I was one of those kids that loved going to school. It wasn’t so much the educational aspect, it was more the socializing. I had a lot of fun with my friends. I got along with most people.
Haters are going to hate and all that, but if was disliked I was pleasantly unaware.
At school I was very much present and involved. I played netball for a club and danced in the Rock Eisteddfod challenges. I never let the flu or anything else get in my way because I didn’t want to miss anything. I had a great group of friends and my parents never had reason to complain about my grades.
I think back to my school days as happy times. Not a lot of people can say that. The amount of bullying, the escalation of the damage kids can cause other kids is scary.
I am happy to say that I don’t remember really being bullied at school.
I guess if I scratch deep into my memory bank I might find less than a handful of times that I felt peer pressure or remember being maliciously treated.
Perhaps it was hard to faze me back then or I was just a tough nut.
As far as peer pressure goes, I guess I felt it a little the first time I was offered a cigarette. I declined and expressed how gross and uncool I thought it was. My dad smoked a lot when I was growing up. I hated the smell and when he gave it up; I saw how difficult it was for him. There was no way I was going to touch one.
Once I firmly said no, I wasn’t bothered again.
The only time I can recall someone made me feel ugly or not pretty enough was when one of my best friends fell for my boyfriend.
She was blonde and tall and I was not those things. She told me that she was very sorry but that she had feelings for my boyfriend. She basically explained that she was not to blame because ‘the heart wants what the heart wants’.
The fact that she was so confident that he would leave me for her made me question my appearance. To her there was no doubt in the world that he would rather be with someone like her than with me.
I had spent the whole day convinced that he was going to dump me. After school that afternoon he told me that he let her know that he only had eyes for me, I almost cried.
I guess I could have spiralled into a world of self-doubt but I didn’t. I was stronger than that. I was, to a healthy degree, happy with myself. Don’t get me wrong, I had issues, my hair could have being curlier, I wished I was taller but I had no illusions of becoming a super model. I was ok though, I was happy.
My parents didn’t constantly tell me I was beautiful or suggest that I enter any beauty pageants. They did better; they didn’t place any real importance on beauty.
They would laugh at my wit and they tried not to laugh when they cautioned me about sarcasm. Any praises made my way were all related to my brain or my keenness of mastering anything I set my mind to.
They encouraged me to have fun not to just win, I encouraged me to win, but they just wanted me to be happy.
I remember one weekend I was at a netball comp, it was close to the end of the year and we were undefeated. I was Captain and played the centre position. I listened to this girl trash talk and try to intimidate me the entire game. It was annoying but I was too busy winning to take in any of her abuse. When the Ref tossed the ball in the air, instead of trying to win the toss-up she punched me in the face.
I had never been hit before, or since. Let me tell you, it hurt!
I couldn’t understand why she would do that. It was a game and sure, I am competitive, but I would never dream of hurting someone to win.
Aren’t games are meant to be fun?
It wasn’t until I was much older that I experienced the hell of a real bully. The dread of going to work manifested in fear and anxiety.
The knowledge that there was someone waiting for me at work that was blatantly against me, hating me and wanting me to fail made me ill.
I tried to win my bully over by doing my best and proving him wrong. If I was better maybe he would respect me. If tried harder than anyone else maybe he wouldn’t do his best to make me feel stupid in front of my peers. If I was better, if I was smarter, if I was stronger… maybe it would end.
When someone chips away at you for years, eventually they leave a mark.
Unlike a lot of victims of bullies, I was old enough and had enough self-confidence to realise that I wasn’t the problem. He was the problem.
I didn’t need to better or smarter or stronger, I was, I am all those things. I believe that he behaved the way he did because he knew it.
He used his position of authority as a whipping podium and I had to endure it.
With bullies it’s never personal. I was the newbie, the girl, and he was going to break me in.
I’ve heard since that his version of events is that he practiced tough love, that I was too nice to be in that world and his constant verbal and mental abuse was his way of toughing me up.
If that’s true then he failed to realise that Mr Miyagi made the Karate Kid a champion by believing in him. He earned his trust. He taught him that there is more to life than power and strength. The kid that was taught ‘No Mercy’ was the kid that lost, not The Karate Kid.
Any time you are hurting someone, stripping them of their dignity or making them feel unwelcome, unwanted or unworthy, the only trophy you are winning is the one of a despicable human being.
There is nothing remotely cool about it. Your words have the ability to cause serious harm. Its unfathomable how many people end their lives to stop having to face their bully one more time.
If your friends are harassing someone else, you can bet money that one day they will turn the tables on you.
A person like that, who has to twist their shoe until they hear the crunch of the other person breaking, is not someone who is anyone’s friend.
I wrote a little while ago that nothing good comes out of changing someone through violence. It was a sentence that resonated with people. You don’t have to bruise flesh or break bones to be a bully. A bully will use words, intimation, fear, and manipulation. A bully will use other people to make you feel alone.
A bully does all these things to pump themselves up. The lower you feel the higher they feel.
If you stand out in anyway, good or bad you are a potential target. Did you know that there are parents allowing their young children undergo plastic surgery to combat bullying? For example, Samantha Shaw, a 1st grader, had her ears surgically pinned back to prevent being bullied. Isn’t that the saddest thing you have ever heard?
Technology today has made a once somewhat personal humiliating experience feel like a telecasted event. If there is a bad photo or video of you out there, mean kids at school will spread it to an audience of thousands within minutes.
Years ago we would get called embarrassing or nasty names, now there are memes and gif being made and distributed. Can you imagine experiencing that level of humiliation? Is it any wonder why so many of our youth want to end their lives?
Unfortunately there is not much you can do about other people’s behaviour. You can however choose not to participate, don’t allow yourself to be used as a tool to hurt another person.
It’s so important to know your worth. No matter how old you are, you are someone’s child, someone’s friend and one day, someone’s parent or mentor.
If you don’t see the importance of your role in this life when you look in the mirror then you have work to do.
There are things that I have learned that help me refocus when I am being thrown around by a bully.
When I encounter a mean person, I know two things. I know their verbal currency holds no value in my world and I know that I have no time to spare for them.
When I get pushed down (or punched in the face) I dust myself off and get back up again.
When the world is against me (seemingly), I know that if I remain the steady, good person I was raised to be ‘that this too will pass’.
When I am being bullied, I recognise that the bully’s actions are a reflection of who THEY are. I have little if nothing to do with it.
When I see someone else getting bullied I know it’s my obligation as a human being to offer assistance. The right thing to do is to protect them or to be their voice when they can’t find their own.
If you are being bullied or know someone who is make sure you let someone know. Speak up and Stand up. You could save someone’s life.
They say you turn into the three people you most hang around with. Who are you becoming? Will you like yourself in five years?
Below are a few helpful links:
With much love,