Remember that old rhyme: “Sticks and stones could break my bones, but your words will never hurt me”? Yeah, that is a false perception and harsh words can hurt just as much as broken bones do. In many countries, especially the United States, bullying is a harsh epidemic within our culture that we’d rather turn a blind eye towards. People who are a higher risk target of bullying are: people of colour, mental health or physical disabilities, or members of the LGBT+ community. More than one out of every five (20.8%) students report being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016). The bullying problem is so outrageously out of hand, that about one out of five students will be a victim. Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression. There is also a well-known correlation to victims of bullying and suicidal tendencies: A meta-analysis found that students facing peer victimisation are 2.2 times more likely to have suicide ideation and 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide than students not facing victimisation (Gini & Espelage, 2014). The act of bullying is a perpetual cycle of pain, not only for the victims and their families, but for the bully themselves and whatever drives them to lash out at others.
Elementary school was hell-on-Earth for me because from a young age, because I was bullied. I have always been considered an eccentric person and that was the primary reason that people bullied me. Back in Elementary school, times were rough. I was struggling with my parent’s divorce and was being held back by my ADHD and depression. Not to mention I consumed my time with my studies and educating myself, while showing off to appease the chip on my shoulder. I went to school with a bunch of snobbish children; who were sons and daughters of wealthy parents or families. I obviously didn’t fit in. The other kids shunned me or outright attacked me because I was different than they were on every level. I often found myself entering into pointless fights with some of these grade-school brats, in the name of self-defence, my frustrating pride goading me like the devil on my shoulder or being ignored out of spite by these same kids. It did affect my life and mental state, more from the physical fights and the words I would be called that would cause my blood to boil crimson. By the time middle school rolled around, I grew tired of the fights with catty rich girls or stuck-up wealthy boys. My depression peaked at its lowest point around this time, and things were getting harder to fend off. I began to have suicidal urges since all I wanted was to be left to my own devices; yet I was barraged even further by these kids with harsh taunts that bruised my ego and mental state. I have since regained strength from said mental state and now am stronger than I could’ve ever imagined as a result.
Now my advice is simply said, yet harder to do. However, once you do the following steps, you will begin to heal from discrimination. First, you must raise awareness to the administration in charge about the issue. Victims of bullying usually refuse to speak up about their problems or are shut down by the administration; but you have to continue persisting with the administration. Bring awareness to the issue enough and the administration won’t be able to overlook the problems they wish to sweep under the rug. Don’t let them get away with that. Secondly, you need to fight smarter, not harder. By any means, I do not condone violence. By smarter, I refer to the term “pick and choose your battles”. Bullies usually target the individuals who will give them the reaction they desire; whether that be cowering in fear and submissive or willing to engage in a fight and belligerent. Ignore these bullies or take the high road, because they won’t take pleasure in your non-existent response and will start to leave you alone when they realise that you aren’t going to give them satisfaction or stoop to their level. Thirdly, don’t be a bystander. Don’t be a bystander “too afraid to speak up” and let some other kid get pummelled by a bully; the kids being attacked need an ally. When you don’t speak out, you are just as bad as the bully by perpetuating this cycle of pain from your inaction. You can stand up for these kids and the bullies won’t want to pick a fight they think they might lose. Lastly, forgive your bully but do not forget. Often times, people confuse the act of forgiving with forgetting. You need to forgive your bullies for yourself; otherwise they occupy “rent” in your thoughts and your negative emotions are extended. However, don’t forget how they have transgressed against you. Forgetting means that you justify what they have done to you, but forgiveness is what frees you from a bully’s control.
Bullying is a serious issue that people want to forget; people choose to submerge the idea that bullying is a painful experience. If you are a victim of this epidemic, don’t internalise that pain. You are free to admit words can hurt, it doesn’t make you weak.
Teenagers With Experience is an online platform ran by teenagers for teenagers. We provide support through sharing our own experiences and providing advice based from this. If you need support, feel free to reach out to us on one of our social media platforms. We will do our best to support you and if we feel we cannot we will direct you to more suited, professional support.