Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing. Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.
I want to take a moment to talk about bullying.
There’s a myth in our society about survival. It goes like this: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
It’s true that sometimes in life we all have to learn things the hard way. And it’s true that a few of the things that aren’t always fun in our lives—lifting weights, eating kale, or struggling with math—are good for us.
But violence and abuse, whether physical or verbal—aren’t like these.
I was bullied to an extreme extent as a child. The whys, the hows, and even the whos don’t matter: sometimes I wake up at night in a cold sweat—decades later.
For years, I couldn’t stand to shake hands or accept a friendly hug. As a teenager I had terrible struggles with depression. And, even now that I’m in my thirties, I struggle to shake off the ghosts of the past every single day. Whether I’m meeting friends for a day of dinghy racing, or playing casual sport—I worry about being picked last.
I refuse to believe I’m weaker or have less to offer than anyone else, but I struggle to find self confidence even in areas where I have real talent. There is no upside to this. It doesn’t make me a better observer of the human condition, I’m not noticebly more compassionate than my non-bullied friends, and it took me a long time to work through the anger I felt.
Sadly, I’m far from alone. Research shows that childhood bullying has a life-time affect (see this article in the Boston Globe, or do a quick Googling), and that even today—and I do think that as a society we’ve come a long way from the eighties in terms of accepting one another—bullying is still common.
As a victim, bullying was impossible for me to deal with. At the time, my dad told me to stand up for myself. I was strong, but there was one of me, and more of them. My mom tried to help me by buying me cool clothes, I was still myself. And my teachers, and the bullies’ parents refused to accept the fact that their children could be both normal one minute, and cruel the next.
In university, as an anthropologist, I was surprised to discover that bullying is a common mechanism to all world cultures. It comes from a desire to maintain social cohesion and conformity. Our fear of being labelled as different, and our desire to maintain our standing in our communities, means that even teachers and authority figures fear social ostracism if they intervene. Tragically, bullies are often victims too.
But the cure for bullying is simple. To as a society, accept difference. And as individuals, to reach out and help. Tazim and I are glad to have the opportunity to share this trailer for The Bully Project with our readers. Check it out below:
I want to close this post by saying that I’m proud of who I am. And I’m grateful to all my friends, and to my sister and brother who pulled me through hard times. Bullying didn’t make me stronger—but life gets better, and I’ve gone on to live a wonderful, adventure-filled life, rich with kindred spirits.
I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. Find showings in your area for The Bully Project and buy tickets here.