I recently shared a link to a video about a television anchor who was speaking out against bullying. It was such a powerful message to me. Ever since I watched it, I can’t shake what happened to her. In reading some of the comments people left about this women on other websites and pages, I was just appalled. One person even said that it wasn’t bullying as it was in a private email to her. Really? So, when my daughter is older and gets a private message on Facebook or a text from someone saying something mean about her, then it won’t be bullying because “it didn’t happen on the school playground?”
Bullying is a real problem. Bullying is not the big tough kid stealing lunch money. Bullying is telling someone that they aren’t good enough to play with them at recess. Bullying is telling someone he is ugly because of a birthmark on his face. Bullying is telling someone they don’t matter because they don’t drive a nice enough car. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It does not define an age. It does not define a creed. It is what is says — a real or perceived power imbalance.
When someone is bullied, the effects of the experience sometimes never leave. I know, because I was bullied terribly in elementary school. Let me share my story with you:
I was in the third grade attending a private (very small) Catholic school. Our class was so small that we had a total of about 6 girls and 6 or 7 boys in our room. One of the girls was very mean to me. To this day, I still don’t know what I did to her, but what she did was bullying in every sense of the word. This girl, we will call “Sue” created a club. It was cool to have secret clubs when you were this age, don’t you remember? However, I bet your club was nothing like this one. You see, Sue decided to create the “I Hate Tracie” club.
Once this club was created, it meant I had no one to play with at recess. I had no one to sit by at lunch. No one would have anything to do with me. They would meet during recess in their secret place and hold their meetings and share why they hated me. It did not last long, however, as being a small school, the teachers became aware of what they were doing and put an end to it. It was too little, too late. To this date, when I think of what happened to me, the feelings come flooding back. I feel like that young 8 year old girl on the playground with no friends at all. It hurt.
Some might say that it’s been long enough and I should get over it. For the most part, I have. However, those actions molded me into who I have become. I now always wonder if the whispers in the room are about me. The good that came from this was that I am so much more aware of what I say and do around others.
I did not share this story to get the “Awwww, poor Tracie” comments. I shared it because it happened to me. I lived through it. The pain and the memories are real. They cut deeply and made an impression on me. What she did made me actually question my own self-worth. THAT is what bullying was to me.
Bullying is real and it is a problem. My guess is that many of you have experienced a form of bullying at some point in your lifetime. I admire people for standing up against it. October is Take a Stand Against Bullying month. We have a chance to teach our children about it. We can help them learn how not to be a bully and what to do when it happens. No child (nor adult) has to take this. No one should go through this in their lifetime.
As for me, I am teaching my children to be kind to people, even if they are different. I am teaching them to be accepting of others. I am teaching them to be a friend to everyone. I know that they are not perfect. None of us are. I just want them to understand what bullying is and why we don’t want to do this to other kids.
My kids know what bullying is and what it can do to others. In fact, my oldest daughter actually shared with me that she witnessed bullying on her bus this past week. I was proud of her for standing up and for letting me know so that the bus company could look into it and prevent it from happening again. Just when I thought my daughter never listened to me – it turns out that she was.
The damage from bullying is rarely on the outside where we can see it. It is not just being beaten up on the playground anymore. It is the words and actions of others as well.
To the victims of bullying, it lives in you forever. For most it does not define who they become, but for some it does. It changes who they are and who they grow to be. While I didn’t let it define me, pain and lessons I learned are still very real.
You truly never shake it, no matter how hard you try.