They Bully Your Loveliness

They hate your hair. They think you’re a crybaby. They say you’re weird and overemotional. No matter what you do, they find something to criticize.

Chin up, beautiful. What if the things they berate you for are the things that make you who you are?

Everybody said I was overemotional – now, I use all those feelings to be an empathetic person. I’m a better writer because I can channel my writings into passionate words.
I was constantly called weird. It used to plague me, but eventually it became my greatest quality. If I wasn’t weird, I would have no sense of humor. Weirdness makes me unique, and unique is a good thing.
Nobody liked how I looked. My hair was too frizzy and I was a little bit pudgy. But you know? I like my frizzy hair. It makes me look windswept and quirky. I don’t mind having a little extra meat on me. Having a body that didn’t conform to what beauty was supposed to be just increased my appreciation for all bodies. Every human is beautiful.

Don’t let them bully the loveliness out of you. Smile, be who you are, and don’t be ashamed to let it show.

 

 

 

A Written Reaction

A written reaction to being put down, fifth grade.

“Everyone thinks I’m so weird but they don’t even stop to think that Albert Einstein was weird and look what he has become. All those genius people were weird. No one thinks that maybe I have human feelings too and that somehow, somewhere I could change the world. If I was treated with respect I could soar instead of being chained up in lies. No one ever thinks that beauty is skin deep and even though I’m fat it doesn’t matter. I hate all the stupid people who have made fun of me. Because you will regret it when I change the world. And I’ll give my special thanks speech and you WILL NOT BE THANKED!!!!!!!!!!!” 

Dear Misfits

This is for all the outcasts, losers, loners, misfits, weirdos, dorks, and underdogs out there.

People don’t seem to understand you. The world moves on around you, going at a pace you just can’t keep up with. There is a path you’re supposed to follow, but it never feels right under your feet. Somewhere out there, you know, is a trail meant just for you. It seems that you’ll never find it. All around you are critics. They don’t like the way you dress, the way you act, the way you communicate. You’ve tried so hard to fit in so maybe the torment and awkwardness will end, but it’s always felt a little off. You still feel like an outsider, and there’s no real way to describe it. You’re just different. 

But you know what? One day, being different will be your greatest pride. You won’t ever want to fit in anymore. You’ll find friends who accept you not in spite of your weirdness, but because of it. Odd and abnormal will be compliments. Just hold on. Don’t let people make you feel inferior. Difference and uniqueness are needed to change the world–who ever did anything by being like everyone else? You have the gift of being an outcast, and you’ll prove everyone that that’s not such a bad thing.

Keep on being the circular piece in a square puzzle. Keep on being you. 

With love,
-A happy misfit

Did They Influence Me?

When I was in fourth grade, I was a huge hunter and a pecker. I had to whisper letters out loud to help me find them on the keyboard. Nobody wanted to work in groups with me, and I was berated for it on multiple occasions. At the end of sixth grade, when I entered the world of the internet, I started becoming familiar with the computer. It became more efficient to type my stories than to write them by hand. I wrote something–anything–every day for the next two years. Then I started a blog. At this point, I type about 100 words per minute, give or take a few.

In seventh grade, on the bus home, one of my friends said that I “made everything boring.” I stared out the window and began to cry. Over the next year, I became so anxious that I couldn’t even talk to anyone. I kept to myself, quietly and miserably, unable to reach out when I needed help. It slowly got better by the spring of eighth grade, but didn’t completely disappear until a few months after I’d met my good friends. As I got comfortable, I became weirder and weirder. My mind quickened, I got in touch with my inner wit, and I let go of some of my inhibitions. Now, boring is the last word I–or anyone close to me, really–would use to describe who I am.

All of this makes me wonder if what people say about us has any bearing on who we end up becoming. Do we subconsciously file away words and conversations that hurt us so that we become what everyone thought we wouldn’t be? Or do we simply bring a match to the depths of our heart, lighting up the dormant wicks of qualities we might not have discovered, but where already there?

