It is encouraging to me that bullies are now being called out for what they are. It raises attention and sympathy for victims of it, and how the damage it causes can last a lifetime. However, our social media makes bullying easy because the bullies don’t ever give their real names. It’s easy to bully someone when you know that no one can call you out on it.
Often people bully because they feel that it will make the person they are bullying stronger; like breaking them down to eventually build them up. This used to be called ‘doing it for your own good.’ It doesn’t. It just hurts. When did bullying someone ever make anyone better, stronger, healthier, happier or more successful?
Then there are the bullies that whitewash their bullying by saying “I’m doing this for your own good,” or “the world is going to treat you badly so I am trying to make you strong,” and so on. Again, it doesn’t help.
How many sad stories do we have to hear about someone who was literally bullied to death? How bad does it get that death seems easier than being bullied? This is just sad and a waste of a beautiful life.
And it isn’t just young people doing all the bullying, either. It can be parents who fear that their children won’t be able to face the world on their own unless they bully them into being someone that they are not.
When I was a child, I remember how powerful I felt. My body was thin and strong, and I could climb trees like a monkey, run, swim, paddle a canoe, ride a horse, ski, skate; just about anything.
When I first got bullied (and it was all about my body), I was mortified. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed of my body, my looks and all the things I could do. Prior to this, it never occurred to me that there was anything wrong about me.
I had no prior experience in dealing with this; it made me feel somehow damaged. I could stand up for a friend who was being bullied, but I couldn’t do it for myself. In my heart I felt that I somehow deserved it. This is the power of bullying; it digs into your mind until it sets up a permanent home where it can nag away at you 24/7.
I kept this to myself because I was too ashamed to tell anyone. As an adult, I know now that I should have told my parents, but I was too embarrassed to tell them. I think I was afraid that somehow I had brought this on myself; that it was my fault. So I stuffed those bad feelings down and went on with my life.
In my 30s I became a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I also gave self defense seminars. One night I was teaching self defense to young girls and women. I had gone through all the methods of self defense, when a woman asked me this question:
“What do you do when you have been bullied as a child and can’t get past it? How do you defend yourself against that?”
I stopped the class, got my bearings, and said (for the first time in my life), “Tell someone you trust. Don’t keep this inside you to fester and hurt you. You were the victim, and you didn’t ask for this to happen to you. What happened to you was never your fault.”
Then (again for the first time in my life) I told the class my own story and how it affected my life. I told them that this was likely the reason why I took up Tae Kwon Do because I never wanted to feel helpless again.
After class, several other women came up to me and told me their own stories of being bullied. It was both sad and empowering. What we all walked away with that night were these truths:
- We are not alone.
- There is strength both in numbers and in telling our stories.
- Don’t believe for one second that you somehow “asked” for this to happen.
- Get help; find a therapist you feel comfortable with, and tell them what happened.
- Don’t keep your experience to yourself; it will hurt you and you don’t deserve that.
- Understand that this was done to you, and it was not your fault.
Bullies are cowards. Bullies get pleasure from the hurt they cause others. Bullies generally don’t have much going for them in their own lives. But bullies only get power when you let them.
Do not let bullies make you feel less than you are; they are the problem, not you.