• Computer Problems? David can help
  • Buy the 11th edition of Know-it-all passport
  • Cirieco Design - Graphic Design and Marketing Services


By Elizabeth Ballin, Mental Health and Life Coach/Mindfulness Practitioner

A lifetime ago, back when I was working in a company, two of my line managers started bullying me.

I struggled to make sense of what was happening to me, but tried as I might, I could not “reason” my way to a solution. It knocked me off my feet both emotionally and physically. A day before my summer break one year, I was given a glowing job review saying that I was tenacious, energetic, gave my heart and soul to my job and was creative in finding solutions and a devoted team member.

When I came back from my summer holiday, these two line-managers stopped talking to me. I got no response when I said "hello". The work that I valued was taken from me and given to others, and I was no longer included in any meetings.

I found myself losing motivation to perform
I was being isolated in my own work environment. I could overhear whispering behind their closed doors - in an office environment where we had an open door policy. I could not be certain if they were talking about me or not, and the doubt started to drive me crazy.

Unexplained changes in behavior are destabilizing and drives us to seek out the causes of the change. I thought if I could just understand why my managers’ behavior towards me had changed, I could resolve the situation. But I received no response to my repeated requests for a sit-down meeting to discuss what was wrong. No feedback, no explanation.

I went home in total despair to my partner and children who were supportive but couldn’t answer my “why” questions.

I couldn’t sleep; I cried and shut down
I spoke to human resources who sung my praises but who could not give me any guidance. My colleagues were as perplexed as I was. I went to our Executive Director, and he didn’t know either. Everyone either pretended they didn’t know or were outraged by my story but had no solutions. In absence of an external reason for what was happening, I turned on myself.

I lost my sense of identity
The poison of self-doubt set in and debilitated me. Anxiety and self-loathing crept into my core being.

To this day, no one has told me why. Reason and rationale were not going to help me overcome the problem. Formal complaints mechanisms were not providing solutions. To survive, I had to develop the tools and the inner strength needed to get me through.


One of the worst aspects of bullying is that it makes one question oneself. It is often difficult or even impossible to understand this kind of behavior in others. We say to ourselves: “I would never do that to a person, so is it me who has done something to deserve this.” We often try to fix the problem: “Let’s talk about it”. “What can I do to make it better?“ “I am sure there is a solution”. This is what we are taught in primary school, right? We desperately try to keep the dialogue open and find ways to overcome the conflict.

But the goal of bullying isn’t to establish dialogue or find solutions. It’s about making the other person feel so inadequate that they blame themselves, not the bully, which can cause serious mental and physical health issues. People who are bullied tend to close-up in a “fight, flight or freeze” position, feeling impotent and losing their sense of identity and agency. Their bodies tense up, their mind stays stuck in the same negative story line, and the problem-solving mind looks for ways to fix a problem that it cannot fix; panic disorders, insomnia and all sorts of emotional unpleasantries can arise.

Stategies to move forward
Every target of bullying at some point will consider whether to use formal complaints mechanisms. Whether you choose to pursue these avenues or not, there are strategies that can help you weather the storm. While you may not be able to change the bully you can make sure that you protect yourself by changing how you react so that you don’t turn the negativity inwards. This is where the work must be done.

A good place to start is to take some time to reflect on your own resources. What are the internal and external strengths that have gotten you through other difficult times? My strengths I used were conscientiousness, creativity, curiosity, honesty, love of learning, diligence, mental agility, problem solving, fairness, love of life, optimism and humor. All of these played a huge role in figuring out what direction I needed to take. And as I tapped into those, it was easier to focus on building my weaker points.

Take time to look at your intrinsic values
How would you want to be remembered in your lifetime? Use this list to motivate youself in a productive way. Lean on your social connections and support. Train your mind to be less judgmental, giving your mind space to grow, take chances, fight back and regain a sense of purpose. Practice gratitude for what you have and give more emotional space and importance to those who love you than to those who are trying to destroy you. And most importantly, practice self-compassion.

I would ask myself, what would I tell a friend if they were in my position, and then apply that to myself, reminding myself to not let self-doubt or judgement hold me back from accomplishing what I want. To have self-compassion “helps deactivate the threat system, fosters psychological flexibility” (Kristin Neff, Dennis Tirch, Self-Compassion and Act, 2009) and gives you the ability to accept situations either negative or positive so you can act more resourcefully.


Prioritize YOU
Like with all challenges in life, your priority must be your own mental and physical well-being. You will need it to better defend yourself and to proactively take on the bully. You must intentionally make the decision to trust and nurture yourself. Knowing what you can control and can’t control – and practicing acceptance of what you can’t control – is a good first step to know where to put your attention and energy.

You may not be able to save your job, marriage, friendship, but you will be in better mental and physical shape to stand up for what is right, act in line with your values, and move on to a more meaningful and rewarding life that really belongs to you. Get professional help and guidance as well as legal advice if you need to as I did.

What you can learn from this experience
My coach helped me keep the focus on what I needed to build within myself so I could face those who were attacking me and have a better understanding of knowing what to do. And from everything I endured, experienced and learned, I moved onto a much richer life and career. I stayed close to my values and continued to be that devoted, energetic, creative problem solver that I really am. And as you start to rebuild your strength and confidence, make sure you reach out to friends and family who will always be there to help you stay on track. Spend time on activities that ground you and remind you of who you are. And remember, make your mental and physical wellbeing the priority. It’s a lifetime win-win choice.

If this article has touched you in any way, or if you are searching for help with issues to do with mental health, life coaching, or mindfulness, then please contact Elizabeth Ballin through the website or +41 76 364 66 31 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Author Bio

Elizabeth Ballin Life CoachElizabeth Ballin, Mental Health and Life Coach/Mindfulness Practitioner

As a long time member of the international community in Geneva, Elizabeth Ballin has been coaching adults and students from all parts of the world. She has coached business professionals, musicians/artists, couples, families and adolescents. She is a fully accredited Life Coach by the International Coaching Federation. https://ballincoaching.ch