Or is there no correlation at all? Some of the things said to me and about me still remain, to an extent, true today. My classmates used to look down on me because I was so sensitive, but I never became tough. Really, I’ve just used my sensitivity for good. I feel others’ pain, I try to be as kind as I can, and I use my emotions to create beauty in this world. Could others’ comments have spurred me on to develop the traits they cut me down for?

Or perhaps they didn’t influence me at all. Maybe I just grew up all on my own, finding my own path, learning how to let others’ opinions blow over and past me like the wind.

Needless Drama

I thought that once I’d entered high school, people would have matured and gotten over the need to gossip and stir up needless drama. I thought wrong. So many people are just fake. Gossiping, lying fakes. I can scan the entire cafeteria and find nobody in whom I could trust. I don’t socialize at school, and day by day, my desire to do so lessens. I’m starting to actually dislike people at my school. 

This morning, I walked into my history class for the first time in over a month. I haven’t been to school in a while, and much to my embarrassment, I completely forgot where I was seated. I wasn’t sure if the seating had changed, or if I was simply failing to remember. Confused, I sat hesitatingly down into an open seat.
“Uh, do you sit here?” said the girl next to me, condescendingly. Immediately I felt again like a small little fifth grader. Or sixth grader. Or seventh. Any of the three. I’m not sure why such a simple little thing like that would cause me to become so upset.
“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t been here in a while. Do you by any chance know where I would sit?” At this point, I received the classic mean girl eye-roll. I know, so mature. 
“Why are you asking me? How should know?” More mean girl looks. Very condescending. Again, I felt small again. I traveled back in time to age twelve–and unfortunately responded with twelve-year-old maturity. 
“Oh, thanks!” I responded, smiling–sarcastically sweet. “That was so helpful!” The girl was alarmed. Why? I guess because I’m the sweet quiet one who always lends her pencils–even when she never returns them. I never speak. I stay on people’s good side, but this time I got a little snarky. 

At this point I remembered where I was sitting and moved at the earliest possible moment. For the rest of class, I felt horribly guilty. I’d acted just as horribly as she had. I also felt conspicuous and insecure. Imagine an accordion in a green meadow. That was me in history class this morning. I felt like the girl was staring at me and secretly planning to ruin me. Then, awful scenarios began to pop up in my head. What if she turns the whole class against me? Or the whole school? What if she creates a website dedicated to hating me? Such irrational thoughts always run through my head in moments like the ones that happened today. 

At the end of class, as she was packing up after the bell, I approached her. “Hey, sorry I was rude earlier.” 
“Yeah. Sorry,” she mumbled. Our eyes did not meet. Later, we ran into each other in the bathroom. She asked me for lip balm, and I said I had none. She seemed sweet–of course, I’ve become wary even of kindness. High school is an ocean of false sincerity. You never know when someone’s a true fish or a shark disguised as one. 

More needless drama happened at lunch. I wasn’t directly involved this time; rather, I overheard. I usually sit with some popular girls. They actually approached me at the beginning of the year and wanted to sit with me–of course I obliged, though awkwardly. Well, after I’ve been gone for over a month, they didn’t give me even so much as a glance. I was expendable to them the whole time. What else could be expected, though? All I did was read while they played Candy Crush on their phones. 

Anyway, I was sitting uncomfortably on the edge of their circle and heard them talking about other girls on their sports team. The insults were flying everywhere. 
“She thinks she’s the best! She’s actually not. Everyone is annoyed with her.”
“I know, right?! And she’s not even that pretty.”
“So true! She thinks everyone likes her! Ugh, I want to slap her.”
“She likes every boy, but has no chance of being liked back.”
“Let’s not talk to her at practice this evening, okay? If she comes up to us, just walk away.”
“Okay!” *laughter*

This is only a very short paraphrase of their conversation. These are the girls who are always taking pictures of themselves with her, hanging out with her, and acting like best friends. In fact, the class period before, I saw them all laughing and hanging out together. And then the chatter at lunch! It made me physically ill to listen to. They’re like black widow spiders–eating their own kind! These are the girls who like all my pictures on social networking sites, including when my caption is “Please don’t talk badly about others. Words carry a great weight” or something. The hypocrisy! 

