Power and manipulation: resisting the pull to conform.

I’ve been debating whether to write this blog or not for a while. Bullying is a serious topic, and those of us who have been bullied have one thing in common – talking about it induces a whole pile of nerves and anxiety. For a start you wonder if anyone will believe you. You wonder if people will think you’re weak, or a doormat, or being paranoid, or just being a bit daft about the whole thing.

But you’re not, I’m not, we’re none of those things. Bullying can happen to anyone, and often does. So I figured this blog should be written. I also realised that the people involved in the particular situation relating to myself would never read this and so it didn’t really matter if I posted this or not. But if they do, I no longer care. I’ve sorted a lot of stuff out this past year, and I’ve moved on from a considerable amount of my past. I’m not prepared to either change or accept how I’ve been treated.


Bullying happens, a lot, and sadly it’s an adaptive evolutionary trait. We compete for resources, be that food, sex, or power. Competition involves some individuals beating others to the prizes. We have evolved to do this in a variety of ways, but bullying is technically an adaptive trait – because it intimidates some individuals into allowing others access to these prized resources.

Technically it’s a survival tactic. Bullying ensures those individuals who deviate, and therefore risk the safety of the group, are brought into line – the safety of the group is paramount. This applies to groups of chimps, colleagues, families, friends, all groups. Groups are groups. Those who conform are part of the ‘in-group’ and those who do not conform are part of the ‘out-group’ and are not included so that the safety of the ‘in-group’ is not compromised. It’s survival of the fittest, but it’s a warped and deviant version of that. Anyone who deviates from the norm is ‘brought into line’ or removed from the group.


We’re still exhibiting these evolved traits. Some individuals in society force others to conform to their desires/demands, some individuals allow this to happen for various reasons – be that intimidation, fear, desire not to be ostracised from the group, sense of vulnerability, and so on.  And it works, some individuals gain power over others and feel they can control their behaviour to their own ends. I know a number of bullies deliberately do this, but I doubt the majority even know they’re doing it. It’s so ingrained in society to conform to the ‘in-group’, to point out when things are different, that most won’t even recognise the bully mind-set or actions.

Forcing people to conform is normal in society, we have rules to follow, and stepping out of line is frowned upon. Conformity is expected, just look at what happens when people deviate from the norm, they’re made examples of, and the ‘herd’ join forces to explain to them why they’re ‘wrong’.

I’m really not good at following the herd, I never have been. I failed my application for the Civil Service because I was seen as ‘too independent’ (this is the genuine reason they gave, and it will surprise nobody who knows me). I simply don’t want to be like everyone else, but I’ve never really advertised this. I don’t dress in an alternative style, I don’t dye my hair or have any tattoos. I just follow my own moral compass and make my own independent decisions without reference to anyone. I don’t follow the herd and this has caused friction in parts of my life. I’m an oddball, I don’t conform, but this shouldn’t be an issue.

However, I have still let others bully me. It’s not that anyone has been deliberately mean, at least not for a long time, more that I’m ostracised and not included, it’s been made clear I’m not the same and that this is a negative thing. Apparently I’m too nice and it’s my own fault I’ve let people treat me this way, just because I don’t want to upset anyone.

baggage 5

I still don’t, I’ll never be someone who is comfortable upsetting anyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’ve stopped playing the game I was in. I’ve stopped responding to the tactics, be they unconscious or otherwise. This may mean being ostracised for a considerable time, but I accept this. We are who we are, society is as it is, and we have evolved into the beings we have evolved into. But that doesn’t mean I need to comply with this, it doesn’t mean I need to do as others think I should do. I cannot, and I will not, change who I am, I’ve been through too much for that.

So I’m standing up for myself, taking a stand. I’m no doormat, I’m not going to conform just because I don’t want to upset anyone. If I don’t agree I will say so. If this upsets people then they can take a good hard look at themselves and think about why this bothers them – because disagreement is normal, it’s healthy, it’s productive and given I’m typically vocal about thinking for myself it shouldn’t be unexpected.

My recent opposition to demands appears to have created a void, my responses are unexpected to some, and there is silence in its wake. Which I was completely prepared for. The result of not being in the ‘in-group’ is being ostracised to the ‘out-group’. Well that’s OK, I’m used to that. This ‘out-group’ is where my tribe live, and I’m quite happy here, it’s my ‘in-group’ and I belong here.


I am not changing to please others and I am not going against things I believe strongly just because others think I should. I have morals, I have a conscience and I have survived a lot. I am not going to bow to demands that contradict things I know to be right. I am not afraid to be on the outside.

Humans might have evolved bullying as an adaptive strategy, but that doesn’t mean we need to conform to it. I for one am not going to. As a friend recently said in relation to something else, I’ve given myself ‘the gift of bravery’ for my birthday. I lost this side of me a long time ago, I’m glad I’ve found the confidence to be this way again. Try it, it’s liberating.



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