I was not one of the popular kids in school. On the contrary, I was one of the “fringe” kids. I didn’t play any sports, which in a small town like the one I grew up in, was almost considered a mortal sin. I was uncoordinated, awkward, and shy.
At least, till you got to know me, then I was full of sarcasm, jokes, self-deprecating humor, philosophical mumbo-jumbo, and sideways thinking.
My hometown was really small, as in 300 people small. It was a blip on the map. I had moved there with my parents and brother in 1981 from a larger town in Iowa, which, while not being an enormous metropolis, still had about 35,000 people. It was a big change. And to suddenly not fit in with any of my peers, all 14 of them, was very lonely.
Yeah, I was bullied. In subtle, behind-your-back ways, mostly. Comments made on the sly; “all-in-good-fun” teasing that was only fun for them; and once, being set up as the class president, as a joke, because of how shy I was.
I was lucky in that a new girl moved to town in my 8th grade year, and we were tight friends, best friends, for the last 5 years of high school. At least I had someone to talk to, share being an outsider with.
We both had our “outsider” moments, and our issues with the subtle, emotional bullying that happens in a small town. I had those moments of “What if I ended it all?”
I survived, and it got better.
What I’m getting at here, is this:
Whatever your way of life, there is no acceptable form of bullying.
Children are dying because of it.
When I was younger, if I was feeling left out, I could escape, leave town, hang out with different people, ones that didn’t know what was going on in my hometown school. Kids that didn’t hear the rumors and stories that circulated in my town saw me in a different light, and that was better.
Today, with the advent of cellphones, texting, the internet, Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, and all the other public places that these awful bullying tactics are being practiced, it’s not just found in the hallways of the schools anymore. There’s no place for the bullied kids to feel safe.
Or, at least, that’s how it feels. Every time you turn around, there it is, people splashing private things all over, where everyone can see. It’s rather like having your laundry mounted on a flagpole.
And the bullys win again.
Well, it’s enough. I think we need to start taking back our children’s self-esteem. Stand up to the bullies and back them down.
Teachers, administrators, staff at the schools, watch carefully, and when you see bullying, step in.
Parents, talk to your kids, let them know that bullying is not allowed, and if they are a victim, they have a place to go, a place to feel safe. Find the resources in your area for kids to find help with bullying, whether it’s through their school, or religious institutions, or community clubs and organizations. They need people to help them stand up when they’ve been knocked down, help them find that stability.
Teens, pre-teens, young people of any age – stand up for your friends and stand up for strangers, too. If you see someone being bullied because they’re different, stand up. If you work as a group, stand in front of the person being bullied, and stare at the bullies, they’ll back down. You don’t have to be best friends with someone to defend them, you just have to be a compassionate human being.
And never forget.
I have stood on the fringe of what’s considered “normal” most of my life. I survived the bullies, I was lucky – and I had help.
And to all you kids out there, suffering through the bullies?
Please, hold on. Here’s my hand, I’ll help.
- ‘Bullied To Death’: Resources, More Information (abcnews.go.com)
- You: The Nine Most Common Myths About Bullying (newsweek.com)