The drama is needless! I ache for everyone they’ve put down. I mean, I actually feel pain when I hear talk like I heard at lunch, even if it’s not about me. Can’t people recognize that everyone is a human–flesh and blood, bone and marrow? We are all the same! Will this petty talk even matter in a year? No, of course not! It’s pointless and hurtful! I don’t know how to say this any other way: shut up! Just shut up, please! I would rather them play Candy Crush on their bedazzled iPhone 5S than be so low as to trash another human being! 

Yes, we’re all hypocritical. Face it, we’ve all gossiped. And gossip is tempting–not necessarily to hurt others, but out of curiosity. We want to know what’s going on. It’s like news–we want to be up to date on who likes whom, who hates whom, and so on. We crave surprise. Oh my God, she hooked up with that kid?! I never would have guessed! Sometimes we just want some excitement to spice up our lives. (Half the time, the “news” isn’t even true, by the way.) But there are better ways of doing this! When I’ve been tempted to gossip, or even listen to a conversation in whispers, I just turn away and remember that it’s none of my business. What other people do in private, or what they keep secret, isn’t anything I should know. It’s not my business whom that girl is interested in. I shouldn’t care who she’s hooked up with. It’s not my business! 

So instead of putting other people down, or gossiping, try including other people. When we add new people to our “friend groups”, we add variety to our lives! Meet people. Find a hobby. Join a fandom. Do anything, but don’t take your own insecurities out on somebody else. It’s not fair.

This advice goes for me, for you, and for that strange clown statue standing in the corner of my living room. Oh, he’s holding a knife!

I better go now! Run! I’ll see you la–

(Just kidding. There’s no clown in my living room.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness

I have spent years of my life trying to break, destroy, and suppress myself. I’ve spent so much time attempting to “prove them wrong”–everyone who’s ever hurt and bullied and belittled me. It has been so much about them and so little about me. Over these past few years, I have devoted incredible time and energy into “remodeling” myself. There has always been a gnawing fear at the back of my mind that my old tormentors will reappear in my life–whether long-term or only for a moment. and if they were to show up again, I wanted to appear perfect and irresistible. I wanted to show how much of a contrast I am now to the chubby little bubble I once was. So I always asked myself the question: what would they think of me if they came back this very moment? And, if I decided they would still laugh, I would try even harder. It was like furiously cleaning and remodeling a house for a guests that will most likely not even show up.

This, I believe, was one of the other roots of my perfectionism. I wanted to appear pleasing. Even over the summer, the acme of my life, the pinnacle of my recent existence, I was only striving to run as far as I could from the ten-year-old version of myself that i have always regarded as detestable. At the same time, though, I have been dragging that ten-year-old girl all across existence, scolding her. I have not released her. Deep in the pits of my mind, I’ve always thought it my fault for being tormented. If only I’d kept my mouth shut. If only I’d blended in a little more and not laughed at all the wrong times. If only, if only , if only. I have never forgiven myself for my fifth grade year. 

Out of this unforgiveness, again, came my efforts to suppress myself. I shifted about like water, unsure of who I really was or who I could be. The diamond of my true self was tossed away and buried as I searched for a better one among piles of pebbles and dirt. I could never let that diamond be seen again for fear that it would be taunted and mocked again. But no matter how far I tried to stray from the buried diamond, it always turned up right beside me again. It did not want to be left and forgotten. So I kept it with me–but tucked away in my pocket. I never showed the world my diamond, but I displayed the dirty pebbles I was trying to pass off as genuine. Then, when others found me dull, I assumed it was because they had gotten a view of the diamond in my pocket. So I hid it even deeper. I could never see the faces of my old tormentors look upon that diamond. Ever.

But in the past few days, I realize that the best revenge is not desperately attempting to perfect and change myself. The best vengeance is not striving to the flawless model of a girl that I’ve always tried to be. The way to get back is to be exactly who I’m meant to be–that fifth grader. To show that diamond. The more I am around people I trust, the more I realize how little that diamond has changed. It retains its old beauty even after years of being kept in the dark. It remains mostly unchanged. And the parts of it that have fallen away–the parts that I’ve grown out of–leave the diamond looking even more beautiful than before.

