It's so prominent that you can look for many examples just around you. For me, I've seen work place bullying in my family, I've seen the bullying of children I take care of and the tears that have followed, I've seen my close friends BE bullied...but in that same respect, I've also seen my friends be the bullies and encourage me to participate at a young age.
I never went to a public/private school. Being homeschooled sheltered me from bullying, peer pressure, and other things that school brings. The only bullying and peer pressuring I had was my brothers either having wrestling wars with me and beating me up in a testosterone-filled hype filled with laughter and the calling of parents (Normal Childhood memories!) or peer pressuring me to do their homework (Which never happened 'cos I failed them more than if they just did it). So you can say that I was sheltered from all that madness until I went to Cub Scouts for the first time as an 8 year old. It was the pinnacle moment where I got to see first hand the bullying to other kids that I didn't know well, and the first time I experienced being bullied.
So why do I bring up bullying?
As I said, it's a constant thing. It never ends. It will probably never end. But I was watching a Mormon Message recently about it, and it brought me to tears because of what it brought back up. All the feelings, memories, and forgotten bullies came back up for me, and I just really wanted to talk about it.
I want to share my experiences, and how it has shaped me now as a young adult, and why I encourage anyone who reads this to think about the bullying in your life, whether you're the bully (Which you might not even be aware of) or being bullied.
Funnily enough, my first bullying was from a boy. His name was Michael, and he was the loud kid amidst all the Cubs. He would make comments about me under his breath, tease my height (I was like...I don't know, a toddler size at that point), and hit me occasionally when the leaders weren't looking. It wasn't a HUGE deal, because all the girls I was friends with would be quick to either tell the leaders, or tell him to back off. It was a big upsetting to be targeted, but I knew that I wasn't the only one. Awkward and gawky boys were also picked on by him, and it made these boys usually drop out quite quickly from the program. I was too young to understand at that point of what it meant that they would suddenly disappear and never return to any of the activities, but I just focused on myself and my friends.
The second bullying was from a new girl who came in. She towered over me and was built like a tree trunk. With blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes, we thought she was the sweetest thing ever. That was until she picked me up and dropped me on my butt repeatedly. Yes, I was that small to be picked up and dropped. Over and over.
My friends were a bit concerned about this, and would keep trying to tell her to stop and that I didn't like it, but she was the type of girl who did what she felt like, regardless of how others felt about it until she got in trouble for it. It was at this time that I actually began to become scared of coming to Cub Scouts because I can't handle confrontation and conflict, so I wouldn't dare tell her that she was causing me physical pain, to the point where I had to sit down for most activities 'cos I thought she broke me. Funnily, no leaders ever saw this...
She eventually left the program too, so once again, it wasn't a big problem. I was relieved she left, but I was happy that I never confronted her and shamed her for hurting me.
Then I turned ten, and advanced to the Scouts program. At 10, girls started splitting off from the group and making friends with one or two individuals in particular and hung out with them for majority of the time, including me. I had two friends who I was very close with, and we'd always be excited to see each other on Tuesdays. Group dynamics changed and time passed and I had left Scouts for a little while because of other commitments and family. When I returned at the age of about...12, it was a very different group. Majority of the girls I knew didn't react highly when they saw me return, and the only friend I did have there was adamant about hanging out with the group of girls, but also trying to include me (Which, let's face it, wasn't going to happen)
For months I went to the activities, and finally the bullying began. The group of girls I once hung out with (With a few new exceptions) began to ignore me collectively as a group, snicker about me very close enough to me but far enough that I would have been considered 'eavesdropping', and loudly laughing whenever I did something in front of the group and messed up. I told my parents, and they told me to persevere and be nice to them, despite however cruel they were.
I followed their counsel until one day, while I was standing there alone in the horseshoe for 'opening exercises' and the girls were snickering at me, even getting to the stage of pointing at me, I wanted to run out crying. I even had a strategic plan for it too. My Grandad lived close by, so I planned to just walk out and begin walking to my Grandad's house (At the age of 12, in a Ghetto neighbourhood...at the approximate height of 4' something). I wasn't like one of those kids now a days that I see with ipads, iphones, ipods, and all the technology where you could send your mum a quick text - "MUM I AM GOING TO MASS MURDER EVERYONE IF YOU DON'T COME PICK ME UP RIGHT NOW" - and then she'd be there in a split second. For me, it was either dealing with it or sending mum smoke signals to come and get me.
