This is a personal story from one of our staff who dealt with bullying in his own way.
The school year is about to begin, and we often receive questions and calls from youth who are being bullied by their peers. We are happy to listen to your stories, but we want you to know that we understand your feelings. We have our own stories to tell.
This is a personal story from one of our staff who dealt with bullying in his own way.*
I was bullied for an entire year at age 13. It was the eighth grade, and I went to a private school. It was a small class of 30 students who had gone through this school from first grade all the way through graduation. We played sports together. We went to each other’s birthday parties. As we got older, cliques started to form within the class. By the 8th grade, I felt like an outsider. I was treated differently and my classmates teased me.
I’m not sure what had changed: myself or the people around me. I used to be able to make my classmates laugh, but more and more often I was being singled out for the smallest things. I would get upset, and they would mock me even more. It got to a point where I told my dad that I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I would go home and cry and hate myself for being “different.”
I wanted so badly to be accepted, so I would try to include myself in different activities. However, I found that it was used to torture me further. I remember that we used to play pick-up football in Ted Morgan’s backyard. I would get the ball and all the guys would gang tackle me or hit me below the knees in order to bring me down. I once went to a friend’s party and we played basketball. He got angry about something I did and we fought. He pulled my shirt over my head and kicked me while I was down. I was left on the pavement while everyone else went inside the house.
I became a sad and angry kid. I spent most days feeling terrible about myself. I would not speak to anyone. My folks would try to get me to open up, but my anger wouldn’t allow me to share my feelings. They would get so frustrated that I would then feel guilty on top of all my other emotions. I felt like others should be able to pull those feelings out of me.
It was at my lowest point that I realized that I could make a choice. I could keep feeling this way about myself and the world around me or choose to focus on other things and feel differently.
I also decided that I needed to start doing things differently. I chose to start with those that were bullying me. Here are some steps I took to change:
I spoke out. I continued to get teased, and so I spoke to one of my teachers and explained what was happening. It was hard because you are told that if you tell on someone, you are a snitch. However, I now see that is an easy way to manipulate people into not speaking to abuse.
I told my teacher who was causing me pain. She then brought us together to talk about it. I was able to speak to what was being done to me, and the student was asked to apologize.
I felt better, that I was able to express myself freely and be heard. It was also a lesson for the other students that there were consequences for their actions.
I stood up for myself. When I would get teased, I would not let it overcome me in front of others. They didn’t deserve my pain or to see me cry. I would look them in the eyes and let them see that what they were saying was not okay.
I wasn’t an overly aggressive kid (other than in sports), so it was not easy for me to speak out against bullies. I found it easier to make jokes, or change the subject, when being teased. I would turn the attention back on them. “Hey, nice move, dummy,” to which, I would respond, “yeah, sweet moves, right?” This would displace some of the negative energy off of me.
I found my own tribe. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one in my class that was marginalized. There were several guys that were doing their own thing, and who weren’t involved in teasing others. I became closer friends with them, and found that I could have fun in my own way. I didn’t need the approval of those others to feel good about myself.
Today, those same guys I found have become successful, adjusted adults. I haven’t spoken to the kids who teased me for several years, but it isn’t out of anger. I’ve chosen to live my own life and follow my own path.
My choices have led me to good times and bad times, but each of us has their own troubles. It is how we choose to deal with them that makes us who we are. Bullying can be a scary, sad and terrible problem for us, but we can choose to stand up for ourselves, find our allies and not let their words hurt us.
There are other great resources out there for kids suffering from bullying, such as:
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.