What better way to say “f-ck you” to the old tormentors than to remain unchanged after their repeated attempts to break me down? i hope, if ever should they reappear in my life, that they see exactly who they saw four years ago–only a little older. I cannot continue to hold unforgiveness toward an old version of myself. I cannot go on scolding myself for my previous shortcomings. Of course a ten-year-old would fall short when held against the strict standards of her unforgiving fourteen-year-old critic. It is not fair to scrutinize myself in such a manner. Nobody expects a ten-year-old to speak, behave, and conduct oneself like a fourteen-year-old, just as one would not expect a fourteen-year-old to conduct oneself and take on the responsibilities of an eighteen-year-old. So why should I? Why should I drag myself around because of actions old and stale? 

My ten-year-old self can be at peace knowing that her diamond can be free and truly appreciated by those who love it. She can rest now. I can release her. I no longer expect her to be fourteen at ten. She can be ten now. She can be free. 

Don’t Laugh At Me…

Don’t Laugh At Me…

I remember, in fifth grade, a group of guys had ganged up on me yet again. All I remember from that day is sitting at my table, crying, and doing the only thing I knew how to do–pick up my pencil and tear out a sheet of paper. A few months ago, while cleaning my room, I found that piece of paper. This is what I wrote that day.

“Everyone thinks I’m so weird but they don’t even stop to think that Albert Einstein was weird and look what he has become. All those genius people were weird. No one thinks that maybe I have human feelings too and that somehow, somewhere I could change the world. If I was treated with respect I could soar instead of being chained up in lies. No one ever thinks that beauty is skin deep and even though I’m fat it doesn’t matter. I hate all the stupid people who have made fun of me. Because you will regret it when I change the world. And I’ll give my special thanks speech and you WILL NOT BE THANKED!!!!!!!!!!!” 

At that young age, I would plead with with my tormentors to stop hurting me. “No, really,” I’d say. “I’ll change the world one day. You’ll see. Please don’t hurt me. Just give me a chance. Please? Please? I know you think I’m stupid and ugly. But please, just give me a chance. Please.” I thought that if I just begged hard enough, they’d stop and start accepting me–because who could hate a vulnerable little ten-year-old? Well, they did. They did so very much, and I didn’t understand why.

Sometime in seventh grade, I strayed from my own beliefs of kindness and acceptance and became mean (I was also being bullied myself during this time). I wanted the control for once. I wanted to feel powerful by inflicting the same harm on others that was being inflicted on me. Doing this, however, never gave me the satisfaction. It really just made me feel worse about myself–that I could betray myself in such a way. The breaking point was when I heard a girl plead with me in the way I would plead with my own tormentors. “I know you think I’m weird and disturbing…and weird,” she said, eyes full of fear and hurt. I couldn’t bear to be so hurtful after that day.

I’ve grown to a point where I don’t feel the need to spew venom at other people to try reasoning with my own pain. If you want to wear polka-dot rain boots and bright orange jumpsuits, I won’t mind. Maybe I’ll think it’s cute and try to dress like that, too. If you talk strangely, I won’t mind. I’ll talk to you like I would anybody. If you love math and reading Geometry books in your spare time, we’ll respectfully agree to disagree.

I’m not perfect. Sometimes I find myself judging someone in my mind–but don’t we all? Everyone is learning. The best thing we can do is keep trying to be kind–not just to tolerate, but to accept.

The Infamous James

In seventh grade, I met a guy named James. That’s not actually his name, but I’m going to spare him of unwanted Internet fame (just kidding, I’m not famous) no matter how horrible he was to me. So, James, if you ever read this, which you won’t, you should be very grateful.

