“Will I be OK today? Or will they hurt me?”
I remember thinking that everyday when I woke up as a kid.
I have put off writing this for a long time. I avoided it. It’s the most fucking painful part of my life thus far. Excuse the anger and sadness inside, but hey, they make for good release and writing. And from what I’ve heard from talking to many people, almost everyone has been bullied, at least a tiny bit. You can most likely relate to those feelings if you think back.
In this post, I will share some stories of bullying, including my own, and also to discuss how it affects your mental state. Then, what you can do to help, whether you are bullied, know someone who is being bullied, or want to help put an end to this act.
How Bad Can Bullying Be?
Millions of children are bullied every year (see the end of the article for an exact figure). The widespread problem was documented in the 2011 film Bully, which followed the lives of five students being bullied on a daily basis. While I thought I had it bad, some of the things that were shown horrified me. I was never physically assaulted, yet kids here were. Punched in the face. Threatened to be stabbed. Holy shit, is this what going to school is like these days?
The trailer of the film, Bully. The worst thing is how the principal in that clip says that there isn’t a problem, and that the kids are fine. The bus driver doesn’t discipline the children. How is this helping and protecting kids?
In one scene of the movie, one of the kids being bullied, Alex, is riding the bus and he sits down next to another kid. The conversation goes something like this:
Alex: Hey you can be my buddy, my friend.
Other kid: What?
Alex: We should be friends.
Other kid: I’m not your fucking friend what are you talking about… I’ll cut you. I’ll cut your face off. Do you understand? I’m NOT your friend!
Alex: Ohh… uhh ok.
A scene showing a victim, Alex, being repeatedly hit while riding the school bus in the movie Bully.
You can see the utter pain in the children’s eyes. They’re made fun of for being different… Goofy looking, gay, smart… Anyway they stand out, it’s not OK.
And you can see the utter pain in the parents’ eyes when they lose their child because of this stupidity.
It Gets Better When You’re An Adult… Right? The Effects Of Bullying On One’s Mental State
If you were fortunate enough to not be bullied extensively (and that is a blessing you should be grateful for everyday), know that bullying can impart several mental issues onto its victims. Several psychological effects result:
Reasoning and Explanation
|– Perfectionism- Critical voices (nothing is ever good enough, from your friends, to what you own, to how much you accomplish)|
– The need to constantly do more
|Because those who are bullied receive the message that something is inherently wrong with them (whether they be called nerds, fat, etc.), they internalize that in adulthood, they are never good enough. Hence, they must always do better or more.|
|– Anxiety (social, sexual,…) and worrying- Control issues||Bullying makes a child scared that they might be beat up, hurt, or made fun of. If the fear does not subside or someone does not protect the child, this is translated into different forms of anxiety in adulthood. Inherently, the now-adult will want to control everything to ensure nothing goes wrong and everything goes their way. This is, of course, futile, as no one can control everything.|
|– Poor boundaries- Being afraid to say no|
– Seeking approval from others over yourself, valuing what other people think over what you think
|Because the victim believes that they are wrong, they will be afraid to stand up for and/or assert themselves and their needs. They also try to “people please”. You can never please 100% of the people 100% of the time… only yourself. The victim’s strategy will ultimately cause suffering and frustration to themselves and everyone around them.|
|– Attachment to superficial items instead of the self, belief that what you have is what people like about you, instead of people just appreciating you as a person- Validation seeking as a means to feel better, i.e. through things like sexual exploits, money, etc.||The easiest thing to attach one’s meaning to is to things: cars, clothes, even people… “Look at this X I have, it means I’m awesome”. Because the victim received the “not good enough” messages in child hood, they cannot fathom people loving them for who they are or them being good as they are. Hence, they look to external means for approval and validation.|
I don’t have to tell you that being constantly told something is wrong with you will fuck you up. I never realized how much this warped my own psyche or world view until beginning inner work and self-improvement… Things like therapy, and good non-judgmental, supportive friends… But the voices are still there, about perfectionism, fearing people getting close to me because they’ll hurt me or disappear, being judged, and all of that nonsense.
Dating is also challenging for those that have been bullied. When your worth is being judged and assessed sub-consciously, how can you relax or take time to think about the OTHER person being someone you’d like to spend time with? Every non-reply is a reflection on your self worth, or lack thereof.
The dynamic of a bullying victim’s life is based on how others judge them, a terrible and incorrect version of boundaries. What should be the case? How do YOU judge you?
But your opinion means nothing. You are weak. Defenceless. Still a child in an adult’s body and nothing anyone says can EVER help you because they don’t know your pain. Nobody knows how being told you’re wrong for being you makes you feel, constantly questioning everything you do.
