SSaW part three: the shy ones

There was a time in my life when I did not have the confidence to talk to anybody, mostly due to being rejected so many times. If it had been permitted at my school, I would’ve been the girl eating lunch in the bathroom stall. In class, I rarely raised my hand–not to answer questions, and certainly not to ask them. While my peers interacted with each other and formed friendships, I simply existed. There were so many people I wanted to talk to, so many conversations I wanted to have, but I couldn’t bring myself to follow through with it.

There are shy ones in every school. Not all of them are shy for the same reason I was–perhaps they’re just naturally quiet people. However, it’s always nice to go check in on them. The cafeteria is a great place to do this. You know how to spot them–sitting alone, eyes downcast, perhaps fidgety and nervous-looking. Find a spot close to them at the beginning of lunch (or class) and simply start talking. Give them time to talk about themselves, but be careful not to overwhelm them. When I was shy, I preferred to listen to others talk until I began to warm up to talking myself. Personally, I’d start out with 60/40 (talking-to-listening) and adjust based on how talkative the person is.

I think more of us would try to put these tips into practice if it weren’t for one thing–our own friends. Friends are great, don’t get me wrong. They’re very important. Sometimes, however, we get so involved with our own friends that we forget those who don’t have anybody to talk to or laugh with. Choose a day to reach out to the people sitting alone. Good friends will understand this–some of them might even want to try it themselves. Also, don’t forget the power of inviting someone to sit with your own little group. Even if the person doesn’t say much, they will most likely feel included and happy that you were kind enough to let them into your circle.

Many people who regularly reach out to others are missing one key point–laughter. What do you do with your friends–you laugh together, have inside jokes, and tell funny stories, right? Well, these shy people are no different. Being kind to these people is better than not talking to them at all, but believe me, they will pick up on the fact that the two of you aren’t sharing a good laugh. I remember seeing people with their friends, wondering why they put on a completely different image for me. After getting to know the person a little bit, share some of your humorous experiences. Believe me, laughter really is good medicine for someone who’s lonely.

Today, remember the forgotten ones. Perhaps it’s the janitor at your workplace or that quiet neighbor of yours. Make it your mission to engage with them. I promise you, helping someone else is often the best way to brighten your own day.

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Sticks & Stones part two: the bystander

This past year, I saw a group of girls in my health class approach a boy and ridicule him for using big words. “You nerd! What’s wrong with you?” laughed the girls. I stood there in shock, but couldn’t muster up the courage to do anything at all. As much as I would have liked to help this poor boy, I was afraid that the girls would start to gang up on me, or that I wouldn’t know what to say. The more I thought about the incident, the more regret chewed at me. You should have done something. You should have tried to help, whispered my soul.

I think many of us have had similar experiences. We were bystanders; more specifically, we were passive defenders. We witnessed the bullying, wanted to step in, but didn’t. Why? We were afraid. The terrifying thought of being bullied ourselves convinced us into staying out of the way.

When most people think of “stepping in,” they imagine running up to the bully and shouting, “NO! Stop!” as loud as they can. However, getting involved doesn’t necessarily require a big show. In fact, a quiet intervention can often speak just as loudly as screaming.

One practical way to step in is to begin talking to the bully (or bullies). Were I in the health class situation again, I would approach the girls and engage them in a conversation. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The following are some great ways to distract the bullies:

  • “I like that shirt (or shoes, hat, etc); where did you get it?”
  • “When was [assignment] due?”
  • “Hey, when does the bell ring again? I forgot.”

Once you’ve started a conversation, just continue with it naturally. The bully may forget about what he or she was doing. If it continues, it’s best to confront the person. Sometimes it can be as simple as, “Hey, stop that.” Telling an adult is also a good idea. It sounds lame and weak, but adults have authority that us students don’t necessarily have. Also, because it takes courage to tell an adult, it’s not a weak or lame thing to do.

Always make sure to check in with the victim after-the-fact. Just letting the person know they’re not alone can sometimes be even more effective than confronting the bully. Talk to the person, ask if they’re okay, and if there’s anything you can do to help them. It doesn’t have to be a long tear-fest. Even a four-sentence conversation can really impact someone for the better.

The next time you witness something like this happen, don’t just pretend you didn’t see anything. Feelings and emotional health are at stake–are you going to let it slide? If you see it, you instantly have a role in it–the one who reached out, or the one who tried to throw a rug over the mess that bullying is.

 

 

Sticks, stones, and words.

I remember a time in fifth grade (the beginning of my bullying experience) when all the guys were discussing girls in the class. “Which girl would you most like to date?” asked the boys. Their answers varied–some preferred Lea or Sue, others liked Lindsay or Beth (names changed for privacy, by the way). When they asked each other, laughing, which girl they’d least like to date, it was unanimous. Me.

I’m not sure why that particular instance sticks out to me–I had worse things said and done to me as the bullying increased. Perhaps it was because this particular instance was one of the first in a long few years of bullying? I don’t know.

Because of all the resulting pain from the bullying, something began stirring in me. Around January of my seventh grade year, I decided to reach out to victims and make a huge difference. Unfortunately, I got away from that plan. Although I don’t usually tell people this, I bullied a few girls that year. It didn’t last long, and one of those girls is now one of my best friends, and the other is a good acquaintance, but it was still unacceptable and wrong.

It’s the cycle of bullying. Due to hurt from the words and actions of others, I wanted to gain control of my own. This control was hurting another in the same way I was hurt. I believe this is so for many other bullying victims. Of course, it’s no excuse, and this is not true for all victims, but it is part of a cycle of pain. A cycle of pain that I am trying to crush.

Many tears and scars later, I’m returning to my plan. I don’t have a specific idea yet, but I know that thought and prayer will carry one to me, and I will most likely put this plan into action in September.

One thing I would like to focus on is eliminating the victim mindset. So many others have had the same burden as I do, but have treated those who have been bullied as helpless sheep that need to be fed mashed peas with a plastic spoon. I want people to know that they are strong, loved, capable, and not defined by their tormentors. I want the bullied and the broken to stop thinking of themselves as victims, but as people who can withstand and bounce back.

And by bounce back, I mean emerge stronger, wiser, and even more capable of helping to eliminate bullying.

Do the words of my bullies still hurt? Yes, they do. However, I recognize them as lies. I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I am beautiful. I am adequate, loved, and talented. Sometimes I have to force my brain to remember these truths, but they are there.

The same goes for you, you beautiful, adequate, loved, and talented person. Hopefully, reading this has inspired you to join my cause, or at least made you more aware of this devastating problem. If you have been or are being bullied, please take some time to take a deep breath and remember the words that I have just written. If I knew you, I’d take you out for a big ole’ Slurpee and talk time. But because I most likely don’t, I hope this post will suffice. Hang in there, okay? Remember that you are capable. You are capable and strong. Don’t strive for revenge.

After all, the best revenge is dusting off your knees, reminding yourself of the truth, and continuing to push through the hardship.

The Grammar Police

*KNOCK KNOCK* Open up! This is the World Grammar Police Department (WGPD) coming to arrest you for incorrect usage!

Okay, confession time. I used to be a horrible butcher of grammar. My realization didn’t happen until a few months ago, but I assure you–I’m never going back! One cannot call herself a writer and not know the difference between “your” and “you’re.” 

For anyone who knows me personally, I have a random update for you! The mission trip is going well. I have a free moment on the computer, so I can quickly check Facebook and such.