Thursday, 5 April 2012

Reflections on Being Bullied

And now for something completely different. . .

It seems like, with youth suicides on the rise, gay and lesbian issues among teens coming to the fore, and the advent of the internet and new technological forums for harassment, discourse on the subject of bullying (something which was pretty much ignored save for in the occasional public service announcement when I was a kid) is increasing.

As someone who was picked on through twelve years of school, including Kindergarten (grade 12 was ok, most of the asshats had graduated, and by then people had stopped caring about who was "cool" and who was "not"), I'd like to just throw down my two cents, in the form of a list of the lessons I learned from being beaten with the short end of the stick. I suppose I should note that in some ways, I invited it. I was pretty weird by small-town Saskatchewan standards, and I just got weirder as time went on, drawing back into my shell and my studies. Nevertheless, I hope that the the perspective of someone who got through twelve years of bullying happy and mostly intact can help those who are going through it now (though I realize that everyone's situation is different, and that my experiences will not be transferable across the board).

Anyway, on to the lessons:

1) Everyone sees things from their own perspective first - This may seem obvious. This may also seem unrelated to bullying. Let me explain. In retrospect, I have come to realize that a lot of what the bullies were doing was not out of a malicious intent to hurt me, but out of a bored intent to amuse themselves. This problem of not being able to see things from another persons perspective and understand the damage you are doing is chronic among young people, and especially teens. This doesn't excuse bullying behaviour, but it does, to some extent, explain it. Which brings me to my second lesson.

2) Everyone has their reasons - That person lashing out at you might be doing so (in many cases is probably doing so) because something is not quite right in their own life, and they feel that asserting dominance over someone else will help them reacquire some sense of control. For all the torment the bully is putting you through, remember, their own life may be just as bad or worse, causing them to act in this way. This brings me to my third lesson, one of the hardest.

3) Learn to forgive and let go- Seems impossible right now, but believe me, if you hang on to the bitterness of being picked on for your entire life, you'll never grow beyond being anything but a victim. Don't let what happens in high school haunt you forever. You are bigger than that.

4) This too shall pass - 
ok, you might not like OK Go But its true. Nothing lasts forever, even the ugly purgatory that is the elementary and secondary school system.

5) School and your peers aren't your whole life - This is one I wished I'd realized at the time. I should have concentrated less on the hellhole that was school, and focused more on developing my own unique interests.

6) There's a whole big world out there - Someday, you'll get to explore it. Plan for the long term, see beyond the short term.

7) Take a look at yourself - This is another of the hardest lessons I took away from being bullied. They say that hindsight is 20/20, and the older I get, the more I think its true. Retrospectively, I can see how my behaviour would have invited torment. I couldn't loosen up and be myself around people, instead clammed up and played mute in a way that seemed to beg to have someone try to crack me open (the bad way). After high school, I had to teach myself from scratch how to socialize like a normal human being, and was pretty successful. If I'd figured that out at the start, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.

8) Try not to take any of it too seriously - Don't take the bullies seriously, don't take yourself too seriously. The only real thing you need to carry out of school are the passing grades that will get you a job later on.

9) Find someone to talk to - Even if its just a diary. Having an outlet to vent to does wonders at taking some of that sense of leaden despair out of your stomach. Don't be afraid to have a good cry every once in awhile. Get emotional, scream and yell into the wind. You'll feel better.

10) "Ignore it until it goes away" is the worst policy ever. Stand up for yourself - Through most of elementary and highschool, I followed the unwise advice of my mother "ignore it until it goes away". This just made it more of a game for those who wanted to see me crack. On the three occasions when I stood up for myself, and showed a bit of the steel that runs inside of all of us, the bullies backed off.

I'm sure there is more, but I'll stop there. I don't know if this will reach anyone who is currently struggling with being bullied, but if it does, I hope it helps.

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