Cyber Bullying – A Large Cause Of Self-Harm And Suicide
Regretfully, many children take the words they hear from others quite personally, as they are relentlessly attacked everyday. They begin to internalize the pain and believe it. Cutting begins, and many take their lives every year because of bullying. The issue has grown even worse with the advent and popularity of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, smart phones, and other social media tools. When something is spread via word of mouth, it can die quickly. But on the internet, it can spread like wild fire and always be present.
One of the most infamous cases in Canada is the gang rape of Rehtaeh Parsons: she was lured to a home and raped by four men and the atrocity was photographed. The pictures were distributed throughout the school and online, leading to people contacting her for sex and her being called a slut. She attempted suicide by hanging, which led to a coma and subsequently, the decision to switch her life support machine off.
Another case is that of Amanda Todd, where a picture of her flashing someone on a webcam spread throughout multiple schools and online. After being beaten up, she first tried to kill herself by drinking bleach but was rushed to the hospital in time to have her stomach pumped. She made this video detailing her story:
About a month later she decided to hang herself, committing suicide at the age of 15.
A video from the YouTube duo, the Fine Brothers, showing teenagers reacting to Amanda Todd’s story and video. They also talk about their experiences with bullying.
My Stories About Being Bullied And How I Felt
Bullying and being bullied is one the most painful things imaginable, you are told you are bad or wrong for no reason… and you start to believe it.
Imagine: you are a kid, defenceless on the playground or in class. People tell you you’re fat, stupid, and not good enough. You walk around in constant fear of the next person hurting you, it feels like death at every corner. Your only solace is the voice is your head who is your friend and regular class if people don’t bother you. You are scared to do anything wrong. People will laugh no matter what.
Welcome to what was, my life.
I was bullied for over 10 years during parts of kindergarten, elementary school, and a small portion of high school. My childhood, the most carefree years of my life, was caged in a vice with people telling me what to do, or say, or think. Yet, I never measured up. Imagine everyday being scared you’ll be berated. Imagine going to your parents and them trying to help. But after repeated incidents and wanting to run, switching schools, them telling you “They’re just kids, it happens everywhere”. Teachers interfere and there’s a momentary lapse, but it goes back to the same in a few days.
Fuck that shit I say. I wished no one would ever live through that type of pain.
I remember brief seconds of people being my friends and then stabbing me in the back. I remember not feeling safe, ever.
This is not pleasant to write.
Going into high school, girls were not even possible. No self-confidence, no self-esteem, no belief that I could do anything. No desire. Just float through, try to survive, be good… Because if I’m finally good, as they tell me, they’ll leave me alone and I’ll be loved, right? (The classical definition of Nice Guy Syndrome)
I used to be fat, and I got all types of “compliments on that”. And when I hit puberty and lost most of my weight, I recall the boys of my grade saying:
“Hey the baby came!”
Fuck those bastards… at least back then. I can’t comment on who they are now.
But again: Painful. Almost daily. 10 years.
Fortunately as I mentioned, sometimes your head is a safe zone. With no friends something must open up inside. My best friend was my head, which though it contained some critical voices, kept me from loneliness.
I was told in my adult life, that if I had not developed this defence, I likely would have committed suicide.
My Life Now
Now while I struggle with MANY of the aforementioned issues stemming from bullying, but let me tell you about my life now:
I am, in my opinion, an extremely handsome and well dressed guy. I have heard this multiple times from guys and girls. I graduated with honours from challenging Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering. I have a few select few friends who I trust and many good acquaintances, with my social circle growing all the time. I have no debt from the scholarships I got from my grades, receiving awards from Universities and the agencies of the Canadian government. I’ve dated some amazing women, and continue to meet high quality women who continue to captivate me. I’m more in touch with myself than ever. I’m stronger, wiser, and love to try new things… along with planning a trip to Europe for three months in the summer. I have been told I am amazing public speaker, and also that I write very well.
I am exploring now and giving my inner child what he didn’t have before. And though I have relapse days or times through out the day, like when the skeleton for this post was originally written, when some critical voices creep in, my life is so much better than ever. There are many things that keep me in my old mind set, but that is slowly changing as time goes on.
My beliefs on how people act are also healthier. Are all people scary? No. Are all people inherently mean? No. What about “rejection” in dating? It used to just bring up the micro-trauma of being thought of as bad and not good enough. Now rejection stings, as it does for most people, but it moves me closer to the women I want to hang out with and like me for being me. Why spend time with someone who doesn’t like me for me?
These beliefs did not happen over night, and it’s a constant battle to keep things in line… but a battle worth fighting to be healthier and happier.
Finding Support If You Have Been/Are Being Bullied
If you have been or are being bullied, seek help: principles, teachers, friends, therapists… TELL SOMEONE. It is not right or normal, and no, you should not have to suffer through it. I will personally come down (OK I would if I had unlimited funds…) and tell those bullies off for you. Just DON’T stand silent. There are hotlines you can call as well for support, at least in Canada and the United States. I have included some useful links at the end of the article.
