Friday, December 9, 2011

The bullied all grown up

You read that right...bullied.  As in the victim.  Or the powerless.  Or the one who is the butt of the joke.  However you look at it, the person who is picked on, is the bullied.  And at one time, that was me.  Last night's episode of The Big Bang Theory (sidenote: a fantastically funny show, if you haven't watched it) hit home for me.  It spoke to any of us who had been on the receiving end of a bully's wrath.  We all would like to stand up to them now that we're all grown up, have recognized our own inner strength, and know that what the bully did or said was wrong. 

As a grown woman in her 30's, I see all too often the havoc bullying can play on the lives of kids.  Of course, I'm a school counselor so I get to work in those trenches on a very regular basis.  Yet, I think that many times the people who have done the bullying don't even realize it hurts.  To them it is just fun.  Playing around.  I would be willing to bet that the girl who called me "fat ankles" from fourth grade until she moved after eighth grade doesn't even remember doing it.  Or if she does, it was a harmless nickname that made her laugh.  The boy who teased me endlessly in freshman English class about my boyfriend and what we did (or didn't do) and made all the girls around us laugh at me-he probably does not even remember doing this at all.  But I remember the shame and embarrassment I felt every day in that front right seat.  The boys who threw coins at me on the playground in junior high school because I broke up with their friend.  The mean girls who made mean comments to me about my clothes and makeup.  Oh, I remember them all.  But they probably don't even think about them now.  Each day one of my students sits in my office in tears, I am reminded of those times.  How much it hurt.  How I wished to be prettier, more popular, more liked, happier.  Why do we allow this to continue?

The best thing I ever did was to leave the school I had attended since kindergarten and start new in 11th grade.  I started fresh, made new friends, and found that there were places where I would be accepted.  I also began to realize that I wasn't some hideously ugly person, but a beautiful young woman.  Now I look back on photographs of my early adolescence and want to tell that girl how lovely she was then, and let her know what the kids at school are saying is simply untrue.  I cannot un-do what the mean girls, the taunting boys did to me then, but I can speak out about it now.  I can stand up for the students in my own school who feel powerless.  I ask you to do the same.  As adults, treat each other with kindness and respect.  Model good behavior for our children.  And when you know bullying behavior is happening, don't stand by and wait for it to stop.  Intervene.  You never know what a difference you will make for the bullied child.