I wanted to write this post because I think it is important to address. I have read a lot of comments from people who are simply dumbfounded when it comes to bullying in school. While bullying can happen to anyone for any particular reason I think those who take interest in this blog can relate that most bullying incidents had something to do with not belonging or being an outsider. When I was younger, feeling like an outsider was huge. For now, I will tell you what I know and experienced:
I was not held back in school. When I was 5 I hit kindergarten. While I realize some parents choose to hold their child back for a number of reasons, I do not think there was any reason for my parents to. There I am happily involved in kindergarten. HA. As if. The truth is I was probably the most ridiculous little child any teacher would have the delight in dealing with. I HATED social interaction…with other kids. Let’s just say that I regarded myself to be ‘better’ than those dirty, smelly, kind of unintelligent life forms sharing crayons with each other in that classroom. I think it is safe to say that my kindergarten year, though it lacked communication with anyone under the age of 30, went by rather smoothly. It was in Grade 1 though where I would become the target of a lovely bunch of girl bullies.
This is where most Asian kids could relate. For the most part, we are made smaller and younger looking than our Caucasian counterparts. While we will need to haul out the ID’s for most of our lives, they will probably be able to stop after 30. I guess this is where my life in elementary was made very difficult. Naturally, because I was so small I became the target to a group of wicked and dare I say it, spoiled brats. I do not exactly remember why I was bullied, I think it was just something fun for them to do. I was an easy target. I do remember though moving back and forth between schools because of them though. I was almost so tired of moving back and forth that I would have rather been bullied and stayed in one place. I was willing to deal with that. Unfortunately sometimes teachers are not equipped with the right coping mechanisms when it comes to bullies. We sure talked about it a lot, had posters up, even watched and read books about bullying. But when it came to an actual kid being bullied, speaking from experience I was less than impressed. I used to get circled outside in the playground where the girls would chant nasty words about me and keep me from getting out of the circle. I was purposely cut off and then brought back in to various social circles numerous times, it all became rather overwhelming. The teacher knew of this bullying problem right from the get-go, my parents were not exactly silent soldiers with this one. One of the ‘strategies’ that my teacher put to use to deal with this was a lovely activity called “Roses and Thorns”. For those who are unfamiliar with this useless tactic (when it comes to social problems), basically everybody sits in a circle and says one thing that they like about the goings-on in the class and one thing that they want to change. I was a very shy person when it came to speaking my true feelings, do you blame me? If I did speak my true feelings I would get thrown back into the taunting circle! Anyways, my turn came and I said that I was fine. Nothing was wrong. Nobody was bothering me. The teacher nodded and onto the next person we went. The leader of the bully pack’s turn came up. Instead of lying and saying that she felt nothing needed to be changed she decided to use my own thorn against me. She said she and the other girls apologize for the way that they had treated me earlier (another incident). Instead of the teacher acknowledging what they had done wrong, she decided to get mad at me-for not saying anything about it. What?! Like hell I wasn’t going to say anything! All I was concerned about was keeping my mouth shut, I really did not feel like getting excluded from my so-called social group. Again.
Taunting. That is what all of my Grade 2-3 bully problems consisted of. Being picked on for being tiny and helpless and quite frankly I was very helpless. I did not really know how to deal with bullies, nobody taught me. Well okay, they did, but it was the wrong kind of help. The help and advice that books and TV programs and teachers and sometimes parents give about bullying is pretty bad. Everybody assumes that the bully is a rational person who can just ‘talk it out’. Everybody assumes that deep down bullies are victims too. You know what? Sometimes they are not. Sometimes nothing is wrong in their life and they are the way they are. Saying, “You really hurt my feelings and I would like you to stop” is probably the worst comeback to a bully. But you know why we are told to say that? Because it’s either that or we end up saying something ten times worse than what they said, or even more brutal, we end up punching them. This is where my Grade 4-Junior High life takes form.
I did not punch anybody, let me be very clear. But when I moved schools for the last time in elementary I think I felt deflated, all my energy had been lost. I was back to being that tiny Thai girl with no back bone and craved so much to belong somewhere that I allowed myself to get stepped on again. Only this time, I was a pre-teen. This time bullying was less about the taunting circles and more about the mind games. It was about manipulation and making someone feel all alone in a large group of people. My elementary experiences taught me not to say anything at all to my parents until things got REALLY bad. But my parents know me, and they know when something is not right. My body language would change around certain people, any confidence I had left completely disappeared when I was with these people. I was so much involved with them that slowly I became like one of them.
I can name off certain situations in Junior High where I treated somebody unfairly, where I excluded them or gossiped about them. I feel terrible, and there is no excuse. I cannot blame being bullied or being brainwashed as the cause to my actions towards others. It was simply wrong. I suppose you could say that while I was being sneakily brainwashed I gave myself leverage and gave myself a new purpose. This person gave me a sense of pride, even though it was the wrong sense of pride. But my parents are smart, especially my mother when it comes to situations like this. After a time of having to separate myself and regain my composure I had to start fresh again, like when I moved schools. Grade 8 and 9 went by and I found myself moving schools for High School with much haste and a desire to leave and never look back.
By this point I no longer gave a damn about the number of friends I had or regrets about burning bridges. This attitude gave me the reputation of being very strong-willed and spearheaded, it was favorable amongst people who needed something to get done and teachers who knew the job was going to be done right. Years and years of being other people’s door mats for both children and adults, taught me to get shit done no matter what it took. I no longer see being teased as a sign that something is wrong with me, or even that something is wrong with the teaser. Sometimes people say things without thinking about what they’re saying, I still do it sometimes. What is important is knowing that being teased for being short or small (like I am) is not a sign of weakness on my part. I am short and small. I accept it as a characteristic, not as a personality trait. It is important to know that you do not have to deal with it, just like you do not have to attend every fight you’re invited to. Teasing can go on for years, but I find that the less you care, the more bored they get. The more you are proud of what you look like or how you are gives you a sense of power that is ten times stronger than any bully could ever have. You see, bullies thrive off of negative energy, there is only so much of it though because it can only be created by negative people. There are so many more positive people. Positive energy is endless, and mental strength is the biggest threat to a bully’s tactics. They go after those who accept their being small as the way their personality is, they go after people who prefer to keep quiet out of fear (like myself when I was younger) rather than stand against. While I personally would disregard most of what those bully books taught us, I can say that sometimes all it takes is one good talking to, not from parents or teachers, but from what your gut tells you. Speaking from experience, nothing is more gut-wrenching than the once quiet child looking you straight in the eye and with absolute confidence, telling you how disgusting your behavior is and how ashamed you should feel for treating someone like that. Should you not know what to say, take a shower. Our best thoughts and speeches are created there.