Being the victim of bullying has been connected with very serious mental and physical consequences such as depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, low self-esteem, psychotic episodes, and psychosomatic problems. The children who are perceived as vulnerable become victims of bullying. Members of minorities, children with disabilities, kids with low self-esteem, poor social skills, that have fewer friends, or are just insecure about themselves, are the usual victims. Bullying becomes rapidly a vicious circle. Children become victims because they are perceived as weak, but the bullying strips them more of their power, which makes them even easier targets.
I was the typical victim of bullying. Shy, anxious, introverted, didn’t have many friends, wore glasses, and a straight-A student, I was a nerd. I was never beaten, threatened, or openly victimized in other ways. For that matter, I consider I had just a little preview of bullying, but it was enough for me. You do not have to be pushed to your limit to be affected by what is happening. Repetitive and constant microaggressions, being isolated by the group, being ridiculed, feeling under constant stress or unsafe at school are less obvious ways of being bullied. However, that does not mean that they are less harmful. They are like the Chinese drop, small but constant.Unfortunately, the less overt forms of bullying are easily dismissed as kids being kids, so no proper measures are being taken.
Here are 10 pieces of advice that I would have loved to know when I was going through it:
1. Stand up for yourself. This is easier said than done, especially when you feel so powerless. Standing up for yourself is a skill, like any other, that requires practice to become good at it. Being assertive means teaching others how you want to be treated and has nothing to do with being aggressive or showing too much emotion. Next time when the bully calls you something you dislike, look them calmly in the eye and correct them using a deep, steady voice. You will not win every time, and that is ok. The more you practice it, the more good are you going to get, and even minor victories are going to restore some of your power and give you the confidence to keep going.
2. Fake it ‘till you make it. Do not let them see they got to you because that is going to be like blood in the water. Bulling is an intentional act, they know perfectly how their behavior is making you feel, and choose to do it because it gives them power. Do not let go of your power. The way you do that is by learning from others that embody that self-confident attitude. They can be real people, they can be movie characters, or they can be celebrities you admire. Observe them: how they act, how they speak, how are carrying themselves. Embody that attitude when you need to be confident. This is going to act like a positive, self-fulfilling circle. Feeling confident will allow you to act confident, which will empower you to feel more confident in the future.
3. Speak about what is happening. Tell your parents, your siblings, favorite teacher, school counselor, and ask for help. Being bullied makes you feel alone against all that is happening, but you don’t have to be. I did not tell anyone and I regret it because I suffered in silence.
4. Find healthy ways to soothe yourself. Having an outlet to vent all those emotions is going to help you immensely. Write, take up painting, do crafts, learn to play an instrument, find new hobbies and things that fill you up with joy, and keep that spark alive. I loved reading. I read everything that fell into my hands and that is how I discovered psychology.
5. Get it moving! Practice a sport. It will put you in a good physical shape and give you an excellent way to express all that rage and anger that you keep bottled up.
6. There is nothing wrong with you! You are not deficient and you are not a freak, so do not blame yourself for being bullied. Bullies are less empathic, value dominance, are less agreeable and more aggressive people. This is about them and their cruel personality, not about you.
7. Find your people! Whatever are your experiences, values, hobbies, or general taste in things, there are other people like you out there, you just have to find them. You already did the first step in this direction by cultivating hobbies that interest you. All you have to do now is explore those hobbies in a social context by signing up for a drama club, taking writing or painting courses, join a book club. You can have friends outside of school. That could be even better since you have already things in common with them and it will enable you to expand your social universe beyond school.
8. Do estimable things. Volunteering is the easiest, most efficient way to boost your self-esteem and confidence. Your problems seem smaller when you are the reason someone ate a hot meal today, when you made someone smile at the nursing home, or when you found a forever home for a stray animal. I volunteered for everything. I volunteered at a day shelter for children; I was involved in various projects initiated by the school counselor; I volunteered at the children’s hospital; I raised money for different causes. These experiences allowed me to come out of my shell a little, I made friends I liked, and I felt like I had a purpose in life.
9. Don’t be a shapeshifter. I remember perfectly how hard I wanted to belong to a group, to be liked and accepted at my school. I would have given anything, and I gave my homework to my colleagues, I lend things to the girls in my class that I have never seen again; I bought presents for their birthdays and did them little favors. And you know what that got me? Nothing. They did not like me for who I was; I was just useful to them. Had I been true to myself, I would have realized that I didn’t even liked them. We had nothing in common and being around them made me very uncomfortable. Therefore, it is so important to cultivate your hobbies, volunteer, and meet new people that you like and have things in common with.
10. You are a fish in a small pond now, but that will not last forever. The school environment is like an ecosystem in its little bubble. You have the predators, the food chain, and it is self-sustained and closed off. When you are in it, that is your universe. Once the school is finished and you walk into the actual world, none of the things that were so important for you earlier really matter anymore. Just wait until you see it for yourself.
This post was previously published on medium.com
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