How to Rise by Turning Bullying on it's Head
The world works in mysterious and magical ways. Kalyani and I crossed paths when we came together to help write the book Rise: In Search of Empowerment. I hope you find as much strength and inspiration in this article as I did. LP
“It is not your fault.”
“You didn’t do anything to bring this upon yourself.”
“No, you don’t deserve this.”
These were the words I ached to hear as a victim of bullying because I truly believed it was my fault that I was singled out. Some would say I was an easy target. And the bullying wasn’t limited to name calling. I was also isolated, made fun of and even beaten up. Why? What fault of mine was it?
I will share this with you: The bullying did not stop me from believing I am capable - I was nominated for the Student Representative Council at university. The bullying did not stop me from having confidence - I played badminton and was ranked 2nd overall in university. The bullying did not stop me from believing I am beautiful - I entered the inter-varsity queen competition and was crowned second runner up.
How did I rise up despite being battered due to bullying? It wasn’t an easy road and it took many years of stumbling, falling and attention-screaming bad behaviour because I was deeply hurt. This was something no one close to me recognised. I was told to “forget about it” and “move on”. How?
The first step was realising that none of it was my fault. I didn’t bring the bullying behaviour upon myself simply because I was different, perhaps even weird. Then why was I bullied? It had nothing to do with me. Bullies are nothing but normal people fighting their own battles within and instead of recognising this, they fight with the outside world as this is the only thing that gives them a feeling of control. Whatever they are battling, personally, leaves them feeling powerless. While their behaviour isn’t acceptable nor can it be condoned, it is a starting point for the victim of bullying to realise that they are not at fault.
Once the hurdle of blame is crossed, healing can start. Healing can take on many forms. Speaking to family and close friends, explaining how you feel and what you need to help you heal. It is very important to be in tune with your needs when it comes to healing. For me, it was validation: Though I knew that none of this was my fault, I wanted to know that I was a “good” person with admirable personality traits, that I was liked and loved by those who matter.
I often suggest seeking the help of close friends and family to make a list of what they think are really good qualities that you possess. Write this list down and read it every day because that is who you are. You are not defined by your bullies words, their words don’t become your reality unless you allow it.
As part of the healing process, surround yourself with supportive friends. How do you recognise a true friend? Put quite simply, someone who knows your boundaries and respects them.
Respect is key here. Bullying leaves you raw and emotionally sensitive, simple teasing can hurt deeply. A true friend will recognise this and not venture there. Empathy is also a trait you should actively seek out in any reliable friend. They may not know or understand what you went through but they would offer to listen and be supportive despite not having experienced what you have.
I am sure you are familiar with the saying, “To have good friends, you need to be a good friend.” Know what you value most and what is non-negotiable for you, be fearless in what you stand for as this becomes a very attractive quality. Like attracts like - be unapologetically you in every possible way and trust me, you will attract friends who are on the same level as you are.
In closing, I want to share a little bit about how to ask for help if you are being bullied. This is based purely on the lessons I learnt from the mistakes I made when asking for help.
First of all, don’t allow anyone to downplay what you are going through - not your peers and definitely not those in authority who have the power to help you. Only you know what it feels like when you are being bullied, only you know the depth of the humiliation, hurt and despair you feel.
Secondly, write down, in as much detail as you can, of what you are going through: who is doing what to you, how did it start, what steps have you taken to stop the bullying using guidelines provided by the school, who has helped you with this and can vouch for what is going on? Take these notes when you speak to the teacher or any other school authority. They are more likely to get involved and help you out if they know exactly what is happening and what you have done to put an end to it.
Thirdly, in this meeting, take notes of what promises are made to you of the action that will be taken to put an end to the bullying that you are facing. Allow at least three weeks to ensure that the bullying has stopped, if it hasn’t, follow up. Be consistent and persistent in pursuit of what you need. This is the only way to guarantee results.
You are the author of your own life, you choose what fills the blank pages not anyone else, not their thoughts, not their opinions, please don’t give them that power over you.
Anti-bullying advocate Kalyani Pardeshi shares her experiences of bullying and redemption with teenagers to provide them with the tools they need to successfully eliminate bullying. A short story of her experiences was published on over 500 websites including ABC, NBC and Fox news. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/kalyanispeaks