“When they go low, we go high” famously said former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama about the attacks she and Barack Obama were facing at the time. The phrase stuck because it not only embodies resistance to pain and frustration but also a hope in bettering what we are individually and as a community.
Bullying was always a problem in society, even when the term wasn’t coined yet and with the social networks it seems to escalate in ways no one has seen coming. We feel unsafe in the virtual world, in the same form or even more so, than we would in a dangerous street. Critical voices can cut like a sharp knife, criticizing our weight, haircut, our words, everything. The effects of bullying are being studied and it’s very difficult to unpack the discourses of discrimination and hurtful insults.
Many of us don’t feel comfortable with people who stand out, that are out of the box, so we cut them down a size, as if bullying was some sort of social justice and not the hate speech/act that it is. It in hinders our confidence, our self-esteem and sense of self. It breaks our spirits. How many children and teenagers fall asleep crying because they have been bullied in school or in a chat room, humiliated and being made fun of? It’s truly heartbreaking that some people feel good behaving this way, at the expense of someone else’s well-being.
As someone who suffered bullying in different ways through my childhood and adolescent years, I can say the scars are still here and although time passes, it’s difficult to heal. You feel unsure of yourself, like everyone will talk bad words behind your back, you are defensive even when you don’t have to, you keep your guard on because you are afraid of the pain.
I wanted to identify two common reasons for bullying:
- a) Physical appearance: You can be called too tall, too short, too thin, too fat. You can be discriminated against by your skin color, by the aspect of your teeth, by wearing glasses, by having kinky hair, by your talk, by your walk. Without being exhaustive, anything can be mocked if one cruel person decides to do so. By labelling you as different, unfit, ugly or whatever. And you cannot let that crush your soul. You are unique and perfect just the way you are. Your body is magic. You must like who are and own it. Beauty is only skin deep and although everyone is entitled to their opinion, do not let it kill your confidence.
- b) Personality and other characteristics: If in some way you are out of the norm in your grades, you can be called out. If you score low, you can be called dumb. If you are acing your tests, you can be called someone who is nerd, who lives only for studying, that tries too hard or even, someone who just tests well but is not even smart at all. Those comments hurt and can make you question your worth and the truth. There are countless stories of children who had bubbly and outgoing personalities that turned painfully shy and inwards when they started being bullied. There is no right or wrong personality, as long as you are being yourself and not living for anyone else’s standards. If you are naturally introvert, for example, you don’t have to change to tend to other people’s needs, only if you want to. You know what feels right, search for your identity and do not let anyone stop you from being in your own path. Define what matters to you and block out the rest. Once you see things more clearly, anything else is just outside noise.
If you’re going through a hard time with bullying please just keep going, seek for support, counseling and focus on finding positive solutions. Don’t give up on yourself on your dreams just because the odds seem to be against you.
Don’t dim your light or downplay your achievements. It’s okay to be yourself, you are enough just the way you are. In the words of Elaine Welteroth “When the world tells you to shrink, expand”. Go for whatever it is that you want, with joy and a sense of purpose. We all get caught up in the negativity spread towards us sometimes, we all have doubts and feel lost in a maze, we all fail. But keep your goals in mind and try your best, shine, don’t hide your quirks and special characteristics because someone makes you feel inadequate or like you don’t belong. You do and even if you didn’t, you don’t have to wait around for a set on the table, you can build your own.
Go in a journey within yourself, like a car ride that makes your hair blow in the wind, with a sense of freedom, without a worry or a care. Relinquish in the time you have to hear your inner voice and silence the destructive criticism. Bullying is hurtful, love is healing. Claim your power right here and now, not with a sense of innate entitlement, but with the humble spirit of being willing to do the work, in and out of yourself to make a difference in the world. Nothing will ever change around you if you don’t change.
No one deserves to be bullied ever but if this is a part of a daily reality, if you have to face every day your detractors know that your best weapon is to stand up for yourself by being unabashedly authentic and don’t fight fire with fire. Violence, whether is verbal or physical, only feeds a cycle of more violence. Kill them with kindness. Have a vision. Find your reasons to smile, your reasons to live, your reasons to keep striving to a better life. You can walk through this, regardless of your age, gender, race, sexual orientation, shape, form or size. You have what it takes to create a good life for yourself. Now do it!
Image taken from: https://unsplash.com/photos/-K7yvsDvj2g