Bullying: A Disease That Needs a Cure

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I imagine that every adult can think back to a time when someone said something really mean and hurtful to them. Likely you’ll have a flash back of being picked last during P.E. class or a classmate whispering an untrue rumor throughout the halls. Maybe you’ll think of that massive zit that conveniently popped up on picture day and landed right on page 54 of your high school yearbook for all of the school to laugh at for eternity. Or maybe you’ll think back to last week when you overheard some ladies in your Zumba class laughing about how your arms jiggle when you’re doing the dance moves.  Whether your experience was yesterday or 25 years ago, it was uncalled for. We can’t accept this anymore!

We are living in a time when adults act like we might expect children to. I think at some point, we as a nation forgot to teach the “treat others as you wish to be treated” lesson. Maybe that happened with the push of standardized testing. School officials might have decided that that lesson certainly wouldn’t be tested so there was no need to teach it. Maybe the issue started at home and we’re just so busy we forget to teach our kids this important lesson. I don’t know the reason, but I do believe it’s sending our society down a long road of hatefulness and lack of respect for mankind.

Bullying is a topic that we constantly hear about. It’s almost impossible to watch the nightly news without hearing another story of a child who just couldn’t take it anymore. These stories usually tell of years of peer abuse for sexual orientation, weight, race, etc. My heart aches each time I hear another one of these stories. The question that always weighs on my mind is, “Why do our kids believe this sort of taunting is ok?” Each time, I always come back to the same answer, “Because we are teaching them that it is!”

Ok, so most parents wouldn’t say, “Bullying is a great thing!” But there is so much more to teaching our children than just direct verbal communication. They are watching and they are listening. They see you glancing over the checkout lines looking for any way to avoid the cashier who is just a little too flamboyant for your taste. They hear you snicker with your best friend about how big the PTA president’s thighs have gotten.  This sends the message that it’s ok to treat other people in a negative way if you have a negative thought about them. We need to be sure that our children understand that everyone can have a negative thought; that does not mean we act on them.  We are not held responsible for what we think, but we are held responsible for how we act.

Unfortunately, bullying is not just a childhood “disease.” Many adults face taunting every day at the hands of other adults. This baffles me. It is by no means acceptable for children to bully other children, but I think we could at least argue that their immature frontal lobes haven’t fully developed and maybe that might make it more reasonable. When adults bully, we can’t even make that argument. There is no excuse. There is only hatred. I’m going to state the obvious and say that when our children see us blatantly bullying others, this screams, “It’s ok to hurt others for a laugh or to make yourself feel good.” But it’s not! It’s really not okay!

Before you act on your prejudices and judgmental thoughts, I encourage you to ask yourself if what you are about to do is worth ruining someone else’s day. We are all capable of experiencing mental pain. We all have. Try to think back on a time when you’ve been hurt and remind yourself that you’d never want another person to experience that sort of pain. In fact, when you’re about to make a harsh remark or act in a negative way, then do the complete opposite. Instead say something nice or do something thoughtful for that person. That’s how we’re going to put this disease into remission and that’s the behavior we want our kids to imitate. When you do good unto others, know that little ears are listening then, too.  They are learning from the negative you do and the positive. What lessons do you want to teach?

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Becoming My Best Self

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

I saw this quote the other day and it hit home. Do I love myself? I think that’s a pretty loaded question. I remember hearing as a kid that nobody could love me if I didn’t love myself. I felt like that was a load of garbage. It turns out that it was a load of garbage in my case. I think for me personally, it took the love of someone else to show me what I was worth.

Like many children, I was bullied in school. I was a size 16 in middle school and the kids would tell me I was a beached whale, I was disgusting, I was as big as a house, and pretty much any other insult about an overweight person that you can think of. I was a size 16!! That’s overweight, sure, but it’s not whale sized. I’d love to be that size now! I wish I could go back and tell the younger me that those kids were crazy, but I know I wouldn’t have believed it anyway. If you hear something long enough you start to believe it. Unfortunately, we tend to pay attention to the negative things that are said to us more than the positive. My parents always made sure to tell me how much they loved me, how beautiful I was, how wrong those kids were. I thought they were only saying these things because they were my parents and it was their “job.” Well, they were absolutely saying those things because they were my parents, but not because it was their job; because they loved me and could see the beauty that I couldn’t.Love-YourselfSarcasm became my ultimate defense. I honed that craft for years until I could deliver the sharpest insult presented as a joke and get a laugh from people. I liked the attention I got from being funny. I felt like if I was getting attention for how funny I was that it would take some of the attention off my weight and how gross I was. I would say that the best laugh was at another person’s expense. I wasn’t nice, but I didn’t see it that way. I truly didn’t mean any harm, I just thought it was funny and I thought everyone else thought it was funny. Since then, people have told me how I hurt them in the past, even that I made them cry, and I can’t describe the shameful feeling that comes over me when I hear something like that. I went from the victim to the bully, and even though it was all in good fun for me and I wasn’t intentionally hurting others, that’s not how it was for some of my victims.

Time went on and eventually I had this amazing husband who loved me and I wanted to be totally worthy of that love. Chris made me feel more confident about my body, and that was the first big change. Sure, I’d still love to be thinner than I am and I have days where I feel worse than others regarding my appearance, but overall I’m happy with my own body now and I treat it better than I used to (unless I’m on vacation, then all bets are off! Haha). I had a lot of talks with Chris about how I didn’t like the person I was. He thought I was crazy, he said I was perfect, but I knew there were things within me that I needed to change.

Until I moved away from home I didn’t notice those things for what they were. There’s something about being away from everything familiar to you that really gives you perspective on your life and what it’s been like up until that point. I think it was a combination of moving away from home and having a baby that opened my eyes to the type of person I had become, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want my kids to grow up and become the bullies and I knew that if they saw their mom making fun of other people that’s exactly who they would become. Since I moved to England I also grew more confident in my own ideals and beliefs and that helped me feel more confident in myself as well.

I knew the type of person I wanted to be; a loving, tolerant, non-judgmental type of person that my kids could look up to and emulate. I’m not the person that I used to be. I still joke around, I’m still sarcastic at times; but not at the expense of someone else. I don’t think I’m anywhere near as harsh as I used to be. I’m far from perfect, there are many times in life I should keep my mouth shut and I don’t, but I’m trying. It’s a daily struggle to be a “good person,” but I’m happy with this version of myself that I am now. So do I love myself? Yes, I do finally love myself. I can say that with conviction and without embarrassment and I hope you can say the same about yourself.

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