I’ve learned a life worth living is one in which a person is true to themselves, their beliefs, and their heart’s desire despite what their family, peers, community, or society thinks.
Some laugh at the term “bullying,” thinking its simply weak people whining about actions of a more assertive person. Occasionally, that may be the case, and people do just need to put on their big girl/pants, take a little constructive criticism, and get on with life.
But being emotionally and even physically abused by peers is a real thing. For adults and children.
My Bullying Experience
As a child, the thought of going to school made me sick to my stomach The popular girls, the redneck boys, and the kids who opportunistically joined them to avoid being their target.
Everyday was panic and dread. Some days, I’d get ready for school, then stand in front of a full-length mirror trying to spot anything that could fuel their fire. Unfortunately, if they couldn’t find something wrong with my appearance, they’d resort to their ever-faithful insult – turning my name from “Dorothy” to “Dorky.”
No matter what I did, it never stopped.
Some nice kids would periodically remind me to ignore the bullies, but so often, the negative outweighed the positive. There were days I’d make myself sick, so I could leave school and the ridicule.
As I progressed to middle and high school, I developed a larger circle of friends – five or six girl pals – but the bullies keeping pushing. A redneck boy, who literally followed on my heels whispering insults in my ear, or the popular girl, who softly giggled to her followers while sending me a snide, sideways glance.
Standing Up to My Bullies
My senior year in high school, the bullies stopped. Why? Because I exploded. I mean, literally lost my shit.
One morning in shop class, a couple redneck boys broke my last proverbial straw, and I lashed out. Hard.
The emotional bullying turned physical when one of the boys struck me in the leg with a 2×4. Though the blow stunned me for a minute, it also released almost 13 years of pent-up aggression. And I attacked.
With one swift motion, I got to my feet and tornadoed towards the boys reaching out for the first thing I could grab. I connected.
I don’t even remember what happened next. I was in a blind rage. Onlookers said I grabbed this boy, pushed him up against the wall by his neck, and proceeded to wail on his face. Some told me I even lifted him off the ground by the throat his feet dangling while I punched.
By the looks of the aftermath, I’d say they weren’t far from the truth. One black eye, one bloody nose, and two busted lips later, the boy followed me up the hall to the Principal’s office. While he was bent forward holding his wounds and catching blood droplets, I walked, unscathed, with my chin up. I’d had it, and I didn’t care what trouble I got into.
I ended up getting in-school suspension for three days, but for me, it was worth it. Not because I beat up some little snot-nosed brat but because I FINALLY stood up for myself.
For any bully victims, I don’t recommend bottling your frustrations until you explode! There are better ways!
Even though bullying made my school years a living hell, I learned some valuable lessons. It took me quite a while (even through my 20’s) to realize those epiphanies…
…So I’m hoping my list below will help those struggling with past or present bullying:
1. DIFFERENT DOESN’T MEAN WRONG
I’ve always known I was different. But throughout my first 30 years, I thought being different meant being wrong. Turns out, my thinking was wrong. Not me.
Around 32-years-old, I realized: “I’m different… not wrong. There’s a difference!”
Unlike others around me, my thoughts and dreams unfolded differently. I wasn’t necessarily maternal, housewife-type, who grew up wanting to marry and have babies. Traditionally, that’s what women in my community did. (Nothing wrong with that! But it wasn’t for me.)
I also didn’t want a conventional 9-5 job. Typically, that’s what people in my community did. (Again, nothing wrong with that.)
Just because you don’t operate, think, or act like people around you, doesn’t mean your wrong. In fact, I guarantee there are others out there like you. I eventually found “my people,” but I also realized, I could be happy with myself and by myself.
2. EMBRACE YOUR UNIQUENESS, AND BE PROUD OF IT
As cliché as it may sound, I found myself during my early-30’s. Looking back at the awkward girl in school, I am damn happy I was different. Furthermore, I’m absolutely confident in the strong, spirit-filled, unique woman I’ve grown to be.
Who wants to be like everyone else?
Who wants to conform to the same cookie-cutter popular girl?
Who wants to join in on making fun of others just to take the target off themselves?
As a dance teacher, I’ve seen young kids struggle with bullying. One particular mom pulled her young girl from school because of this meanness. I had the awesome opportunity to set this little girl down, let her in on my bullied past, and tell her how truly beautiful she is because of her uniqueness.
And this little girl? Different though she may be (who isn’t?), she is so cool! And she’s going to show her bullies just how cool she is! I see her self-confidence growing all the time. She seems more comfortable with herself. Happy. Confident in the fact those who judge her are wrong. I love it.
