“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
I wish I could erase that phrase from history because I think it is completely false.
I think the intent is great; that you should feel good enough about yourself that you do not let what others say impact the opinion you have, but in all honesty, how many people are able to do that?
I was thinking about this because there is a huge bullying issue going on in our school (as well as many other schools around the country!) AND Thursday just happened to be national anti-bullying day!
There is a group of middle school girls who think it is funny to target other females and make their academic experience so difficult that the victims literally do not want to come to school. Parents are currently fighting the school board to be more proactive in stopping the hate.
I can remember when I was a teenager how, although I genuinely liked myself, was proud of my accomplishments for the most part, and had a decent amount of friends, I still was devastated if someone talked behind my back, or didn’t like me. I took cruel words so personally and eventually internalized every negative thing that was said, to form a new, not so pleasant view of myself.
The weird thing is, I am horrible at receiving complements. I can totally accept anything bad people want to say, I can even take something like “oh, your hair looks nice this morning,” and turn it into “omg my hair looks horrible every other day!” but I cannot seem to believe when someone wants to say something positive.
Here’s the thing. When bullying occurs, and mean comments are made; we sometimes become victims to a personally constructed, harsh form of reality.
For example, I took a class in college about cyber bullying in schools. Between facebook, instant messenger, and all the other various forms of communication made easy through technology, harassment is on the rise.
For one of the lectures, we watched a Frontline episode about a girl who committed suicide because a gang of females were relentless in the pursuit to make her life miserable.
They pretended to be the boy she liked and made her believe he was asking her to a dance over the computer, when really it was them secretly laughing behind a screen, and even more so when the poor girl was so excited and talking about her date at school.
Eventually, the victim decided she wasn’t important enough to live; no one would care if she died. But that was obviously not true! She had friends, a loving family, and from what the documentary portrayed, pretty supportive educators, but she still let what a smaller group said, and did, impact her thoughts of herself, and lead to a tragic death.
So I have been thinking, since I work in a school and would LOVE to help alleviate this problem that happens all too often in the world, I have to figure out why people feel the need to bully and harass others, and also, how can I encourage change.
The only answer as to why bullying happens stems back from what my mom used to tell me when I was younger. Some people are just so unhappy with themselves that it makes them feel better to bring others down to their level.
This doesn’t make any sense to me, because I personally would feel horrible ruining someone else’s day, but I guess this behavior is a form of coping with their unhappiness, or stress within their own lives; much like I did with running and caloric restriction. That’s the best way I can understand, but it certainly doesn’t make it right.
Both coping mechanisms are unhealthy, and maladaptive, not really solving anything but providing a temporary fix that will at some point prove to be destructive (I can’t imagine the guilt/issues that would come from causing a person to have hurt feelings or leave school day after day!)
So now that I have maybe a little more insight into why there are real life “mean girls” (OR BOYS!) I needed to shift my focus on how I can alleviate the problem.
The dilemma is, you can’t really change people. If I walked up to a group of females that I saw saying or doing negative things to a fellow classmate they would probably look at me like I was a fool.
I was the same way when someone tried to change my mind about the lifestyle I once elected to live;
“Psht, exercising and being on a diet is totally normal, and making me feel so much better…people are absolutely nuts to think I am going to stop.”
I would expect that response because it was the same one I would have given, and I can say now that it’s not right. It didn’t help me at all, and eventually I am proud to say I made the healthier choice to change, on my own.
So since I probably cannot persuade these young women to stop being so cruel, here is how I can help…
EDUCATE the victims.
Caitlin knows I am pretty much obsessed with her Operation Beautiful Movement, but that is something I would LOVE to spread more throughout my school.
It helped me so much to see other people doing random acts kindness, writing inspirational messages, and growing as individuals, that I need to be more active in participating. After all, these tiny little notes always seemed to find me at the perfect moments.
Not only will I post my own thoughts throughout the school, but I can also pay the compliments I often think in my head, verbally.
I walk past students who are doing something productive; it’s not hard for me to tell them I think they are doing a great job.
My kids perform well in gym class. What does it hurt for me to positively reinforce their athletic and team capabilities?
It literally takes no effort for me to do these things, and could potentially make someone feel much better about themselves.
I can also take more time to talk to students who are affected by low self-esteem. I can see it with the kids I have in class, and hear when they are feeling low. Perhaps I should make an extra effort to see what’s behind their negativity.
This may all sound a bit cheesy, a little bit cliché, but there were so many times I wish someone would have hugged me and told me I was a good person, or ok just because I was me.
Think about this next time something nice runs through your mind, but you don’t necessarily verbalize it.
Remember this if you want to say a negative remark just because you are frustrated.
And most importantly, tell yourself something constructive about who YOU are, every, single, day.
Destroy the bully within your mind, and today might just be better than the past.