Today’s post is dedicated to anti-bullying, which includes victims of eating disorders (as part of NEDA week).
In the middle of October 2012, most Vancouverites and other Canadians read the tragic story about 15-year-old Amanda Todd, a girl who had been bullied and who eventually took her own life on 10 October 2012. Since then, her video was all over the news and now everyone is discussing about bullying.
What breaks my heart is that I did not know about this video until after she had died. She was 15, the same age as one of my cousins. I wish I could have offered her words of encouragement. How many other videos are out there, how many other people are crying for help that we are not aware of?
The sad thing is, bullying happens all the time to anyone. Children and adults are bullied. Families/relatives bully each other. Friends (yes, sometimes, even the closest) backstab each other. Bullying happens at academic institutions and in the workplace. It seems no one is safe from it, even if we think they’re the happiest and most beloved person.
“It could happen to any child [anyone], there’s no social class thing. Whether you’re a boy [male] or a girl [female] or you’re from this part of a community or that part of a community, it’s not a racial thing, it could happen to anybody’s kid [anybody],” says Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother.
It’s a tough world we face, full of violence, hatred, bitterness and un-compassion. It’s so easy to make people upset or dislike us, but incredibly difficult to please everyone. When I’m at my lowest, I morbidly joke that the only way I’ll have pleased everyone in my life is if I died – then I’ll have pleased even my enemies as well. What’s frustrating for all of us is that quite often, we are not given any reasons for why we are bullied. We may not even receive any advice or comfort or win-win solution(s) for our issues. We are left on our own to fend for ourselves, assuming we all learn to survive and forget what’s happened. That’s what this harsh world – society? – tells us: survival of the fittest.
Yet we don’t forget. Some of us are better forgivers and some of us remain victims. Others become hardened and become bullies themselves. It’s a vicious cycle with no end. We live in the 21st Century, a time when we are becoming more aware of many of these issues that we face and we’re supposedly able to get the help we need. Nonetheless, it seems we are content with being passive bystanders and only react strongly when something devastating happens. Then… we do no more, and the cycle continues. Who will wake us up next?
Read: How To Transform Bystanders Into Upstanders (howtolearn.com) & Bullying victim Amanda Todd’s death a consequence of “passive bystanders,” says expert (vancouversun.com)
Before we start naming bullies in our heads, let us not forget one more bully: ourselves/me. “You are your harshest critic,” they say. Even that critic in the column who seems to be able to murder a person with his pen is supposedly even worse to himself. “What? Impossible,” you say. “My bully thinks the highest of him/herself.” Or at least that’s what we think. If you bully someone, you are insecure about something. We all have our insecurities – that’s why we find ourselves bullying others, as well as ourselves. “Me, a bully?”
- How many of you have thought ill of someone?
- How many of you have taken advantage of someone’s flaws to make yourself look or feel better?
- How many of you have looked in the mirror and thought all sorts of horrible things about yourselves?
- How many of you have felt suicidal at one point or another? (Really, what is the difference between having murderous thoughts about someone versus having murderous thoughts about yourself?)
- How many of you have picked on your siblings?
- How many of you have released your anger on those whom you love or those who care for you most?
This is the sad truth: we are all guilty of bullying, whether we want to or not. When I first realised this truth, I was shocked. ‘No, no, I’m the victim of bullying but I’m definitely not the bully! I’m the nice girl!’ I cried in my head. Yet I thought back to my earliest days to recently and realised, yes, I’ve been and am still guilty of bullying. Sometimes I catch myself joining in on gossiping or on thinking mean things because of my jealousy and it scares me. It’s as if I’ve turned into a little green monster who’s miserable and wants others to be miserable too. A lose-lose situation. I hate it yet it really takes a lot of determination not to be a bully. Be nice to yourself, and in turn, you’ll be nice to others. I look at the mirror and glare at myself. Well, I hate you but I can love other people. It isn’t long before the jealousy monster sneaks up on me and says, ‘That lovely friend of mine, her life is just going too well. Why don’t I get any of this? This good life belongs to me!’
Wait, stop. What’s bullying?
ERASE Bullying identifies 4 types of bullying:
E.g. Hitting your little brother. Throwing your maths book at the wall.
