First, let me start by saying that I think bullying sucks. I’ve been bullied as a kid. It wasn’t enjoyable. It did help build character, though, so I’m not upset about it. I’m actually kind of thankful for it. It made me realize at an early age, in a fairly safe way, that sometimes, people are mean for seemingly no reason whatsoever, and it has little to do with me or anything I did. I was just a target.
That said, I’m really sick of hearing about bullying in the media. If you’re over the age of say… twelve, calling someone else a bully just makes you sound like a complete and utter sissypants. And if you’re a sissypants, you probably think I’m a bully for saying that.
I’m not saying you have to put up with it. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying call it by it’s real name: Being an asshole. A douchenozzle. A dickhead. A jerk if you’re not one for foul language. Hell, even calling someone a “mean old poopyhead” sounds more mature than calling them a bully.
If it’s someone who has some kind of power over you, call it harassment. If it goes beyond harassment and becomes physical, it’s assault. But stop calling it bullying.
I was made fun of when I was a kid because I was very skinny, wore thick glasses, had crooked teeth, was bookish and nerdy with hobbies and interests deemed weird, and I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was an easy target. What I came to realize was that, as much of an oddball as I was, the people who were mean to me had lower self-esteem. I was happy being a little weirdo. They had to knock me down to bring themselves up. In retrospect, those kids deserved pity more than I did. They were the ones with real problems.
That’s something else that bugs me about the current culture about bullying. Everyone focuses on the kids being bullied, but not the reason why the bullies are being bullies. What’s going on in their lives? What makes them so miserable that they have to take it out on others?
Plus, it’s always about being a victim, not a survivor. Bullying stopped for me when I stopped letting it bother me. Also when I developed biting sarcasm and a quick wit. It’s no fun making fun of the geeky girl when she insults you back and gets more laughs. But mostly, I realized that what they thought about me didn’t matter. What anyone else thought about me didn’t matter. The key word in self-esteem is “self.” It has to come from within.
If someone said something that hurt my feelings, I asked myself why. Was it true? If not, who cares? If so, is it something that I want to and can change? If not, who cares? If so, maybe I should work on changing that. When people poked fun at me for wearing my thick-ass coke-bottle glasses, it bothered me because I hated wearing them, and eventually got contact lenses. Ditto for my jack o’lantern teeth. I hated them crooked and eventually got braces. When they picked on me for being flat-chested… well, for fuck’s sake, I was a 50 pound eleven year old. Who the hell has hooters at that age and size?! When they made fun of something like the books I read, that never bothered me, because it was something I enjoyed. If they didn’t, so what? Why do I care what someone I have nothing in common with, someone I don’t even like, thinks?
That’s something I figured out as an emotional, sensitive, hormonal pre-teen. I have a hard time finding pity for adults that get bent out of shape over someone being mean.
I may have been a funny looking little kid, but I had bigger balls than a lot of grown-ups!
So… yeah. That’s the rambling thoughts about bullying from someone who went through it. In an ideal world, everyone would be kind to each other. It’s not an ideal world. We need some amount of emotional armor to get through it. We need to teach kids how to forge that armor early in life, not just assign labels of “bully” and “victim.” And the bully is just as much a victim as the victim. Until they reach adulthood. Then they’re just assholes.