To My Childhood Bullies,
You know who you are. Or at least I hope you know who you are. You came into my life quickly and suddenly. Before you latched on, I was an outgoing child. I made friends frequently and easily. I was bright and curious about life. You are the bullies who have stuck with me throughout my adolescence, and my early adulthood. You’re the authors to the words that used to run rampant in my mind. I don’t want to focus on the things you said, but rather the lessons that steamed for them. They’re experiences that so many other people have had to overcome and cope with. It’s these lessons that have stuck with me and helped me become a stronger individual, and for that, I want to thank you.
There will always be closed-minded people, but that they have no place in my life now.
My first memory of you is from the 5th grade. You were the bullies who stopped me at recess and made fun of me for my GAP sweatshirt and braided hair. You said I must be gay for wearing a GAP hoodie. You made me feel like being gay was something to feel badly about. It’s those early impressions that stick with you for the longest. This also happens to be the first time I remember being ashamed of myself. This feeling stuck with me for many years.
But I learned to accept myself, and eventually my sexuality as well. Thank you for teaching me that closed-minded people are a part of this world, but they never have to be a part of my life.
2. Self-Worth and Self-Restraint.
You called me names. You broke me down. You made me feel worthless.
When you and your friends harassed me online and sent endless messages of hate, it destroyed me. My heart raced every time I logged on and saw your screen name or those of any of your friends. You taught me restraint. I learned quickly that it didn’t last as long if I didn’t respond. I was strong enough to block out the noise and ignore your words. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt for a very long time.
I learned how to build myself up, because I had to.
My sense of self-worth has been tested. Sometimes it has succeeded, and sometimes it has faltered. There are times when I’ve felt so low, that even though it has been years, I still hear your words in my head. It takes everything in me to pull myself away from those thoughts, and to remind myself that the insecurities you projected on me are not my own. I learned how to nurse my self-worth back to health, even when it seemed like an impossible task. I’m stronger because of this ability. I learned how to take your hateful words, meant to tear me down, and turn them around. I learned how to build myself up and continue growing my sense of self-worth.
You and your fellow bullies were quick to point out that I didn’t look like you. I wasn’t a skinny child, but I was by no means fat. I was normal and more importantly, I was healthy. You relentlessly and tirelessly made fun of my weight. You claimed that no one could ever be friends with someone as fat as me. That boys would never pick me over you. You perpetuated my notion of beauty, and the areas in which I was lacking. I clung to those words and spent years trying to shape myself in the image of what you bullied me in to believing to be an acceptable beauty standard.
The lesson of physical self-love took the longest to learn, as they do for so many young women.
I’m still learning how to do it every day. My physical attributes that you poked fun at are some of the things I love most about myself. My curls are a part of me. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My love for my body is something that has taken a little longer to come to terms with, but I am getting there, despite you.
It might not look exactly like yours, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. People come in all different shapes and sizes, and that’s a fact. There is no one size fits all and that is okay. I love myself exactly the way that I am.
4. Most importantly, I’ve learned that the cycle stops with me.
You may not remember every instance of bullying that took place, but I do. It has stayed with me all of these years. Like many other victims of bullying, I will never forget.
Because of the bullying I once experienced, I have chosen to lead my life exercising kindness, support and genuine empathy for the people I touch.
I’m considerate, caring and respectful. I’m comfortable with who I am. I’ve grown into someone who is bigger than the ridicule I endured as a teenager. I also have it in me to forgive. And I do forgive you. I learned valuable lessons, ones that still stick with me today, and I hope they somehow managed to stick with you too.
I hope that you remember the way you treated others as a children. So one day, when you have children, you can truly know how you don’t want them to be treated. Or, you can stop them before they treat a peer the way you treated me. As a parent, I hope you can learn to recognize the signs of bullying, both in a child being bullied and a child doing the bullying, and put an end to it. Because I know I will.
I will always be finely tuned into those signs, and do everything I can to actively shut down the kind of hatred that wounded my heart so deeply. I hope we can all learn from the sins of our pasts, as well as the sins that have been committed against us.
So, to my childhood bullies, I hope that as adults you have changed and have grown as individuals for the better. I hope the cycle ends with you, because I know it has ended with me.
To the victims of bullying – you’ve felt loneliness and isolation that is indescribable. There is a light to hold on to, and that is your inner strength. We are the strong ones, the ones who keep going when it all seems to be hopeless. We find the best in every situation. Know that you are not alone. That there are people out there who understand and who will stand with you.
Need Help? Contact https://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/ for more information.