This weekend, a video about bullying came up repeatedly on social media. It’s heartbreaking and I can’t watch it without crying. I felt angry and protective and sympathetic and vulnerable while watching Keaton talk about his experience with bullying and questioning why do people bully. So much of what I saw in Keaton’s post I remember feeling when I was in middle school.
Kids can be assholes. I say that having been a kid (and knowing that bullying happens across the lifespan). I was bullied. I also treated friends terribly in an effort to be accepted. I still quite haven’t figured out how to reconcile those behaviors, treating people horribly while knowing how it felt. There is no excuse. Just young ignorance and a deep need to feel loved, I suppose.
People bullied me about my weight. I was never thin, though looking back, I was not the morbidly obese person that my peers made me feel I was. I felt overly self-conscious about my weight and looks and was eager to please everyone. I’m sure that made me an even easier target.
A few examples of how I was bullied:
- Girls told me to start eating cotton balls because that would help me lose weight.
- A girl targeted me in my 6th-grade math class and would pass notes around the room daily asking people to mark “yes” if they thought I was ugly.
- Kids told me regularly that I was “weird” and shouldn’t come back to school because no one wanted me there.
- People made up fake screen names on AOL Instant Messenger and would tell me that I was fat and worthless.
- Someone called a fat c*nt monkey.
I’m crying writing this because it still hurts so many years later. My experience has had lasting effects. Throughout high school and college, I never felt like I was enough. I experienced bouts of depression and have generalized anxiety and much of this is the result of being treated the way I was when I was a kid. The funny thing is, people didn’t know that. Honestly, I’m not even sure my parents knew. I hid it well because I felt like I had to have a certain image to meet other people’s expectations of me. I have grown more confident and do care less about what people think about me than I once did, but I am still plagued with feelings of not being good enough, that who I am and what I look like do not meet the standards of those around me, that I’ll never be enough for everywhere. The experiences I had when I was 13 years old stay with me 17 years later.
But I’m lucky. My experience with bullying was mild compared to what kids go through today.
I’m not sure there is a point to this reflection beside encouraging you to think about the person you want to be. Bullying isn’t a kids-only activity. It happens all the time, everywhere. No one, at any stage of their life, wants to feel less than they are. No one should be teased or abused because of what they look like or because they don’t fit in with the mainstream. We each are who we are and have absolutely no reason to single someone out for not being who we think they should be.
The world we live in is tough. We fight daily to live the best possible life we can. Don’t make anyone else’s fight harder than it needs to be.