Thursday, July 14, 2016

Overcoming Bullying: My Story

As a child who struggled with weight most of my life, I was quite insecure and quiet. You know the kid who typically stands off in the background until spoken to? That was me.

Because of my shyness and my large physique, I was often the target of ridicule and bullying. I was called fat, fatty, and obese. At one point, I was even punched in the arm and called a "fat ass" by someone who I was very close to. I remember collapsing to the floor, uncontrollable tears pouring from my eyes. It wasn't even the physical assault that hurt me. It was that three letter word: F.A.T.

I was belittled in front of my classmates by a boy that I had a crush on--a boy who most of my classmates knew I had a crush on. I couldn't hold back my tears and I ended up crying in front of my entire class. It was absolutely humiliating.

That evening, as soon as I arrived home from school, I bawled my eyes out some more and confided in my dad about what had happened. My dad, also of a large physique, was bullied when he was a child, too. He and I cried together, and he urged me to tell a teacher about what had happened. When I refused, he had my mother call the school--which I believed would result in further bullying, but fortunately, my teacher handled the situation delicately and simply looked out for me a bit more.

Anyway, during the tear fest with my father, he told me that one day, "That boy will grow up," and that I would too. He said, "All you can do is kill him with kindness." We then proceeded to watch the CMA's and shortly after, Tim McGraw performed "One of These Days." I felt like he was singing the first verse just for me, and my dad and I cried some more.

As time progressed, the word would begin to define me, and I let it. Even with my father's support, I felt disgusting. I wasn't happy with myself.

Needless to say, the impact that bullying had on me was huge. Sometimes, I felt physically ill. Even though I was incredibly smart, and an advanced learner, I never spoke up in class for fear of criticism. I was afraid to admit when I had a crush on a boy in fear of everyone laughing at me for thinking that I had a chance. One summer, I even stayed inside for the entire three months because I was too embarrassed to go to the pool, or to wear shorts or a tank top. While my friends were out sporting beautiful, brown tans and developing long-lasting friendships, I was pushing myself even deeper into this hole. I became depressed and I lost a lot of friends due to my anti-social attitude.

I'm not sure exactly when the impact of bullying stopped completely, or even if it ever has. I still have days when I think back to how I felt as a child, and the how I would react if my child were to be a victim of bullying. What I do remember, though, is the day that I stopped thinking so negatively of myself.

For years I was bullied by one specific boy, and three or four years later, I saw him at school one day in the cafeteria. Because we didn't share any classes at that point, it was the first time that I had seen him in awhile. What happened next totally surprised me.

As he was paying for his lunch, another child said, "Move it, fat ass!" My ex-bully stepped aside without a verbal response and let the child through. His face was pained, but he didn't say a thing.

In that instant, I expected to feel victorious! I expected to feel exhilarated! Karma had finally come back around and knocked him down like he had done to me! The boy--the same boy who had hurt me in so many ways--was getting a taste of his own medicine!

So, why was it that I didn't I feel even the slightest bit of happiness?

I didn't feel victorious at all. I felt...sick. I was overcome with sadness. I had that emptiness in the pit of my stomach that was all too familiar to me. It was the same feeling that I had when was the one being called names. I could relate with this boy. I could literally feel his pain.

With as much courage as I could muster, and in, what turned out to be, a very small voice, I said, "That's not very nice." While I'm quite sure that the "new" bully did not hear me, my ex-bully did. A small smirk curved upon his face, and without saying a word, he walked away to his lunch table.

It may not have been much. It may not have been loud. But in that moment, I felt the sense of relief that I expected to feel when I saw him being teased. I felt powerful. I was proud of myself. I felt like maybe, just maybe, I had made even the slightest difference in someone's life--and how amazing was it that this person was the same kid who used to bully me?

From that point on, I no longer dwelled so much on what people thought. Every now and then, I have bad days, but I know that your opinion of yourself trumps the opinion of the 7 billion people on this planet.

What YOU think about yourself is all that matters. What THEY think of you does not. In the moment that I realized that as TRUTH, I changed. When I realized that I was strong enough to stand up for someone who used to tear me down, I realized that I was pretty damn amazing.

And so are you.

If you're ever being teased and you have to run to the bathroom stall so that you can bawl your eyes out in peace, that's fine. But once you exit that stall, you better stop, look at yourself in the mirror, and name off 10 things that you love about yourself, and MEAN IT. If you let yourself believe the negativity that others are dragging your name through, then you will become it. But if you believe that you're a fantastic, intelligent, stunning, strong human being, then you will become that. Perception is reality, my friends, so you better perceive yourself to be something absolutely amazing.

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