Originally posted on Honesty For Breakfast
We’ve all heard that classic saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Whoever coined that needs to call me. I have a really big bone to pick with them. When I finally track them down, I’ll give their number to all you ladies out there who want to give him a piece of your mind. Just ask me for it.
All jokes aside, bullying sucks. When you’re growing hair in weird places, and sporting glasses AND a metal railroad across your teeth it gets even worse. I remember crying a river when all the lights were turned out as I replayed the school day in my head. I got a lot of phone calls from my classmates. But those calls weren’t to discuss homework or arrange the next trip to the movies. They were prank calls. They called so often that I became afraid of the phone. One thing led to another, and I eventually found myself on a therapist’s couch dealing with a cocktail of emotional issues and sporting a huge label that said I was disabled.
The bullying continued every day for 2 years, until I made the decision to switch schools. The new school was a much better fit, but the damage had already been done. I could spend the rest of my life wishing I could jump into a time machine and do everything over again with what I know now as a twenty-something college graduate but what’s done is done, and honestly, I think that the most painful experiences of your life can be the most powerful teachers. And bullying is no exception. Looking back now, I’ve realized that it’s made me grow in more ways than one…
It Makes You Develop Empathy For Others You’re probably thinking I’m insane right now, but yes, you did just read that headline correctly. Anyone who’s seen the documentary Bully knows that bullying is damaging. It can make you cynical. It can make you a recluse. But it can also make you empathetic. It allows you to relate to others and put yourself in other people’s shoes. Being bullied isn’t a prerequisite for being empathetic, but if you understand that everyone goes through pain, you can be kinder to yourself and others. And who doesn’t love a nice person?
You Develop A Thick Skin That brusque lady who snapped at you as you waited in line at the grocery store? Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe there’s something going on in her life that she’s distracted by. Maybe she’s just not a morning person. This is not to say that you’ll never be bothered by ANYTHING that is said to you if you’ve gone through bullying. You’re a human being, not a robot. Words can (and do) hurt. But you get good at picking your battles. You take in what you want to take in, and let the rest roll off. Easier said than done, yes. But I find that it’s a hell of a lot more fun going through life without worrying about what sort of ridiculous rumor the resident Regina George started about you behind your back. And all that experience dealing with your school’s version of the Plastics has given you plenty of practice, wouldn’t you say?
You Get to Focus on What Makes YOU Awesome Just because your bullies call you fat doesn’t mean you are. I mean, come on, not all of us have Cara Delevingne’s brows, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t just as awesome. Break out a piece of paper and pen and write down the things you love about yourself. Do you speak 2 languages? Love how beautiful your hair is? Are you unwaveringly loyal to your friends? Keep adding to it. Ask your closest girlfriends what they love about you, and add those things to the list. Put it up where you can see it. Focus on it. Re-read that list when you’re feeling down. Focusing on what makes you awesome not only boosts your self-esteem, but it’s also the most powerful “[insert expletive of choice here] you” to your haters. By focusing on what YOU rock at and pursuing your dreams, you can go to bed knowing that you busted your butt to get to where you are. And it’s still entirely possible that those bullies are still camped out on their couches looking for someone else to pick on. Who knows? You just might appear on their TV when they sit down for their next channel surfing session. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
It Shows You Who Your Real Friends Are You might have 500 Facebook friends, but that doesn’t mean that they’re REALLY your friends. When you’re being bullied, it’s easy for those around you to drift away. Not because they’ve suddenly decided that you’re worth less than their morning Starbucks, but because they’re afraid of becoming targets. Not everyone is going to stand up for you when you’re being bullied. But the ones that do? The ones that support you? They’re special. They’re the ones you should keep around. Actions do speak louder than words. Knowing who your real friends are keeps you happy. And when you’re happy, life is just better. And as for those who drift away? It’s their loss. You’re awesome.