With yet another tragic death, the topic of bullying is at the forefront. Each time this happens, there is talk about what was not done. There is talk about what will be done in the future. Each time, it does not go past the ‘talking’ stage, and the issue is dropped until another girl or boy commits suicide. I don’t know what needs to be done, but I know that things have got to change. We may not be able to supervise our children 24 hours of the day, but we can teach them to be better people. We can teach them that every person is worth something, regardless of what they did or what was done to them. We can teach them to be kind, empathetic, and considerate. We can teach them to treat others they way that they would like to be treated, should their roles be reversed. In the end, children will do what they want, but even if they end up becoming a bully, we can say that we did everything we could have done to teach them differently.
I was bullied from the time I was in grade one, up until grade 8. It was difficult to say the least. There were days during that period when I wanted to die. In the end, I am thankful that I chose life. When you’re constantly being harassed, it feels like the worst thing that could ever happen to you. When you’re young, and your peers are your entire world, it is. As you grow older, your priorities change. All of the sudden, pleasing the crowd isn’t as important. Had I not been bullied as a child, I doubt I’d be the woman I am today.
With that in mind, here are six things I learned from my bullies.
1. You are not defined by what you wear, where you live, or what happens to you.
The primary role of a bully is to make a person feel inadequate. To my bullies, nothing I ever did was good enough. I had the wrong kind of sneaker. When I bought the ‘right’ type of sneaker, they didn’t look good on me. My clothes were strange. I sounded like a white person. (I still don’t know what that means) My worst offense, however, was being confident and positive at a young age. I was raised in a loving home, with two parents who consistently affirmed me and nurtured my growth into a productive member of society. I knew my worth. That is until someone decided that my clothes disqualified me from being one of the ‘good’ people. Being bullied taught me not to put my self worth in something that is changeable.
2. Don’t look for validation from people.
The word validate means to authorize or endorse. No one on earth, other than Revenue Canada, and possibly the DMV, has the right to uphold my existence on this planet. I will continue to live my life, whether I get everyone’s approval, or not. Yes, we are all here to help one another, but when I was born, I did not agree to a contract in which I live by the parameters other people have set for me. If you cannot justify yourself, you sure as heaven cannot validate me.
3. It is okay to be different.
Too much of our time is spent trying to live by other people’s standards of what “normal” is. I have accepted the fact that I will always be different. Not “spooky” different, but odd. The truth is I’d rather be my quirky self, than being ‘normal’ and fitting in with people I do not want to be like.
4. How to tune people out.
My mother told me that if I ignore a bully long enough, eventually they will get bored and find someone else to pick on. Well, since I am an introverted and imaginative type, I taught myself how to tune people out by focusing on something other than what was being said to me. At first, I heard statements such as, “You’re not even going to say anything to defend yourself? You’re a dummy!” But when the bully realized that I was more or less indifferent, he left me alone. I realized that he was the one who had the problem with me and that it wasn’t my job to defend myself against foolishness. On the other hand, I also learned the importance of number 5.
5. Defend yourself.
I have heard some things said about me that were so stupid that they do not even deserve a mention here. People have always called me names and made fun of me. They most likely always will. Oh well. Someone, whether he or she is motivated by insecurity, ambition, jealousy or all three, will have something negative to say about someone else. Their usual objective is to belittle a person and make them feel small. (I’m 5 feet tall and 115 pounds. God made me small enough, thank you.) Because I was bullied, I learned how to use logic as a defense against stupid behaviour. The thing about people who engage in irresponsible behaviour (particularly against other people) is they do not like when the absurdity of what they are doing is pointed out to them. I pointed out how ridiculous it was for them to a) pick on someone who was smaller than them, and b) attack me even though I didn’t do anything to them. I may allow a person to make one or two disparaging remarks at my expense, but if someone attacks my character or my integrity, and violates my civil rights as a human, I will defend myself. I may not slap you across the face as I did to that guy that one time in junior high, but I will tell you when you’ve gone too far.
6. How to be strong. When I was a child, my dad nicknamed me ‘Toughie’. I figured he was disappointed that his “Toughie” grew into a pink-wearing princess who liked reading and make up. I had no interest in fighting as a kid. I soon found out that fights always found their way to me, whether I was interested in them or not. I had to learn how to handle myself whether the fight was physical or verbal. My dad told me that, in a fight, the worst thing to do is to let your emotions to take control. “Angry fighters make mistakes”, he said “They get sloppy. If you want to win, you have to maintain your composure. Think about the process instead of your feelings.” I have heard it said that true strength is power under control. Getting angry and running your mouth is a sign of weakness. Real fighters keep their mouth shut and take care of business. Being the target of bullies helped me learn when it is time to prepare a proper defense…and when it is time to just stand back and watch them get caught up in their own traps.
Being bullied left me with a lot of emotional scars. (And a bully-sized chip on my shoulder) However, the existence of the scars indicates that the wounds are no longer present. I can’t be brought down by the same things that brought me down before because the wounds have healed and are covered with scar tissue. (Any doctor can tell you how tough scar tissue is) If I can pass along one idea to victims of bullying it is this, There is more to life than your current situation. You will not always feel this way, and if you give yourself time, you will tend to be stronger and more resilient. Don’t ever let anyone else determine your worth. You’re too precious for that.