“Why do you want to study bullying prevention?”
I have been asked this question often, since I began researching this topic a few years ago.
My answer is always the same: I have seen its negative effects and want to stop it from hurting others’ lives.
Until now, I haven’t confessed to many people that: back in middle school, I WAS BULLIED.
I didn’t confess it, as I was still dealing with the shame of being a victim of bullying. However, I have gotten over that and want to share my personal battle with you.
I hope to help schools prevent bullying, as I went to a middle school where the teachers, administrators, and fellow students didn’t do anything to stop it. There were many students in the school who suffered as I did.
I was bullied emotionally (exclusion) and verbally (name-called). It started when I transferred schools in grade seven. Research has shown that bullying gets worse in middle and high school. I changed schools after Christmas in grade seven to a school where I knew a few people already from my elementary school. Although by the time I joined, they already had their new friends and I did not enjoy hanging out with them. I made some good friends though.
I got picked on and put down by the other students, as I was “different” than most of them. They called me “a nerd” because I was smart; a “Barbie girl” because of my appearance and lifestyle; as well, they commented on my flat chest in grade seven as one classmate told me, “I should wish for Breasts for Christmas.” It wasn’t my fault that I was super-tall and slim because of my genetics and involvement in sports. It didn’t help that I had a growth spurt during the summer between Grade 7 and Grade 8 and developed a fair-size chest. Some of my classmates remarked that I had gotten breast implants. Therefore, I got picked on for my chest, regardless of the size.
It was then I learned it didn’t matter what you looked like; bullies will pick on you for anything. You have to ignore their comments, and not give them power. Don’t let them change the wonderful person you are.
Those comments are what started my dissatisfaction with my body. Instead of ignoring such comments, I took the comments to heart. To hide my chest, I took a liking to baggy overalls that covered my chest and curves so that nobody would make negative comments. I wasn’t proud of my beautiful body; instead, I gave these people power over me.
I also toned down my academic achievements, so I could join the rest of the crowd and not stand out. I always kept my life really private, as I didn’t want people to find out any other facts that they could use as material against me. I became good at putting up a barrier to protect myself from such comments.
I was with these students all school day, five days a week, for a year-and- a-half. You learn how to deal with the situation you are given. My coping mechanism consisted of toning down my accomplishments and not shining to showing my true self. This was not healthy.
I was a kind and shy teenager who did not stand up to her bullies. I let them insult me. I did not do anything to stop them. However, back then, we weren’t educated to handle bullies.
Those two years were the darkest of my youth, and I wasn’t happy at school. This may seem strange to many today who always see me with a smile on my face. If it wasn’t for my faith, my wonderful family and friends, my involvement in sport, and my will to live, I may not be here today. There were days when I wanted the bullying to be over, and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It is funny; now looking back, I am like: “What was I thinking?” I actually wanted the approval of these people. They were not friends; they were bullies.
Now almost fifteen years later, I have kept the lesson my classmates taught me ingrained on my heart. I do not give “BULLIES” power in my life anymore; I don’t tolerate them. That is how I deal with bullies, by ignoring them,walking away, and talking about it.
I have gotten many friend requests on Facebook from these old “classmates” of mine. The funny thing with Facebook is that you have people from your past and present requesting to be your friend. But, I only add my legitimate “Friends” on Facebook. I have no problem declining people or deleting them off my list if we are not friends. I have forgiven my bullies for the way they have treated me in the past, but I am not giving them power in my life in the future.
I am really glad I have held on, because life got so much better in high school, university, and graduate school. However, that bullying experience in middle school has shaped the strong woman I am today. I found a way to deal with the insults. I have found my voice and am using it. I am totally satisfied with the beautiful body I was given.
Bullying can occur in any relationship. I want to educate individuals on the negative effects of bullying. I want to empower victims of bullying to be strong and to know that life can get better. I also want to help individuals to stand up for their family and friends who are bullied. There is strength in numbers.
Hence, there you have it; that was my pivotal life experience as a victim of bullying. I do not dwell on this though; if you see me today, you would never know that I had been battling this issue.
This experience gave me the passion to study the topic of bullying prevention and to empower others to become their best selves.
After a thunderstorm, there is always a rainbow!
**A Bully to me is someone who repeats the mean, controlling, and unwanted behaviour.