This just started popping up in my Facebook feed today. At first I didn’t want to watch it – not because I trivialize bullying, or deny that it happens, but because I, like many other kids, was a victim of bullying. I obviously ended up watching this, and it’s really moving. I don’t believe that there is any person on this planet who hasn’t been touched by bullying in some form.
I have always been below-average in height, and when I was elementary and middle school, I was a skinny kid in skirts and dresses while everyone else was in jeans. I was always the “smart kid.” So were my friends. I was a walking target.
In 4th grade, a kid three times my size shoved me against a wall so hard that it knocked the wind out of me. I don’t know why – I was standing in line with my class to go into the library. In 5th grade I would go home and cry every day because another girl in the class would make fun of me, and everyone around her followed her lead. I was always quiet. I didn’t defend myself. I always walked with my head down so I wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. Now I realize that she tortured me because she was self-concious about being overweight and had very severe body image issues. When I think back on this stuff, I can only image how horrified and angry my parents must have been – nothing they could have said or done would have consoled me.
Then in 9th grade I stopped caring what others thought of me. My type-A side started to come out. If people made fun of me, or of my friends, they got a verbal lashing. When I got transferred to my third high school (because North Carolina couldn’t decide what to do with busing) kids tried to bully us, simply because the year before we went to a different school. I spoke up, I confronted people and I shut it down. That girl that teased me to tears every day of 5th grade? She almost hit my car on the way to school because she wanted to scare me. My sister and I ripped into her in the parking lot. I said things I wasn’t proud of, and perhaps she did too but she never harassed me again.
By the middle of my junior year, people stopped bullying me all together. They didn’t even think about bullying my younger sister because she was an unholy terror with a temper worse than mine. My sister actually ended up getting into a fight with a boy in one of her classes because he was bullying a special needs kid. My sister won that fight, and from what I know, no one bullied that kid again.
Most kids don’t know how to get over being bullied. They live with it for so long that they begin to believe the hate they face every day. I honestly think that my tank bubbled over and my anger took over. I am fortunate enough that resorting to violence – either against myself or others – never crossed my mind. I defended myself with words. I am also fortunate that I make friends easily. My parents raised us to believe that friendships should be built upon someone’s strength of character, not how “cool” they are, or how “popular” they are. Having friends helps.
In a way, I think I am a stronger person because of it. Some kids are not so lucky. I’ve developed a pretty decent judge of character — after all, when you spend most of your childhood watching and analyzing people, you get pretty good at reading body language and cues. Instead of giving up when people think I’m not good enough I raise up to the challenge. After all, what better way is there to prove someone wrong?
I feel like bullying is much worse now. Kids have so many more avenues to cause pain, and both bullies and victims are inundated with insane expectations on how they should look, act and behave. There’s no way that they can measure up to this, and unfortunately most kids lash out on others who seem weaker to try to make themselves feel stronger. It’s a vicious, hurtful cycle.