I walked across the classroom to throw something in the trash can. Behind me, I could hear my friends sniggering. When I turned to go back, they looked away not so quickly.
Turns out they were making fun of the polo shirt I was wearing.
Bullying is a strange thing. Very often, we don’t realize that it’s happening, and we accept it as normal. At least I did. By the time I realized I’d been bullied on a regular basis, those people had long faded into my past.
But that doesn’t mean that the effects of bullying had faded, too.
It’s fascinating, how a human being can hold the reins of another human being’s self-image, confidence, and dignity. The sheer power a person can hold over another. And how they can abuse that power so mercilessly, with no clue as to the repercussions of their actions.
Bullies can forget their actions in the blink of an eye, they can shrug off any lingering guilt nonchalantly, telling themselves that they were young and thoughtless. Mistakes happen, don’t they?
But what they don’t know is that it can take a lifetime for their victims to regain their self-esteem. Sometimes, the damage is irreparable. The amount of work that someone has to do to convince themselves that no, they aren’t the person that their bully(ies) had made them out to be, that they should not allow anyone to define who they are, is frankly exhausting.
It wasn’t easy to assure myself that, just because I didn’t own branded clothes and accessories, or more precisely, “cool” brands – not because I couldn’t afford to, but because I didn’t feel the need for it – didn’t mean that I was a lesser person than those who did and paraded themselves.
How could it be easy, when I’d spent years feeling self-conscious about my clothes, my shoes, and just about myself in general? After years of the so-called “popular” people taking one look at my hairstyle, outfit, or shoes and snickering to themselves?
And compared to other victims of bullying, I got off lightly. There are so many worse forms of bullying than the one I’ve gone through, bullying that can break a person inside, bullying that can lead to self-harm, suicide, or a lifetime of feeling worthless.
All because at some point someone thought it was a good idea to make fun of a person’s flaws- flaws that often aren’t even flaws, but are perceived as such by some people. All because someone felt that for some reason they were superior to somebody else, and that they had to assert their superiority by making the other person feel small. All because someone was so insecure with themselves, they needed the validation of thinking someone was lesser than them.
Bullying comes in many forms, and some are more subtle than others: a snarky comment, a condescending tone, a careless remark. If we could all be a little more careful when we’re about to say something that we think is witty, but is actually demeaning to someone, if we could stop ourselves from thinking that certain people are beneath us, because they aren’t, if we could simply realize, that bullying is actually a dead giveaway of self-doubt and insecurity – maybe, just maybe, more people will dare to be themselves freely, with no fear of being judged.