D result and no I’m not talking about a bra size. It disempowers the bully and defuses the situation.
Bullies get their power from feeding on your reaction to their words and if you don’t give them that reaction, they are rendered powerless. The Sure Pumpkin/UR technique offers the opportunity to create a cheat sheet of nonchalant responses to give to your bully. This technique takes the power away from the bully. The key with this technique is to be very consistent with it. It shows the bully that their words/actions have no effect on you which I think is a far better way of dealing with a bully instead of ignoring them.
However, if you don’t feel confident using this technique, I would recommend taking the matter up with higher authorities using the Loudspeaker Technique from my course. I guide students, step by step, on what to say, how to say it to people in authority to get the results that they desire. I also cover what to do if you are afraid of retaliation from the bully and what to do if you don’t get the desired results from those in authority.
Standing up to workplace bullies using these techniques is what’s going to empower you. The reason we feel so traumatized by bullying is because we feel powerless, we feel we have no control over the situation, we feel helpless. We all know that bullying of any kind hurts but what makes it worse is that it fuels self-doubt. This often leads to questioning or even justifying our decisions simply because we struggle to trust ourselves.
Another post traumatic response to being bullied is giving ourselves “worthiness wounds” – where we try to prove our value and worth to others to the point of complete emotional exhaustion. The techniques I teach show you that you have all the power you need within you.
All of this said and done, please prioritize your mental well-being. If you really feel that your peace lies in walking away from this job and situation then please do so. Remember, it takes courage to take this step and doing so is very brave!
If you were to go back to the beginning, would you do anything different?
No, I wouldn’t do anything differently because if I say I would have done this or that differently I would just be bullying myself. Fact is I am who I am, and I’ve achieved what I have because of my strength to have endured what I did. I am not who I am because of my trauma – my trauma almost broke me, but it was my strength and inner belief in myself that pulled me through. It was a valuable lesson and I encourage readers to look at their own lives in the same way. It is important to look at our experiences, especially the difficult ones and ask the question “What strength of mine did I discover through this?”
I would lovingly and gently bring the readers’ attention to recognize that, for whatever decisions they regret, they were doing the best they could with the information knowledge and awareness that they had at the time which is completely different to the information, knowledge, wisdom and awareness that they have today. They should not be hard on themselves about past decisions, once again, this would be self-bullying. They should recognize that they were doing their best and commend themselves for doing so.
What are some tips you can give our readers to avoid getting bullied?
One cannot avoid getting bullied per se unless one chooses to hide away from the world which is impractical. Unfortunately, we live in a world where acceptance of every single human being just as they are, is still so far away. I must reiterate that bullies behave the way they do because they hurt what they fear. The targets trigger the bullies’ insecurities. When viewed this way, it is the target who is more powerful than the bully. The target has the power to trigger those insecurities in the bully to which the bully reacts.
If you are different from others, you are most likely going to be targeted by bullies simply because bullies do not understand how it is that you are comfortable in being just yourself without needing to change or fit in just to be accepted by the popular crowd. Somewhere in their lives bullies feel powerless, because of this, they try to find their power by dominating others. Sadly, they don’t realise that the very power they seek lies within them.
The best way for one to combat bullying would be to arm themselves with the techniques that I talk about in my book. One of my favourite techniques to deal with a bully is to disempower them and diffuse the situation. This simple technique can be applied to multiple bullying situations.
What are some tips you can give our readers on how to respond to bullies?
I don’t recommend ignoring the bully and walking away – this will leave you feeling defeated. I feel the best way to demonstrate this is by sharing an example of my own. Many years ago, I locked horns with someone within the family. In one particular incident which took place telephonically, this person called me a bad mother and wife. One would automatically want to defend themselves; I chose not to. This person finally blurted out, “I don’t care about you, I don’t want to see your face ever again!” This was the perfect opportunity for me to use the Sure Pumpkin/UR technique. I replied, “That’s awesome to know! Thank you very much!” Did you see what I did there? I disempowered this person by not reacting nor attacking them in anger and I diffused the situation by not defending myself. The result? They were left speechless and haven’t said anything to me since.
I am currently working on creating a four-week course for teenagers where we will customize each technique from my book to their own unique situation. In the meantime, should a teenager require immediate help, I offer one-to-one consultations and I invite parents to get in touchwith me for this.
If you could give one piece of advice to future students, what would it be?
Pay attention to your fears. What is it that you are afraid of? Your fears are merely showing you what matters to you.
Afraid of a bully? This fear is showing that how you are treated matters to you, you are important to yourself, this fear is showing you that you know you are worthy of being treated well.
Afraid of failing to meet your goals? This fear is showing you how much value your goals hold for you. You care very deeply about your goals.
Afraid of what other people might think? This fear is showing you that your joy and happiness relies on the quality of your relationships, and you don’t want your relationships to be affected by your choices/decisions. You don’t want to be judged or criticized for your choices and in the process lose the relationships you care about. This fear is bringing your attention to whether you fully believe and trust in yourself, your choices, and decisions including those about your relationships. The key to overcoming this fear is fully trusting yourself and your relationships with others because if you do, what others think won’t matter to you and those who matter to you won’t judge or criticize you.
Afraid of a grizzly bear? Of course! This fear is showing you how much your life matters to you!
Don’t be afraid of fear itself. Recognize that fear is just there to protect you. Acknowledge fear as a good thing because it is showing you what matters to you. Instead of focusing on the fear and catastrophizing things, focus on what is behind the fear, focus on what fear is showing you, which is simply what you value the most, what matters to you the most.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Share some advice with us from your experience.
I have an exercise for the readers should they care to indulge me. I would love it if they would journal about this because this interview is not about me, this is about you, the reader.
In your journal, write this question down: “What is it that I am tolerating?”
Don’t justify or explain anything, just make a list of what it is that you are tolerating. By tolerating I mean tolerating a job that makes you unhappy, tolerating a relationship. Write as much as your heart desires.
Next write this question down: “Why am I tolerating this?”
Answer this question for each item on your list from the first question, write as much as you wish to. You might be tolerating a job simply because you feel you can’t get a better job. You might be tolerating a relationship simply because you feel too guilty walking away.
Looking at this list of why you are tolerating what you are, you have the potential to identify some of your limiting beliefs about yourself. My limiting belief was that I was not good enough which is something I am sure many readers can relate to. How does one overcome this limiting belief?
Ask yourself this: Is this belief that I’m not good enough true 100% of the time? Can I find evidence that this limiting belief is true 100% of the time? Or can I find evidence that this limiting belief is NOT true 100% of the time? I am sure you can find a lot of evidence against this limiting belief.
Your experiences will change when you start to recognize your worth. It is your responsibility towards yourself to find your own worth and value within yourself. Seek and I promise, you shall find.
Tell us about your proudest achievement.
Accepting myself just as I am. I discarded the layers that were put on me, the layers that became the conditioned me. The person I thought I had to be so that I would be loved and accepted by others – family included. Truth is I still wasn’t loved and accepted despite changing who I was, and I was miserable inside because I was not being my authentic self. Did embracing my authentic self cause turmoil? Of course, it did. I was abandoned by those who I thought would always have my back but that helped me realize that I don’t want to be around those who cannot accept the real me, those who feel I need to be someone I am not just to “fit in”, those who probably don’t even accept themselves.
I encourage you to embrace who you are, every part of you – especially the parts that make you different because it is in being different that you make a difference in this world.
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