Moving Forward With Life After Bullying
I consider myself fortunate for never taking my life, and no serious thought of this ever occurred. There is too much of life to explore and I have too much to give. The past few years of my life have been a blessing and a gift, and I can never repay those that have been with me for that.
I can never reclaim my childhood but I sure as hell can help you, reader, either understand or learn. I can teach others, which is more and more I see as part of my life direction. I turn the terrible feelings that I felt before into more positive ones for myself, making my life beautiful. And then I share that beauty with everyone in the form of who I am and my thoughts to benefit the world.
My friend put up a quote on Facebook, that said something to the effect of, “Forgive people in your life NOT because they deserve it, but because you deserve inner peace” – constant hatred generates negativity inside, versus letting it go to be freer and lighter.
I consider myself a gentle and kind person, or at least I try to be. But I do not personally think that I can EVER forgive those that bullied me… at least not completely. Too much of my childhood was stolen from me, and now parts of my adult life cause constant pain. These people could be (and most likely are) TOTALLY different than whom they were, but will karma come back at them? I honestly can’t say what I wish to happen.
So there you have it. One of my main reasons for self-improvement, I discussed, is the constant never good enough voice. It’s taught me a lot, but I constantly move towards a healthier version of it now. I push myself and do a lot, but I get to decide where my limits are. Not someone else, not my thinking mind… my inner core.
So for all of you that have been or are being bullied, you’re OK just as you are, no matter what anyone else says. Just be you and make them jealous of how amazing you are, and how bright you shine in this world.
That’s sweet revenge – better life for you, and leave them in the dust.
You are OK just as you are. Don’t change unless it’s for you.
But many people go through bullying. Some have it far better, others far worse. If it’s such a regular occurrence, shouldn’t we stop it? Shouldn’t we be doing more?
Calls to Action – Don’t Just Sit There
Each of us has a call to action with regards to bullying:
As someone being bullied, it is your responsibility to, first and foremost, get help. If you are a child, tell someone. If you are an adult who was significantly bullied, seek counselling.
As someone witnessing bullying, it is your responsibility to either stop it, or tell someone who can.
As a parent, principal, teacher, or guardian, it is your responsibility to watch out for bullying and listen to children. Do NOT assume it will go away, and do NOT take a child at their word if they say they will stop when you tell them off. Children look to you for safety, and if they don’t have you, they have no one.
And in general, we all have a responsibility to ensure that bullying is not tolerated, whether in childhood or adulthood.
We are all still kids. We all just want to be accepted for who we are. Bullying undermines this and says that something is fundamentally wrong with us.
Don’t fall silent. Don’t let the message of bullying be seen as true.
Further Links And Support
Websites And Facebook Groups
- Facebook group for the movie, Bully: https://www.facebook.com/bullymovie
- Stand for the Silent – A Facebook group created by the parents of a child who took their life in the movie, Bully: https://www.facebook.com/groups/standforthesilent/
- Canadian Anti-Bullying Hotline: 1-877-352-4497
- Canada Kid’s Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
- Crisis Call Centre: 1-800-273-8255
- Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
Image and Movie Credits
Cover picture: Used courtesy of Philipp Nordmeyer under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.
Videos: I claim no ownership of the YouTube videos used in the article. Each belongs to the respective owners. Videos from the movie, Bully, property of The Weinstein Company. YouTube video of “Teens React to Amanda Todd” property of The Fine Brothers.
Sorry you still feel so shitty about all the teasing back in the day. That in itself is shitty. Glad you’re doing well now though :). I just kept a short memory of it all in the first place, it’s all part of building the strong confident character you have today. Those fools are either still bullying unsuccessful idiots who don’t know how to work for anything, or grew up and all is right with them.
When those shitty thoughts creep up, just remember the good times! They’re hiding in there too, I know cuz I was there ;). Like good old Leah (unless apparently I was also a source of fear, but in my recollection we were aight. I vividly recall greeting you in a friendly way at your locker circa grade 4 or 5, and you used to make CDs for me cuz I had no technology circa grade 7-8 haha).
ps I won’t lie, I skimmed through most of this and only really read the your story bit. I do believe I get brownie points still though.
Thanks. Yeah it was tough and because of all my psychology reading I’m aware of how it’s affected me, but I’m learning to deal with it and am moving on to make life more and more awesome every day! I appreciate the feedback and support, because trust me, at times it’s hard to think more on the positive side. I hope everyone’s grown up into better people, for their own sake and everyone’s around them!
Haha no we were OK. I remember those mix CDs as well! That was back in the day of Napster. Oh dear are we old now 😉