Today I saw a former Classmates status set to: "To anyone i ever saw get bullied as a kid, and didn't stand up for, i am sorry. i'd fight 4 you now." It really got me thinking...
I've read a lot in the media lately about bullying. In light of recent events it's been in the news, Tweeted, in the status on people's Facebook pages, and subject of general "can you believe..." water cooler talk. It got me thinking back to my childhood days and how bullying takes so many different forms and from unexpected sources.
I'm certain that at the time I wasn't aware I was being bullied, in many cases, because it was passive-aggressive and by people who I trusted.
I allowed my parents to bully me, well, because they were my parents and they were "concerned" about my weight when I was younger. I had to keep tight-lipped out of respect for them, but I forgot completely about respecting myself! Looking back now, I wish I would have understood that just because they're your parents doesn't mean they are right all the time. Punishing a child or taking them out of the extra-curricular activities you love just because you haven't lost the amount of weight they determined appropriate, is not constructive - only counterproductive and reinforces the idea that you'll never be good enough for them. Or worse, you'll never be good enough to do anything you want to do because people will only see your weight and not YOU.
They were wrong and I know that.... now. I also know that they loved me and were scared for me, and yes, also embarrassed for themselves.
I was bullied by the girls in my predominately black middle school, where I was 1 of two white girls on the the basketball team. Make no mistake, I am completely open to diversity and am not prejudiced in spite of having many reasons to decide otherwise as a result of my experiences, but I understand those "mean girls" aren't representative of an entire race, and clearly had their own problems. Ultimately though, it was my lack of self-esteem which kept me from going to the coach or reporting incidents to teachers or even my parents.
I was bullied because we weren't well off; yeah, I was a welfare kid. I can remember standing in lunch line on several occasions and having a boy walk down the lunch line tapping everyone's front pockets for loose change. When he heard it, you had to hand it over. It was the only time I was thankful I was a "free lunch" kid; I might have given up whatever change I had, but no one wanted to be carrying a free lunch card.
It was like I expected to be treated poorly just came with the not being well off, well skilled or normal weight.
I gave my supposed best friend the power to bully me over and over again -- all because I didn't have the self-esteem to know and act on the fact that I deserved better. She did hurtful things to me; things that would shock people, yet I went back for more over and over again. It wasn't until sophomore year in High School when she started associating with a questionable group of people that I pulled away -- mostly because things she was becoming involved in were blatantly wrong.
I think it was in high school, where finally I realized I did deserve better. Something about that friendship finally ending was the start of me becoming more self-aware. I realized that the perception of me in the eyes of others was not MY truth; their perception was THEIR reality. I can remember, much to my surprise, being befriended by several folks I would have never expected to be friends with, and it opened my eyes. They were friends who accepted me for who I was and where I came from. It didn't magically solve everything, but it did make me feel differently about myself and realize that just maybe I was okay, even with my imperfections. I didn't completly evolve into this person chock-full of self-esteem overnight (I still struggle at 42 years old!), but at least I became aware that in life you have to be comfortable and confident in yourself, in your own skin, no one can give that to you.
So then the question is, "How to make someone else believe it?" I struggle to believe in myself, but I don't think I ever got my parents on-board, believing in who I turned out to be. It wasn't until my second marriage and the birth of my Daughter where I could feel a shift in their perception.
I feel so sorry for these kids who have taken their own lives because they didn't believe they were okay enough for society. It makes me grateful, I mean I know I have my issues but they're not extreme, that I turned out this way. I am smart enough to look back and understand what happened in the past and strong enough to work on changing my beliefs. Who would have thought it would take 20+ years?!? I'm even more grateful because I know my Daughter will learn to be proud of herself, not because someone told her it's "okay" to be proud of herself -- but rather because she is confident and knows on her own she has reason to be proud.
How do you get a child to start understanding the value of self-esteem? It's so important -- especially to young girls. I need Cassie to know that she's valuable, just as she is and that she shouldn't ever compromise herself to be accepted by others.
For the young lives recently lost, initially I thought I could understand their enormity of their self-loathing, but clearly I can't even begin to imagine their complete lack of self-worth, for them to take their own life? It makes me wonder who were the people around them? Were they so invisible no one saw signs and could have stepped in? Or were they like me... too scared it might make matters worse, and became complacent in their thinking, saying "..nothing will make a difference, so why bother?"
So sad for these kids. So sad.