Have you ever bullied someone else?  Think about why you did it and how you were feeling at the time.  Now, think about how the target of your bullying must have felt.  Neither thought should make you feel good.

It takes courage to stop being a bully.  Just because you’ve been involved in it doesn’t mean you have to continue.  You have to want to change.  Help with bullying is not only available to those who’ve been bullied.  Just as targets of bullies need coping skills and support, so do bullies themselves.

It helps to have a reason to change.  Start looking at the consequences of your bullying.  Do people avoid being around you because of your behavior?  Are you constantly getting into trouble?  Have you been suspended from school or even expelled?  Have the police been involved in your situation?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, you definitely have a reason to change.

If your actions are having a negative effect on yourself or others, it’s time to start thinking of ways to be different.  If you are a bully, you can always start over and build something better, something closer to your highest potential.  Remember, no one limits the number of choices you get.  That’s entirely up to you.  Choose to be better.  Make that choice today.

Here’s how you can get started:

Recognize and admit that you are a bully, and that your actions are hurting people. That’s the most important place to begin.  Talk to an adult you trust.  Meet with a parent, teacher or school guidance counselor to learn how to ditch your bullying ways. Don’t worry about getting into trouble.  Adults and many of your peers (people your age) will respect you for wanting to change.  Seek support from your peers.  Many schools have peer-support groups, where students are trained to help each other deal with bullying.  Peer-support is also available to students who identify themselves as bullies.

If you’re worried about being judged, and don’t want to speak to anyone you know, you can get help another way.  Telephone support lines* are also available.  You can make a call anonymously, meaning that no one has to know who you are.  Trained telephone counselors will listen to your problem and offer advice.  There is no shame in admitting that you’ve been a bully.  The shame is in continuing the behavior.

Look within yourself.  Find better ways to deal with your anger.  Become physically active with sports or exercise.  Get involved in after school activities.  Build positive friendships with people your age.  Meet regularly with an adult mentor or professional counselor to talk out your feelings.  Think of the consequences of not changing your behavior.  Many bullies who start out at a young age find themselves serving time in jail later in life.  Others have their lives cut short way too soon as a result of their choices.

Bully is not a label that you have to wear for the rest of your life.  No matter what other people might think of you, no matter what they might remember about you, it is possible for you to change.

(*There’s help at the end of the line when you call the Boys Town National Hotlinewhich is not just for boys, by the way. Whether you’re a child, teen or parent, they can help. 1-800-448-3000.  2NDFLOOR is a confidential and anonymous helpline for New Jersey’s youth and young adults.  If you need to talk about an issue or problem that you are facing, call 2NDFLOOR at 1-888-222-2228.)

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