She is 16 years old. Not a cocksure, streetsmart kind of 16 year old either but a naive and self conscious one. She’s on her way home, when a gang of girls surround her, and viciously taunt her, calling her names, before the end result – a knife to her throat. She’s terrified, but not surprised. Bullying is all she knows, and she’s pretty sure it won’t stop now.
This story is troubling, but it’s a true one – and it’s mine.
When I was 16, my entire school class of 25 girls chanted that I was poor and disgusting and coined me the name ‘Smella Carmela’ after my middle name (I grew up in a council house but got a scholarship to a private school). This led to the incident with the knife.
At 19, I married a much older guy who thought that using his fists was a tool for persuasion.
In my first job aged 21, a group of 6 women harassed me for weeks because a guy one of them liked asked me on a date. My boss fired me because he was worried for my safety.
Fast forward 20 years, and the woman you see now is almost unrecognisable to this petrified child, but scratch the surface and she’s still there. Being an entrepreneur, solo business owner or freelancer can be challenging when you come across bullying; especially in the online coaching space. Whilst you will see social media posts preaching ‘community over competition’, the reality behind the scenes paints a somewhat different picture.
It’s a topic that is rarely spoken about.
People wait for you to fall because seeing others’ success makes people act in very strange and unpredictable ways. Often fuelled by jealousy and envy, it brings out their own insecurities and worries and unfortunately but unsurprisingly; this leads to a lot of bullying. And while the bullies are the perpetrator – it’s also the goading gangs behind them that can actually make it worse and I would know…
Now in my successful online coaching business, some peers who I have looked up to, worked with or trusted have turned against me if my success is deemed ‘greater’ than theirs.
Bullying of any kind is never OK but at some point you can make a decision. They’re either right and you will never amount to anything, or you can be brave – use every bit of your strength and decide to prove them wrong. I choose the latter.
It can be hard as an entrepreneur to stand out on social media, in your online marketing or to stand up on stage, at conferences or events. Not only sharing your expertise, but to also share your story. It can leave you feeling vulnerable or worried about what people think.
This is why I recently ran a ‘no fear’ challenge in my online membership because I know how hard it can be. It was no surprise to me that so many people had a fear around being criticised if they become more visible in their businesses. The worry about being judged and others having opinions on them was huge. In the years I’ve been in business, I’ve noticed one big thing: the reason that people judge is overwhelmingly usually because they wish they were doing what you are. It’s almost always down to misplaced envy. And so there’s no reason to fear it. Instead ask yourself – is my fear of being criticised or bullied stronger and more important than my desire to be successful?
Remember, you will only be targeted and criticised by those who are less successful than you, never those who have achieved more than you..
Something I teach my clients all the time is how important it is to really live your values in your business and in your life. For instance, if you talk about community over competition then you must truly live that value. It cannot be a soundbite.
If you talk about compassion, have compassion.
Even when you don’t feel like it and every part of you wants to defend or act smug. Be kinder. Not because it helps you to let go of things but because it’s the right thing to do.
If your messaging is about integrity, show true integrity. Not the type that you want your followers to see so that you can feel good about yourself and tick a box. But acting the right way even when nobody will ever know and you aren’t proving anything to anyone.
CS Lewis said – “Do the right thing even when no one is watching”. This is real integrity.
Values may well be part of who you are but truly living them may still take effort. But that effort is worth it. When you really start living your values, then it will show in everything you do. From the content you create to how you show up, and that’s when you’ll attract the people you’ve always wanted into your life and business and that leads to success.
You have a choice in who you want to be. If you’ve ever been bullied as a child or an adult, I stand with you and I know you can rise up. No more hiding. I don’t say this lightly – believe me when I tell you I get how you feel right now. You’re strong though and you are needed in this world. Are you ready to stop hiding? Have you ever been bullied in the entrepreneurial space? I would love to hear from you.