His name was Brian. The nickname he called me during my freshman and sophomore years had to do with my weight. But I won’t directly quote his name for me. It’s too offensive. Too painful … still.
This is my story of being bullied and my path to overcome it. It helped me and hopefully, it can help you.
The Beginning of Being Bullied
I went to a small junior/senior high school. He and I were in most of the same sports together. Essentially, there was no getting away from him. For some reason, he chose me.
It started small. A yell of my name accompanied by a cold stare. What he saw from me in response was a small shuffle of my feet and my eyes averting — ever so slightly. All of these were nonverbal signals of an easy target.
Experts have identified various character traits that can make someone a target for bullying. Ironically, these kinds of individuals are often mild-mannered and well-liked by others. Many times, easygoing personalities like these also exhibit submissive body language. It can be the beginning of a complex dance between bullies and their targets.
Luckily, after a tough couple of early high school years and avoiding him as much as possible, I began to achieve in the classroom and in sports. My self-esteem began to grow in spite of being bullied.
Fuel to Help Others
As my son approached the same general age, I was determined to prepare him for those critical adolescent years. I resolved to dive deep into the research and pass what I learned along to him. A performer at heart and a teacher by trade, my next logical thought was to prepare a presentation for schools. reACT to Bullying was born.
As I’ve presented reACT to Bullying in schools and organizations, I realize that so often I am actually speaking to my 15-year old self. And within those presentations, when an audience member raises their hand affirming that they have been bullied, this is what I want to tell them most: “You are going to have to drown out your bully.”
Creating Your Own White Noise
You see, a bully’s words are screamed through a rock band sound system in our heads. Most of us are hyper-aware of our weaknesses. Negativity tends to get amplified, drowning out any positive view we might have of ourselves. It’s hard work, but you have to resist that. Our own voices trying to contradict a bully’s words, unfortunately, are whispers. Even more tragically, supportive words from those who care about us are barely louder than our own.
But start. Start whispering. Start collecting those softly spoken words from your friends, your siblings, your coworkers, your family, yourself. Positive self-talk takes practice. Speak those words louder. Speak them more often. Eventually, they will become your sound system — the sound system to drown out your bully.