Who in this room has never been bullied or made fun of?
Of course, we have all gone through that phase in life when we have had acne or have been taller than everyone else in school or shorter than everyone else in school. Those things that should have made us appreciate our individuality and uniqueness actually made us vulnerable to ridicule, even self-ridicule.
Having been a middle school teacher for a couple of years, I witnessed so many times young girls made to feel a certain way about themselves, mostly negative feelings. I have had to fuss at bullies, but I have also fussed at those who were being bullied for allowing those bullies to manipulate their emotions.
So many times, I saw very beautiful girls, very intelligent young ladies positioned on the receiving end of harsh criticism and treatment from the “it” girls. Young ladies were called nerds for making the highest grade on a test. Girls from “ethnic” cultures were made fun of because they didn’t (didn’t have to) wash their hair everyday. Young ladies ridiculed because they weren’t wearing the “threads” of whatever label or designer was hot at the time.
These young ladies would come to me, crying their little hearts out because they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to defeat these bullies. The phrase that I used the most when speaking with these young girls was: First of all, take control! Take control of your life, and become okay with who you are!
In addition to being a teacher who mentored and advised young girls on what it means to be confident, I am also a big sister. I have been a tutor since college. I have been a good friend. I have been confident for the majority of my life. But I was also once in middle school myself.
Yes, I was also bullied and ridiculed growing up. Middle school was especially hard for me because as soon as I thought I knew whom I was, that person I thought I was became the butt of jokes. I was cute, but was okay with the fact that I may not be the most beautiful creature crawling the earth. The weird thing about one of my bullying incidents was that I was teased for being “pretty.” I know right! But it’s not what you think. I was on the basketball team. I was by no means the star, but I didn’t ride the bench every game either. I remember one day at basketball practice, I was teased because I had on a t-shirt and some short pants that matched. It wasn’t even intentional! Because of what I had on at basketball practice, I was called “pretty girl,” “pageant queen,” and the likes. Now, I know that you may be thinking “What’s wrong with that?” Well, these names were not meant to be compliments, let’s just say that. The criticism had more of a tone of “She thinks she is so pretty.” And if you have been a girl on a basketball team, who doesn’t appear to fit in with the other girls, you get balls thrown at you, not passed to you, at basketball practice.
Another instance of my bullying phase was when I was teased because of the shoes I wore. I was not, and still am not, a label hag. I did not care about the latest release of Air Jordans or the freshest pair of Reeboks. I was fine with my Keds, thank you very much. They were economical, they were comfortable, and they were easy to put on and kick off. This was not, however, fine with my classmates, who pointed at my shoes and laughed at me because while my brother always came to school with the “tightest gear,” I always came to school with “bo-bo’s.”
I cried sometimes, yes. I questioned my existence. I became confused as to what these kids expected from me, of me. I lost sight of whom I was for a second. It was at that point that I had to make up my mind: do I want to be what they want me to be, or do I want to be me? Hmm…
I chose me.
I recognized then, at such an early age, that many of those who made fun of me didn’t really have much themselves. All they had were the name-brand clothes. Many of them were not that intelligent. Some of them didn’t have household vehicles. Some of them didn’t even really have households in general. I started to feel really sorry for them because they needed validation through material things. They had their clothes, and that’s all they needed apparently.
But I had a deeper sense of self. I remembered that my mother raised me to know whom and whose I am and be comfortable with whom I am, with whom God created me to be. I realized that I was content with what I had in life: food on the table, a home with more than enough space, clean clothes, soap and water, a family who loves me and supports me, and a bright future ahead of me.
I stopped crying.
Big thanks to Adrea Miller for this blog submission! Bullying comes in all forms, even when it's in a way you wouldn't probably consider bullying. It reminds us that we are all different and bullying comes in so many forms and affects us all differently. Think before you speak, be confident in yourself, you are loved by many.
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