This is my first post to paradigm shift blog and I didn’t think I would be revealing personal stories just yet, but I was inspired recently by a Ted Talk by Shane Koyczan who shared his personal story of being bullied and also being a bully. So to introduce myself, here is a piece of a personal story.
I was bullied.
I sat and stared at those words for a moment because I have been running from them for a long time now. I don’t even like to admit it and I usually down play it whenever the subject does come up in social situation. However, the truth is that most of my school life I felt isolated and lonely. It’s not that I never had any friends, but there were many parts of my youth when I didn’t.
This manifested itself in being picked last for everything, not just sports which I can actually understand because I’m clumsy. I dreaded the words “pick a partner.” Attending school dances was like walking into a self-inflicted torture chamber filled with boys gaging at thought of dancing with me. My parents never made me go to any of these functions, but somewhere inside I would think maybe this time would be different. It wouldn’t be.
While in Teach for America, I witnessed similar situations of subtle isolation. I tried to combat it as much as I could in my own classroom, but I know it was pervasive in our school. Recent years has seen some highly publicized cases of bullying. Organizations and initiatives have jumped to try to help teachers, parents and students. I agree with their motives and effort. However, there has to be a change in culture to see them succeed in making the daily lives of kids being bullied. Reality shows that feature harsh judgments of people’s talents and looks are standard on our TV screens.
In truth, I still struggle now with my past and there are times when I revert back to the wall flower and fear judgment. What if all my friends find out that I’m really a dork with nothing special to offer? These kinds of thoughts still haunt me. No one has given me cause to feel an upsurge of vulnerability and I have been offered more love and support than I ever thought I would be from a circle of friends.
So my question is, although it is true that It Gets Better as one of my favorite bully prevention programs declares, how do we instill the armor for kids being bullied so they can escape the memories when they are an adult? This would build a citizenship of confident adults and are ready to contribute to the world. I fear that many adult survivors of bullying are still hiding as wall flowers when they could be on the dance floor.
As a community we can help combat the negative effects of bullying. If you are friends with a survivor, be patient when they have moments of weakness. Also, remember that you may need to tell survivors they are good more times than is really necessary for an average person. It takes more for us to believe that what we do or think matters, but every time you do give us a compliment it means the world to us even if we don’t always show it.