Tuesday, March 20, 2012

bye bye bullies

This video popped up on my news feed today, a trailer for a documentary on something that needs attention: bullying.

Bullying is something very important to me. So much so that I have considered starting my own anti-bullying efforts (in which I will need your help!) Stay tuned for that. But for now, let's pay attention to a crucial film that is getting the ball rolling.

Bully will be in select theaters March 30. If you are lucky enough to have it playing near you, go see it. You can also check out their site here. 

Bullying. It's this thing that's always existed, right? We've grown up watching it on movies (The Christmas Story anyone?) and TV shows...we even grew up hearing about or seeing kids get bullied. It's just part of growing up, right?

Well, no. If you've ever been bullied, you feel quite strongly the other way. You also feel embarrassed. Confused. And then like maybe you deserve it?

My own experience with bullying took place in seventh grade. I was a new girl in school to a private, Lutheran elementary. These kids had grown up together. They were used to wearing uniforms (in elementary) and they didn't wear make up.

I had cute clothes, I'd already gone through puberty (so I had boobs, too) and my mom let me wear makeup.  Put those three things together at the age of 12 and boys will give you their undivided attention. And then, so will girls.

All was well in seventh grade until a girl in the grade above me decided she liked my boyfriend, too. Cue a flood of emails and IMs that said things like "You are so f***ing ugly!" "You should kill yourself!" "You are such a slut!" "You should strangle yourself with your horse hair!"
I kept it to myself for a while because it was embarrassing.  Plus, I started to believe it. (I ended up cutting my long hair myself in my bathroom at home.) Eventually I told my parents. Who were obviously furious. They contacted my principal (the bullying had spread to school, too--girls taking my things in the locker room, some eighth grade boy standing up in drama class to tell everyone I stuffed my bra, while I sat there in class). The principal said she had no proof of it happening in school, and well, the emails, though obvious proof, weren't actually happening at school so her hands were tied.
Eventually, it stopped. I show huge thanks to my best friend Emily, the other new girl in school, who stuck by my side the whole time. My parents, who I learned I could tell almost anything to. My brother, who threatened to kick a lot of ass when boys chimed in on the fun. And, my seventh grade boyfriend, Ryan, who didn't care what anyone said about me.

My bullying experience destroyed my confidence, for a while. As much as you want to appear "tough" when you go through it, and say you don't care...you do. It also caused me to lose ties with who I was for awhile when I became a popular eighth grade girl. I myself became a bully for awhile. I didn't send any hate e-mails, but I made fun of people. In front of them. Behind their backs.
Looking back, it was out of insecurity. If I had to guess, it's the same reason that eighth grade girl started to bully me. I'm not a mean person, and most of the time, either are the bullies. How does that saying go? "Hurt people hurt people."

Not that it's an excuse. Because its not. But bullying needs to stop. It has to. How many more kids can we lose to it?

While I do think part of the answer lies in harsher (much harsher) punishments for bullying in our schools, I think the other part to think about is how we are raising our children. What kind of examples are we setting?

Food for thought. Next time you want to make fun of your co-worker or that girl who dates your ex-boyfriend, don't. Maybe it's time to look inside as to what makes you want to lash out at someone else. If we can learn to examine what causes it within ourselves, maybe we can teach our children to do the same. Remember that image when you point your finger at someone, you're pointing three back at you?
You may not be walking the halls of a high school, but we all know we just stop calling it is as adults. The change starts with us. Teaching by example. Teaching kids, our peers, our parents, that kindness, that compassion, is everything.

"Basically we are all the same human beings with the same potential to be a good human being or a bad human being ... The important thing is to realize the positive side and try to increase that; realize the negative side and try to reduce. That's the way."
-- Dalai Lama

What are your bullying stories?

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