To say I have zero tolerance for bullying is an understatement.
I was horribly bullied in early high school and beat up several times. Once I was hit so hard in the face my tooth sliced through by my lip – I still have a scar. Girls threatened me and beat me up, boys harassed and teased me and shoved me in lockers. Older kids would pretend to be nice just to laugh at me when their friends were around to be an audience. Every single day of my life was like walking through hell with a gallon of gasoline in my hair.
Twice I went to an adult (both teachers), was refused help, and told that “it’s just part of adolescence.” Sometimes I hear people (who I assume have not been bullied) say that kids that are bullied feel invisible. No, we don’t, that would be a blessing. Kids that are bullied feel like a burning hot target every minute of their lives. If the internet was around the way it is now when I was a kid, I have no doubt I wouldn’t be typing this right now. I might very well be dead.
I feel empathetic to younger kids that haven’t exactly set their moral compass yet, there’s still time to set themselves right. In my opinion bullies – teenage and older – damn well know what they are doing is wrong and illegal. Speaking up to the bullies and to other adults in order to find an ally was one of the most important things I had done for myself. Maybe, like you Chris, it’s why I find myself with such a strong voice today.
I left this as a comment on Chris Pirillo’s post he wrote about being bullied as a kid. After thinking about it, I thought it was important enough to find a place on my own blog, so here it is.
Autumn and winter – and the holidays that go with it – tend to be a tipping point for some that are dealing (or not dealing) with things like depression, bullying, or intolerance in their lives. It’s not just younger people that have a difficult time, older more ‘life experienced’ folks in their 40s and 50s and beyond struggle to cope as well. Online it’s easy to hide feelings and appear manic all the time. Super easy. It’s also easy to get lost in the shuffle and overlooked even when using online tools (like Google+, Twitter, or Facebook) to reach out for help. Chris Brogan wrote up an amazing article about this very topic, and this along with the other Chris’ post made me want to tell the small bit of story above that I did.
Kids being bullied have it worse than I did because today’s bully can use the Internet and social channels as a weapon, where I only had to deal with bullies when I physically saw them. (The fear of seeing them was with me 24/7). Adults that have little support in their lives (or at least feel they don’t have any support) can’t really rely on the social friendships online to find help and solace. Social media seems to be either omnipresent and overwhelming or an empty echo chamber of solitude. It’s not a good place in either case.
Offline, in real life, is where the changes need to happen. I’m a much stronger person now, maybe in part because I was so viciously bullied and assaulted growing up. Most everything I do is fueled by a need and obsession to be better than type of person who made me feel so worthless. I want to reach out and help people, all the time, honestly a lot of times to the point where I’m giving too much. I want to take every person who feels they have no voice and teach them how to make their own bullhorn and say what needs to be said – for business, personal or professional reasons. (I was steamrolled early in my career by bosses as well, and learned how to stand up for myself in a professional environment too.)
Bullies leave scars. Sometimes physical as in my case, more times they are emotional. Those are the ones that I think change the very make up of a person and alter who they are for the rest of their lives. While preventing the bullying in the first place is always the right thing to do, helping people get through it and survive it – thrive – is just as important.
After surviving being bullied, I had a hard time making friends or trusting that a friendship was genuine and not a ploy to mock me. I still fear – 25 years later – that I am not liked or accepted or that people are talking behind my back and really dislike me despite what they say to my face. It seems narcissistic to think everyone is talking about me, but it’s something I can’t shake. I am horribly shy in person when I don’t know the people very well, and I have been told on many occasions that people mistake that for aloofness and conceit. I’ve lived in my town for 13 years and don’t have anyone local I could really call a friend. At my kids school functions (one being in preschool the other in elementary school) I hover around my kids doting on them partly so I don’t have to interact with other parents. At 40 years old I’ve come to accept that my fear has prevented me from knowing how to make friends in person. I actually avoid in person events because after 13 years it’s honestly embarrassing that I’ve not befriended one person from my town. Online is easy-peasy for me. I can be “me” for some reason, but in the real world it’s frightening.
The internet is just illusions and mirrors filled with fear and greatness and security and danger. At 40 years old I really need to figure out how to do the ‘meatspace’ thing if only for the sake of my kids. Having them grow up seeing that the majority of my ‘friendships’ are based with people inside the iMac on my desk probably isn’t healthy. I do get to see ‘my gals’ from time to time in person, but my kids don’t get to see those relationships. I think they could use the role model, especially my 10 year old daughter.
I’m not sure there is much point to this except to just say it. No answers, just a small part of my story and some thoughts. Bullies today seem to have more power (zero tolerance laws don’t really address the causes, just the symtoms in my opinion) and it’s just so much harder now. It can be survived, it can be eliminated, and you can thrive and be amazing. That’s how I choose to view it for myself anyhow. So… just thanks 😉