I know I told you that you are better than them (the bullies, I mean), but I feel I should expand.
I know that right now, when the words cut deep and you stare in the mirror and wonder what to do next, now is not the time for nice sayings and pretty words. But then, Eleanor Roosevelt said something pretty cool. She said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And she would know. She was the laughing stock of her social circle, but went on to become the First Lady of the USA.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
So I thought maybe I would tell you my story – how I managed to find a way past the bullies, in the hope not that you would do as I did, but that you would find a way that is true to who you are. Because I know it is possible. I know it can be done. And I know you can do it. If nothing else, young friend, know this: I believe in you. I know how much you have already overcome, and I know you can do this too.
But, my story about the bullies.
There was the girl in primary school who pinned me in the corner (she was twice my size and her breath smelt funny) and threatened me. Unbeknownst to her, I have an older brother, so threats of physical violence from people twice my size didn’t really affect me that much. I looked at her and said “Is that all?”, which kind of deflated the situation, especially when people laughed at that remark.
Humour. It’s a weapon.
But use it wisely. Don’t mock the bullies, but deflect the words. Take the power back.
Like when they combined all the nasty names together to come up with “Fountainhead Olive Oyl Psycho” as a name for me and I said “it’s a bit long-winded, don’t you think?”
Or the time they were criticising my unusual fashion sense and I said, “Oh, but can you not come up with something more original than that?”
Or you could ignore them, and the stories they make up. (Although this strategy runs the risk of them saying worse things before they eventually give up.) Because the people that matter are the people that know you. And they know the stories are not true.
And even if what they say is technically true, that’s not all of who you are. Just as what people said about me was not all of who I am. Build a shell around your heart for the moments you face these people. But don’t make mistake. Don’t build a shell so thick that you don’t let anybody in.
Remember who you are – list your talents, your favourite things about yourself, remember them as a litany you tell yourself any time you start believing the bullies are right. I’ll get you started – you are intelligent, funny, talented, modest, polite, kind, generous, appreciative…
Remember who the bullies are. These are people that are fundamentally cowards. My mum used to say “take it from whence it comes”. Roughly meaning, these people are so scared of who you are – because you are not the same as them – that the only way they can feel better about themselves is to try to make you smaller than them. Do we really care what cowards think of us? Or more to the point – what they say is not a true reflection of what they actually think of you.
Remember your story. You have already overcome so many things. You have learned so many things. You have taught yourself some really handy life skills. You have done all of this before, and this may just be another opportunity to develop good coping strategies for later in life.
Because this is an unfortunate truth. The bullies don’t go away. They just change form. So if you can learn to endure this season with grace, find a way to stand up under it (by whichever means required) and still be yourself, you will find it easier to cope with things later. [Although later in life, you tend to have the advantage of being able to just walk away from the situation. So. Much. Easier.]
Remember that you are not a bully. Do not, under any circumstances, become a bully.
Talk to somebody.
When I was learning to survive these things, my initial tactic was to just shut down. Let it all slide over me and pretend none of it was happening. I would not recommend that. I suffered longer because of it. The voices I thought I had ignored somehow seeped into my heart and despite everything, I found myself believing what they said about me. Don’t do that.
You need to talk to people who will help you through this. Who believe you. Who are wise enough to give you strategies to cope. Hopefully, to people that can address the behaviour of the people concerned. There is no shame in admitting that something is wrong, that you don’t know how to deal with it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Don’t wait until you are old and grey like me before you learn that.
I know this is a long and rambly post, and I know the one I was thinking of when I wrote it will probably not read it, but that is not the point. The point is this: you are not who they say you are.