Bullying: From Victim To Badass

Culture & Society, Learning To Love Yourself

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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.


The Truth Behind The Mask

Learning To Love Yourself, Re-framing Your Thinking





“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”


-E.E. Cummings



I absolutely hate it when someone tells you that everything happens for a reason. (And when someone tells you that you’ve chosen your parents, but that’s another story).


Yes, it’s true that the obstacles, the trauma you went through made you who you are. Yes, it’s true that those formative experiences may have made you stronger. But that doesn’t make them okay.


You were hurt. You have a right to be angry.


You have a right to be angry because we live in a modern society that’s pretty twisted.


We live in a world dominated by screens and unattainable “norms” of perfection where communication has reduced itself to the tapping of keys on a keyboard (or smartphone, whichever you prefer). It’s hard to be yourself amidst all that chaos.


Being yourself is hard. Society tells you one thing. At schools, the maze of cliques is a jungle in itself. And then there are the things you don’t see.


In my case, it was the tension caused by the contradictory East-West dichotomy. I conformed because it was the only way I knew how to survive. But rather than helping me survive, that conformity led to the one place I didn’t want to be.


I won’t go into the details here; you’ve heard me tell that story before.


We are all human. Words hurt. We can pretend that we’re fine when we’re really dying. We can project the image of being someone with no filter who doesn’t waste their brain or breath on something (or someone) at the edge of their peripheral vision.


But sometimes when the mask comes off we do care.


Some would say that the role play, the constant switching from role to role depending on who you’re with isn’t authentic.


My response is to read between the lines, because you may only know one side of a particular person.


Becoming yourself (and staying yourself) amid all those voices saying no, do this, do that is confusing. It’s painful. And it’s easier to conform than it is to stick out. Because going against the flow takes a lot of strength.


So the next time you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, remember that you aren’t alone. Everyone has issues, even the people you consider “flawless.”


We’re all just trying to be ourselves in a big, confusing world.


And that’s hard enough.


Image Credit: Pinterest

Letting It Go: The Start of My Journey

Miscellaneous Musings

“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”

Well now they know.

I am a sleepwalker.

Not in the traditional sense of the word; my parents don’t have stories of finding me riffling through their kitchen cabinets at 4 in the morning.

I’ve been sleepwalking through my life.

I’ve never been one to show emotion; it feels dangerous to me. Growing up in a bilingual household where one parent comes from a very collectivist culture where displaying emotion and putting individual needs first is frowned upon, I was raised in a household where I was constantly told (indirectly) that showing emotion was a bad thing. I experienced so much pain when I tried to express my emotions to my family that I came to the conclusion that they were right; showing emotion was dangerous, and the only way to survive was to numb myself.

In middle school, I was subject to severe bullying; the fact that I was one of the only Asian child in a private school populated by wealthy Caucasian children made me an easy target. This pain of this experience only served to emphasize my belief that showing emotion caused you pain, and was therefore, dangerous. What started as simple test anxiety became full-blown anxiety as the bullying escalated. I developed depression and a strong prejudice against Caucasian individuals and became suicidal.

Thus began my journey into the world of mental health. Thus began my journey of becoming an ice queen.

In an attempt to help me, my parents took me to various psychologists and psychiatrists. They even had a health professional come to my house to administer tests, which (and I quote from the report that my pediatrician later gave me a few years later), “may have helped to ease Alisa’s anxiety”


Every day I was driven to another professional where I poured out my heart in their tiny offices, where they scribbled madly on their notepads.

In retrospect, I think a part of me started to enjoy these sessions because I finally felt like someone understood me. I didn’t understand that these people were paid to say those things, paid to let my parents know what was going through my head. I began to see them as a friend who I could pour my heart out to without fear of my parents knowing what I was going through. The negative messages around the idea of showing emotion forced me to deal with it the only way I knew how: I turned my switch off, and suppressed every emotion that I felt.

I came home one day to hear my psychiatrist leaving a message for my mother on the answering machine. The only thing that registered with me was that she had been telling my parents what I had been telling her, things that she had repeatedly assured me would remain confidential.

My trust and sense of safety went out the window with that message on the answering machine. Up until that point, I had thought that my house was my safe place, my parents, my safety net. Knowing that my psychiatrist had breached our confidentiality agreement hurt; I had bared my soul to her on the one condition that nothing I told her would leave the room. That was the cherry on top of the cake; I lost all faith at that point. I knew my parents were keeping something from me.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents and psychiatrist had met with my pediatrician, who had agreed to give me anti-depressants. They broached the topic with me at the next appointment with my psychiatrist; one could safely say they carefully omitted key pieces of information. I asked what the medication would fix. They told me it would fix my slipping grades, an excuse they had used consistently. Despite my reservations, I agreed; they assured me that it was temporary, that they would keep me on the medication for no longer than a month.

My grades went up, but I started experiencing severe side effects almost immediately; I had intense migraines and my suicidal symptoms were exacerbated. I floated into the psychiatrist’s office when the month trial period was up, ecstatic that I would no longer be feeling like a winded rhino, only to be told that they wanted me to continue taking a different medication. As I proceeded to cry, scream the word “no” and rage, this doctor laughed at me. I decided in that instant, recalling every doctor I had ever seen, that all doctors were inconsiderate of their patients’ wants and needs.

They proceeded to give me two additional trials of different anti-depressants, which had little to no effect. With each downed pill, the severity of my symptoms increased. By the end of what turned out to be the last trial, my only mentor had moved away to pursue another job opportunity and the bullying had escalated to the point where the sound of the phone scared me and I was too afraid to answer the phone for fear that it would be a prank call from one of my so called “friends.” I ultimately ended up removing myself from that school.

I’ve been stuck on that incident, unflinching since the age of 11.

It’s time for me to wake up. It’s time to let it go.

This is my journey, and I hope you’ll join me.