October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In support, Be Unlimited took a major stand against bullying. Every blog posted this month has had an anti-bullying theme.
As a target of bullying that lasted for years in elementary and middle school, I know how it feels. It is something that I’ve never forgotten. But it’s also something that I’ve taken from and now use to help others.
Bullying shaped the person I would become in many ways. For years, I never told anyone about my experiences because I was embarrassed and felt shame about what happened to me. Like many targets, I thought it was my fault.
Growing up, I was the target of bullying because I had a stutter that often prevented me from speaking. Being a struggling learner did not help matters. Neither did being small for my age. School was torture. I was called names. I was humiliated. I was pushed around. No one deserves to live this way.
The bullying that I experienced left damages that remained with me for many years. For a long time, I thought that it (the bullying I endured) defined who I was and what I was capable of becoming in life. I am fortunate to have made it through those times with the help of speech therapy, tutoring, and people who cared.
Most importantly, I was able to find meaning in and a purpose for my life. I came to believe that things did not happen to me, they happened for me. When I became a teacher myself, I met students who were targets of bullying. I sought to create opportunities that would develop feelings of self-worth in them. The worst part about bullying is that it can permanently damage a person’s self-worth. Without having a sense of self-worth, a life becomes at-risk.
My own bullying experiences taught me many things. I learned three very powerful messages that I apply to life today. I’d like to share them.
Here’s the first message: Despite every hurtful word that has been said to you and the hurtful things that have been done to you, there is nothing wrong with you. All too often, the targets of bullying develop the mindset that what’s happening to them is their fault. They start to believe that there is something wrong with them. But, the bullying is not your fault.
Here’s the second message: You can rise above where you are now and you will. Focus on the potential that’s inside you. Focus on the skills, the talents, and the abilities that you have. This may not be a quick fix, but a new mindset is something you have to build over time. Every time you rebound from an incident of bullying, it gets stronger. You get stronger, too.
Here’s the third message: No matter what you are going through, no matter how impossible it seems, there is a solution. You are not alone. Talk to someone about what you’re dealing with. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Reach out to an adult you trust. That person can be a family member, teacher, coach, minister or counselor. If you are not comfortable speaking with someone face to face, a telephone helpline is a great resource. For some of those resources, visit the BE HELPED section of this site.
October isn’t the only month that bullying should matter. Stand up for targets and speak out against bullying every day.