3. YOU HAVE THE POWER TO DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM NEGATIVE PEOPLE
There is a woman in my community who loves to gossip. She’s even spread rumors about me in her day. (Adult bullying? Yes, it’s a thing.)
Everyday I’m sure she’s on the phone with her hens clucking up the latest news and creating her own “facts” to fill in the information gaps.
Yet, she will post “love your neighbor” memes on Facebook. She even posted one about how much she hates small-town gossip! (Face palm….) The thought of her initially sickens me, but as easy as that thought enters my mind, I let it flow out.
Accept her? Though it’s hard, I try. Not because I approve of her behavior, but because there’s likely nothing I can do to change her. Furthermore, there are a lot more important, positive things to concentrate on.
As you consider accepting yucky people, you’ll likely start questioning why you’re wasting time and energy on them.
That’s the conclusion I’ve come to: If someone isn’t up-to-snuff with your ideals, beliefs, morals, etc., then simply move on. (It seems like an easy less to learn…?) Deciding what you believe and banishing this person from your mind doesn’t mean your passing judgment. It means you’ve recognized a person you don’t want to be around. And there’s nothing wrong with making the decision to keep them away.
4. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU
One very important lesson I learned from bullying is not to bully. There are many opportunities to be mean to people. Facebook and social media opened up a whole new platform from the bullying of my youth, and everyone knows – cowardly people say things on Facebook they wouldn’t say to your face.
Additionally, you bully people you love without noticing it. In fact, scientific studies prove we hurt the ones we’re closest to.
Before you pass judgment, talk about, or ridicule someone you don’t agree with, consider what makes them tick. That small-town, gossipy woman may have low self-esteem, which causes her malice for others. That doesn’t justify her actions, but it gives you compassion for her.
5. COMBAT NEGATIVITY WITH POSITIVITY
Once you gain more self-confidence, you care less about what bullies think and more about lifting others up. You’ll develop stronger inner strength, ethics, and morals that allow you to discredit and disregard negative people. This leaves more opportunity to focus on and spread positivity.
Sometimes, you’ll have an opening to spread positivity to negative people. When that opportunity arises, do it. Even if “they don’t deserve it,” do it.
Your actions will spread positivity, and whether that negative person sees it or not, you have added more love to the world, which is never a bad thing. Moreover, someone may see what you’re doing and follow suit.
6. A BULLY’S GREATEST WEAKNESS IS A TARGET WITH SELF-CONFIDENCE
If you’re holding a red rose in your hand, and someone tells you it’s purple, would you believe them? No.
So if a bully tells you you’re worthless and you know that’s wrong, will you believe them? No. Not with confidence.
A bully can’t fight someone who knows the truth about themselves. Granted, we’re all constantly discovering those truths, but if you’re confident in yourself, your style, your beliefs, your stance on topics, then you have armor to combat bullying.
It doesn’t always mean a bully will see the light, but that doesn’t matter. YOU know what YOU think and who YOU are, and THAT’S what matters.
7. OPINIONS ARE LIKE A NOSE – EVERYONE HAS ONE
Let’s take the coronavirus, for example….
Some, who believe it’s simply a flu bug, are lashing out at public health officials and community leaders for their whimpy, “flower-like” behavior.
My personal opinion – influenza killed hundreds of thousands of people in the early 1900’s. Swarms of Italian COVID-19 victims died. So why not take precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus in our country?
Yes, some measures are extreme, but we will survive. Somehow. Even if it isn’t easy.
Friends and family members have absolutely jumped down my throat because of my opinion telling me I’m wrong and foolish. Do I believe them? No. Do I examine their position? Yes, but ultimately I decide what I believe and stick with it. I have confidence in my position, and I don’t need (nor want) justification from others.
Whether a bully is picking on kids at school, adults at work, or in the cyber world, they are the one who are wrong. Not you.
Know why? Because the good Lord made us (flaws and all), and He doesn’t make mistakes. God/the Universe/whatever you believe created us perfectly to live, exist, and make our specific impact on this earth.
Do the world a favor, and don’t wait another day to truly embrace who you are.
It’s exciting and fun to become friends with and learn lessons about yourself. That means embracing dreams, happiness, fears, sadness – the whole nine yards. That also means embracing your flaws.
Find empowering quotes, plan fun activities, spread bullying awareness, and embrace yourself fully. YOU ARE YOU!! Live in a way YOU deem worthy, and screw what everyone else thinks! (Trust me… It’s way more fun!)
For PARENTS WHO ARE EMPOWERING BULLIED CHILDREN, here’s a helpful post!