E.g. “You idiot!” “Boys are pigs!” “People from [country] all smell bad.”
- Social & Emotional (or Relational Bullying)
E.g. “Did you hear what so-and-so did last summer?” “If you befriend that stupid girl, we’re not going to be friends with you.”
E.g. The Onion tweet about Quenzhane Wallis.
Read: Four Markers of Bullying (conversationsonthefringe.com)
How do we stop bullying?
Goodness, how do we tackle this ongoing problem, especially if we’re all guilty of it?
People think that if we just get kids and adults to talk about it, the problem will go away. Well, Amanda told her Mum everything. I tell my parents just about everything. At the end of the conversation, I still have to face the world on my own, face my enemies, and face all the horrible memories. Yes, it’s a good thing to make sure parents and close friends are aware of what’s going on. I remember how I used to beg my parents to keep me at home. Why did I hate [primary & middle] school so much? If it wasn’t because of some intimidating teachers, it was because of the number of bullies or classmates who just didn’t like me. Take me away from this life, I begged. I’d rather be happily dead than pitifully alive.
Read: ‘She shared everything with me’: Amanda Todd’s mother talks about her life with her daughter (with video)
Here are some ideas:
- Intervention: Apparently, bullying stops within 10 seconds of intervention! If you see someone being bullied, go stand up for the victims!
- Check ourselves: How will what I say or do affect others? Would I say this to the person’s face? Are my thoughts positive or negative?
- Communication: Talk to the bully directly or arrange to have someone, like a teacher or counsellor, to oversee the conversation. I admit, in the past, sometimes it meant apologising for annoying them (let them be in the right)… That’s not always beneficial to oneself.
- Pray for the bullies and for courage, perseverance, and wisdom.
- See a counsellor or attend a group therapy: Find out what resources are out there for you. Meet other people who are going through the same thing as you. Learn how to overcome your
- Schools: Establish early on that no one can get away with bullying. Teach manners. Teach students to be responsible and compassionate.
- Teachers: Never humiliate a student or students in front of a class (e.g. Don’t have students read out their marks). Avoid favourtism. Pay attention to kids being bullied. Inform counsellors or the principal if students show any signs of aggression or victimisation. Remember that a student is not a bad kid just because he/she has learning disabilities or lacks communication skills.
- Parents: 1) Learn how to help your child(ren) if they’re being bullied. 2) Provide good advice and encouragement. 3) Do not bully other parents or children by criticising or humiliating them [behind their backs]!
*Encouraging one’s child or children to participate in more activities outside of school does not necessarily mean he/she will escape being bullied. It might be a temporary distraction but it’s not a long-term solution.
- Media: Everyone’s entitled to an opinion but try not to ask/judge without thinking how this affects the one being criticised.
How I survived the unpleasant years being bullied
Honestly, without God, I probably would have taken my life at 11. People are so shocked when they hear that children – not just teens and adults – are committing suicide. I look at them and think, ‘Well, I wish I had your peaceful, happy childhood!’ I’ve already mentioned how much I’d hated school and it certainly wasn’t easy growing up in different countries, not to mention attending a new school almost every year. Despite how awful school (school days) was, I always had at least one friend, one person who cared for and valued me. I sometimes had at least one staff member with whom I felt safe, though I didn’t usually tell them my sorrows. I also had my parents who loved me and always encouraged me to persevere.
When I was 8, I became a Christian and Jesus became my new best friend to whom I told my troubles. One thing to remember is that even Jesus was bullied and betrayed by his closest friends. On the days I forgot about Jesus, I felt like I was utterly alone.
It’s not easy reminding myself that I was not actually alone. Looking back, I think Mary Stevenson’s poem ‘Footprints in the Sand’ sums it up:
This is the version I first read. The original, I believe, is written in the first person narrative. (Source: Quizilla)
When I returned to my hometown for HS, I was relieved that my 3 years of HS went fairly smoothly. I’d simply experienced HS drama earlier in my primary and middle school days. Ironically, I’m thankful that I experienced it earlier so that I’m not going through a personal life crisis in my adulthood. I hope that if I do see these bullies again, we will be able to sort out the past and start life anew. I hope, that whenever I think negative thoughts about me or others, I’ll always have a reminder to stop myself.