To me as a twelve-year-old girl, James was beautiful. I loved his eyes, his devilish smile, and most of all, his smooth mop of golden-blonde hair. Naturally, as a boy-crazy preteen (and a hopeless romantic since birth), I started daydreaming about our life together. And by life, I mean two months holding hands in the hallways. While most girls my age were secretive about their crushes, I wasn’t. After all, those girls never got the guy! Naive and gullible, I chose to believe that I was ready for a “relationship” at the tender age of twelve.

I’ve always had this way of developing fifteen-minute crushes. The only difference between me now and me then was that I did not ignore these yearning, romantic thoughts–I acted on them in hopes of finding my “knight in shining armor.” My romantic, imaginative side combined with my reckless naivety was a terrible mix. I liked my friend, Marcus (not his real name), who rejected me saying I’d “ruined the friendship.” Which was probably true, I’ll admit. Then I liked this guy Daniel, whom I’d never met before. I’d just seen him in the hallways, and according to me then, in a dream. I remember approaching Daniel in the lunchroom like this: “Hi, I’m Abigail.” I paused a little, then added, “I’m free on Saturday.” I was insane. Word of my craziness got around, and pretty soon kids I knew, some I didn’t know were walking by me, snickering, and saying “Hi, I’m [insert their name here].”

But I was sure that James, Daniel’s friend, absolutely loved me. I had no idea of anything at that point in my life. What a terrible, terrible mistake I made by liking him. James used me as a source of laughter, yet I never acknowledged it. I simply told myself it was his way of “telling me he loved me.” He’d IM me things like “nobody likes you,” “you’re obsessed with sex,” “f— you” and others. We had a note-passing conversation in class (basically me begging him to love me), after which he threatened to post the entire thing on his social networking (he’d blocked me from seeing his profile when I tried to check, so I’ll never know if he did or not). He’d mock me and taunt me from across the room. He gave me his number, trying to trick me, which turned out to be the number of his friend’s mother. At lunch one time, I saw him passing one of my many silly notes to him around to all his friends. I remember snatching it from their hands, angry, and the entire group laughed at me (my first reaction was to flip them all off and run to the library and cry. Not the smartest thing to do). James told all my friends that I was a “freak that nobody should talk to” and that they should stop hanging out with me–a slut. Ugly. A stalker who’d never get a guy. This kid actively searched for ways to harass me. He never missed an opportunity.

The final straw was when I intercepted a note he was passing to his friend–a drawing of me. I can’t describe the drawing, but I will tell you that it was incredibly degrading and humiliating. I finally realized that no, this snot was not a friend or a potential “boyfriend”; he was a bully. He was destructive. It took me far too long to stop lying to myself and realize it.

I wish I could say that James left me alone after I stopped obsessing over him. He’d still throw bits of paper at me in class, try to trick me into believing he liked me, make his friends laugh at me, and make very inappropriate and uncomfortable comments at me. The difference was that I’d stopped allowing myself to just “bear the pain for the sake of love.” Love. Love?! Hardly!

The pain that James had caused me had turned into hatred and loathing anger. The hatred, believe it or not, eventually turned into a twisted sort of confidence. I felt that as long as I hated James, he’d never be able to hurt me. He would approach me, say something, and angrily I would say “No. Sit down.” If he wanted to pass me notes, he’d have to move his lazy butt and give them to me himself. Some of the things he said still found their way past my blockade, but I absolutely refused to let him dump crap in me like a dirty plastic bag. I built a high, strong wall that I would hide behind for the rest of the year and into the next one.

I have not seen or contacted James since the last day of seventh grade. I hope I never will. One person who hurt me immensely in the past has actually apologized, and I’ve wholeheartedly forgiven this person, but not James. Never him. I don’t believe he will. He’s one of those people who I can see growing up to be a slick, slime-bucket Congressman. Maybe he’ll change. I sure hope so. James caused tremendous damage in the short year he was in my life. The heartache that he left behind is still very real to me. Every once in awhile, he’ll show up in my nightmares, with the same devilish smile and cruel laugh I once foolishly adored. I still brace myself emotionally when I hear his name, even though I know we’ll never speak again. If I were to ever see him in a store or public area, I’d probably run the other way like a wounded gazelle.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to keep my head up and walk right on by.

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.