Grown-up Bullies

I've just had an experience that made me think of our topic, Celebrating You. I know I've already posted on this subject, but this has been on my mind.

Does anyone run into Grown-Up Bullies? I just did.

This past month I've started taking this water-aerobics class. I'm trying to hit different instructor's classes to see who I like. I had to take my son Wasabi to the daycare at the gym so I was a few minutes early. I see the instructor and start talking with her very friendly like. She seems nice enough so I strap on my waist buoy and some ankle buoys for some more resistance and grab the
purple hand buoys, like usual! More people start arriving, many I recognize. We start the warm-up. About 5 minutes into the exercise she says to come grab your hand buoys (these are shaped like dumbbells). I confidently grab my purple hand buoys (which have the most resistance) and she says to me in a patronizing way, "Are you sure you want the purple ones?" She says this like she doesn't want me to use them but won't say it. I say, "Yes." Then she says, "Are you sure?!" Okay, it's not like I'm bringing an anvil into the pool, they're just buoys! So I say "Yes!" and take off to join the others.

Now, deeply ingrained in my being is a desire to please everyone combined with this yearning to do the right thing. Once confident, now I'm second guessing myself, "
should I be using the purple buoys?" "Why isn't she using the purple buoys?" "But I like the purple buoys!" The workout goes on. The whole time I'm talking myself into being intimidated by this very intense, controlling person that I've known maybe 30 minutes! I start to feel out of place.

If you've ever been to a deep water water aerobics class, you know that the hand buoys often get switched around because you can't always get to the side of the pool where your buoys are in time for the next exercise. And this lady was a task-master. Not much time in between. Another lady that I know grabbed the purple ones. Not a big deal, she's used them before it's not like she can't handle the apparent girth that seems to be associated with the purple buoys today! I grabbed the black ones that were closest to me and we met in the middle of the pool.

With everyone forming a circle she saw that we had switched buoys. She turns to me and sternly says, "If you
choose the purple buoys, you end with the purple buoys!" Whoa! I do not know what I did to offend this woman but I could not believe the public reprimand she gave me! She talked to me like a 3rd grader. My mind went blank! How do I respond to such a bully!

With all the positive energy I could muster I sheepishly said, "That's fine. I don't mind them." The lady who had them kept telling the instructor she didn't mind, but I guess that wasn't the point of this little exercise. I was in a power-struggle and didn't even know it! The class ended with tension in the air as I quickly put my buoys away and scurried out to get Wasabi.

On the ride home I felt like crying. I was upset and embarrassed. After being grateful I was in no way related to this woman, I tried to understand what would make someone so keen on having all the control. And how did I get sucked into her control issues? After a long conversation with myself, I decided this had nothing to do with me or who I am as a person. I would no longer carry her load of insecurities just because she treated me poorly. Luckily, I have the choice never to see this woman again.

But I can sit here and think of other people who are Grown-Up Bullies who I
did have to deal with daily. They perfect the craft of intimidation to get ahead or in someway feel good about themselves if I would submit to their way of doing things. As I've grown I've realized the importance of finding my own voice and living with the results, whether they were positive or negative. It's really hard for me not to shrink in intimidation when confronted with a Bully, but I refuse to disappear. I try not to have many regrets, but the regrets I do have are the ones where I let myself be misunderstood or misrepresented. Who I am is getting more important to me everyday. The more I use my voice the more I understand myself and my place in this world. And if I want purple buoys, I'll have my purple buoys!

I feel bad for this woman. I don't hate her and I'm not angry at her anymore. I hope she finds peace in her life. She is on her own journey to loving herself. Unfortunately, I don't know her at all so I can't even blame her actions on a bad day. All I can do is forgive her, hug Wasabi, and move on.


Mamma Mia said...

is it bad that your description of yourself buckled in buoys from head to toe and being reprimanded by the drill sargent of the water made me bust up laughing?

You handled that with much more dignity than I would have. Good on you for getting out there. I really admire how determined you are in your health goals. If I was there, I would go with you...or make you...make me...go with you!

Tallulah said...

Mamma Mia,
Your comment made me laugh so hard! I really have painted a funny picture of myself! When I called my mom to tell her what happened she thought I was saying "boobies" instead of "buoys!" How funny would that picture be!

I did end up talking to the program manager about the incident and she was really grateful for the feedback. I was hoping for a free 10-class punch card but I guess she wasn't that grateful! I do feel better having reported it, though. That was so unprofessional!

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