We need to talk about bullying.
We need to talk about the effect that childhood bullying has had on the adults we are today.
We need to talk about the dreams we have when we confront our bullies.
We need to stop being in denial and instead acknowledge, open up and speak out to clear our minds.
Bullying comes in many forms, one being social bullying; the kind which is passive aggressive and verbal rather than physical. From bitching, name-calling, rumours, to being ignored and excluded.
For a year, this was my experience: whispers flurrying around me; being left out of group projects and partnering up; sniggering and laughing, about what – who knows! But to have to sit on a picnic bench every day and feel uncomfortable, insecure and left out was awful. You walk into school and immediately don’t feel like you can be yourself, and that feeling is one of the most draining, upsetting and loneliest emotions anyone can ever feel. Child or adult.
I was eleven years old and had fallen into a group of eight at a girls’ school. You’re at an age where you are the most impressionable. You’re caught in the middle of the child to teenager transition, whilst also experiencing the first signs of womanhood. You may have now become the small fish in the big pond of ‘secondary school’ which means you feel pressured to conform to certain fashions and behaviours to fit in (Just do it bags, tracksuits and Lacoste anyone?); whilst also trying to find a tribe where you can be yourself and feel accepted. With a big sigh, the time has come to get it all out.
All I want to ask you is this: are you aware that you used to be a bully? Do you realise how hurtful your actions were towards myself and others? I am referring to when you constantly used to leave me out and speak about me behind my back or when I was sitting right in front of you! I still remember that feeling of being excluded and ignored whilst you sniggered and acted in a bolshy way to intimidate and impress the other girls. Some of them you even pushed around physically.
Looking back, I think you were bullied by your siblings. That’s what led you to feel the need to assert yourself and evoke fear in others, because you couldn’t do that at home. I would understand if this were the case, but it doesn’t excuse your behaviour towards others especially at that young age. Your actions were hurtful.
Do you remember the day I got up from that bench and walked away? I do, and I am so proud of my eleven -year old self for finding the strength to do that. I never looked back either.
What’s done is done and we were both children. But I am doing this for my child self because she couldn’t find the strength to at the time. I am telling you what I think now because I have been carrying this experience around with me and I am finally ready to let it go.
I hope you’ve grown up and changed your ways. I hope you’ve found yourself and know yourself in the way that I have. I hope you no longer feel the need to put others down in order to feel good about yourself. That you hold the maturity and awareness to own up to it all and admit that your actions were harmful and unkind at times.
I hope you find the peace that I have now found in confronting my fears and releasing a painful experience. One that I hope you can now see through my eyes.
At the end of year seven, I found an amazing group of girls who were vibrant, fun, and didn’t care what others thought of them. Whilst we listened to Fall Out Boy and leap -frogged around the field, the bully and her following continued to conform to the latest trends in make-up and designer bags, which led them to grow up too quickly.
It’s taken me a lot to share this experience publicly. I feel extremely vulnerable and exposed, yet free and empowered to keep sharing and being vocal about my own experiences. I encourage anyone who has been victim to bullying, to write a letter to their bully. You don’t have to send it (or publish it!) but trust me, getting it all out on paper really does help.
Release it and let it go. Now, breathe.