I remember that being my lowest point, the feeling of utter betrayal of my friend who had encouraged me to come and promised to stay with me to help me integrate back in, the feeling of isolation even though in a room filled with people, and the creeping feeling that perhaps there was something wrong with me and that was why they were teasing and mocking me. After that, I never returned to the Scouts Program and my once outgoing and loud personality took a sharp dive into being recluse, shy, and introverted. I completely shut myself off from other people, except maybe one of my closest friends at that time and my parents. I never told my parents why I didn't want to return, and I never told them until recently. I don't like thinking that I was bullied, or that I allowed that to happen to myself, but I did. I never spoke up to them, I never told anyone, I just stood there and took the abuse and it hurt me a lot. I had a lot of trouble trusting letting new friends in, and my once 'only slightly' anxiety levels sky rocketed into the 'how do i even breath without feeling anxious' type of anxiety.
I then went through an ordeal around the age of 13 where my closest, bestest, friend began to bully me by belittling me, talking down to me, and inevitably blaming things that she did on me and I would get in trouble for it. I loved her as a Sister would, so I never spoke up (Sense a pattern happening here?). It got to the point where parents had to be called in and our friendship ended abruptly and painfully. After that, I didn't really have a best friend. I turned to the internet and had a lot of online friends who I felt personally attached to, and went to for basically anything emotional. I also began close friends with my mum, and she basically became my best friend because I couldn't connect anymore with other teenagers. I just felt pain, I felt bad about myself and thought that everything that anyone had ever sad badly about me was true and that was why they bullied me.
Now, at the age of 14, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Nickname being Mormons). It was a completely new experience for me, seeing new people and slowly making new friends. Yes, I am actually going to tell you that I have experienced bullying as a member of the Church.
Hey, it happens.
Now I don't consider having different social groups or 'classes' as bullying. It's life, it happens, people have different interests and you connect to people who have common interests to you. You can talk to your friends about your interests because they are mutual and some of my best friendships have been started by a mutual interest that we are secretly obsessed about. I classified bullying is when groups will collectively taunt, mock, tease, taunt, or rudely copy in an attempt to humiliate or belittle another person.
Now, I haven't had entire groups physically bully me or anything. But I have been bullied by two separate girls in my 4 years of being a member. It's never been physical, it's always mental/emotional passive aggressiveness with girls :P
But basically, what I'm trying to get at, is that I have been bullied in my life, and it affected me a lot. I became shyer, more withheld and withdrawn to make friendships or connections with other people, and I still think about it the things they have said to me.
Now, I want to share with you the other side. Where I've participated IN the bullying.
Back when I was around 12-13, I went to a friend's birthday party. There was this one girl who was very quirky, and not a lot of the girls knew how to talk to her. I'm not sure at what point of the night, but the group of girls decided to exclude her and ignore her very existence. I felt so torn. On one hand, I didn't want to leave my friend and be excluded as well...but then when they began to make comments about her WHILE SHE WAS STILL IN THE ROOM, ONLY A COUPLE OF SEATS AWAY, that's when I knew I had gone to far in being a part of it. See, even though I wasn't actively participating with them in ignoring her, I wasn't standing up for her and talking to her. Being apathetic and neutral when it comes to bullying is still bullying. You aren't helping anyone but yourself.
So, I had this switch moment in my life. It was a very pivotal moment where I decided that I was making someone feel how I had felt when I was bullied in Cubs/Scouts.
I instantly decided that I was going to make this sleepover the BEST sleepover for this girl, so I pulled my sleeping bag next to hers, and completely focused on her throughout the entire two days. None of the other girls talked to me, they all eyed the girl and myself out of the corner of their eyes with judgement and for the entire sleepover, stayed to themselves. When I look back at the time I had at that sleepover, I enjoyed it so much because I was able to do what I had wished someone would do for me when I was being bullied. Though I don't remember the girl's name now, and we never stayed in contact after that sleepover...for those two days, we were each others' support. After that sleepover, I knew that if I knew ANYONE who was being bullied and I could help that person in any way to deal with what is happening with them, and to help them know that they are not alone, that that was my job. That was my super hero power. The ability to empathise and be compassionate.
I still face bullying today. It will continue throughout my life, and it's not something that is going to change over night. People bully because of many different reasons; insecurities, to deal with trauma, lashing out, etc! What I would tell someone who is being bullied is that it's not your fault. You are not the reason you are being bullied. You are only a symptom of someone else's pain, and their outlet. You could be the bestest person ever in the world with the bestest qualities and traits and the best of anything and everything in the world, and there would still be people who would hate you for those qualities.
Somebody's actions that affect you say A LOT more about them then it says about you.
If you see anyone who is being bullied, whether verbally, physically, emotionally, or mentally, do something! Don't be that passerby that just tucks their head into their jacket and hides while someone else is feeling the pain that you did when you were bullied. Be that person that you wished someone would have been for you.