Bullying is a pervasive problem that knows no social, racial, or economic boundaries and takes many forms.
It is just as likely to occur on the job as on the playground.
Today, we invite you to share your story: let's kick bullying to the curb.
I watched ABC Family's "Cyberbully"
a few months ago. It was hard to watch. See, I was bullied for the majority of my young life
. The movie opened up old wounds
- at 29, I'm still affected by the bullying I endured.
We all grew up hearing "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" or "I'm rubber, you're glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you." Those were empty words - never made me feel better. The words I was taunted with, repeated in my head like a CD.
I was bullied from kindergarten well into high school. Even the years I was homeschooled, the neighborhood kids weren't any kinder. Obviously, something about my personality, my confidence, attracted bullies. I couldn't understand why they chose me. I was bullied in big cities, in small towns - everywhere.
Bullying happens in all races, all religions, all social classes. It's not just limited to the stereotypes.
I have a son starting kindergarten next fall - the idea of him being bullied sickens me. He's like me in so many ways, so I wonder how he'll be accepted. Maybe him being a boy will help? Perhaps he'll have a teacher or bus driver that will pay more attention? I just don't know.
After I watched the movie, I examined my life.
In kindergarten, I was nicknamed "blabbermouth" by classmates. My beloved teacher once expressed frustration with the amount I talked - it hurt to be told I talked too much. As a 5-year old, I wanted to express my thoughts, my excitement, my concerns. I didn't want to annoy anyone.
I've been self-conscious about that my whole live. I've had people very dear to me tell me that they loved me, but that I was too much for them. They love you, but they don't want to be around you. That's a huge blow to self-esteem.
Now, I don't like to talk on the phone. I worry I'm interrupting someone, talking too much, talking too fast, and wonder if I seem to be listening. I prefer talking face-to-face. That way, I can see if people lose interest or if they're annoyed. I prefer to use social media to chat - then they can choose to reply to me, or ignore my texts if they're not in the mood.
My elementary school days were filled with bullying. I was pushed in the hallways by the older kids, my lunch was taken away/spilt/spat on. It was so bad that, in second grade, I begged my mother to be homeschooled, on tape. On the tape, I cried about all of the things that bullies have done - how I didn't want to go to school.
I was homeschooled for third and fourth grade.
In fifth grade I attempted to go back to school, it was like I hadn't left - the bullying started as soon as I got on the bus. My mother pulled me out after a week. We searched for private schools, instead.
I started sixth grade at a private school - I heard giggles as I sat down on my very first day. School had started a week before, so the cliques were already formed. The mean girls began to mock my very curly hair - something I'd once so loved. Even now, I rarely wear my hair down because I don't want to deal with the comments.
I played sports with the boys during recess, which, apparently made me a "dyke." I didn't know what that meant, but I knew it meant I didn't have anyone to sit with at lunch time.
I transferred to another private school in seventh grade. It was one of my roughest school years. During the thirty minute bus ride, the bullies - older kids - chucked pennies at the back of my head, threw gum in my hair, spat spitballs in my face. Once, they even stole my backpack and threw it under the bus. I tried sitting in all places in the bus, tried sticking up for myself, but not even the bus driver could make them stop.
I was backstabbed by my "friends." My friends from the first half of the school year became my bullies in the second half. I learned just how vicious girls could be.
In eighth grade, I transferred (yet again) to another private school - I was too afraid to attend public schools again. I'd hoped this would be the end, as I had friends there, but it wasn't. It did slow down the bullying some.
Thanks to a vicious game in which people threw apple cores at me, my personal hygiene became a topic of ridicule. Didn't matter that I showered daily, brushed my teeth, and combed my hair. I'll never forget the day I wore a tank top and a sweater. I got hot, so I took off my sweater only to be horrified that I'd forgotten to shave my arm pits the day before. Add that to be naturally hot and having sweat marks on your tops, and voila.
I'm still affected by this. I'm very conscious about shaving my arm pits, and don't wear tanks tops anymore. If I do, I wear some sort of short sleeved button shirt over it opened. I wear clinical deodorant to insure I'm not sweating excessively. I never smell, but I refuse to have signs of wetness on my clothes. I try to shower before I go outside so if my face sweats, my hair will already be wet and no one can tell the difference.
I became aware of the sweat from my face. People would hug me and they'd either not hug cheek to cheek or wipe their face off - usually disgusted. I felt awful because it's something I can't control. I'd stand in front of fans, or have the A/C blasting on the way to special occasions, praying I wouldn't get hot until after I'd hugged everyone or get photos taken.
Ninth grade really brought something which has plagued me throughout my adult life. I'm very fare skinned thanks to my German and Irish heritage, however I have very dark black hair from my Mexican heritage. At a young age, the hair above my upper lip and my arms turned dark. I'd have gotten them waxed or bleached but I had sensitive skin. I remember being asked if I "had something on my lip," only to realize they'd seen the hair. Or I'd stand next to someone and my arms looked dark like a boy's rather than blonde and feminine.
At sixteen, I bought a box of facial bleach and suffered the pain to stop the ridicule. I also began shaving my arms which I did through until I met my husband, who made me feel secure enough to stop shaving them.
College and professional life brought a new form of bullying in the form of "friendly competition" (aka I did this, but you can't) - belittling my work. Roommates tried to bully me into doing things I didn't want to do. My "friends" verbally abused me to make themselves feel better. I eventually retreated from college life and got my own apartment. I look back and I'm sorry I wasn't more involved in group activities and functions, but it was too painful for me to participate and be bullied.
I feel I have so much more to say.
I want other parents to talk to their children about bullying, how they can stop bullying, how to teach kids to stand up for themselves, and to know signs that your child is being bullied. In my opinion, low self-esteem isn't something a child chooses, but a product of others telling him he's lacking. Bullying is a language of lack. Lack of kindness, lack of tolerance, lack of respect, and lack of the ability to connect.
Let's do our part to stomp out bullying!