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I grew up sheltered— from almost everything. I’ve been raised by a Christian family, and I attended a Christian private school for the first four years of elementary school. You weren’t mean to each other at that school. Everyone followed that established rule: treat others as you would want to be treated. Bullying wasn’t even in my vocabulary; I had never heard of it or seen it.
Then, suddenly, my parents threw me into a public elementary school in the 4th grade, where kids cursed, girls wore tight shirts, and boys let their pants sag. Their behavior shocked me as well as the “girl drama” that went on. At times, I thought kids spoke a different language. Plus, their mean actions left me extremely confused. Luckily, kids mostly ignored me that year. I had no friends to speak of, but no one picked on me.
Somehow, I made it through that school year alive, and planned to go straight back to the Christian school. That didn’t happen, and I was sucked back into the public school for another year. However, that year was different: I had friends. People knew me when I walked down the hallway. I was Historian for the Student Council; I sang in choir and painted in Art Club. My confidence level rose from about a three to a solid nine.
Going into middle school didn’t seem hard at all. I felt prepared and ready, but 6th grade wasn’t like 5th grade in the slightest.
Let’s say that my peers didn’t appreciate my presence in middle school like they did in 5th grade. Only one person talked to me throughout all my classes. The other kids either bullied me or ignored me completely.
It all started in gym class. Athletics isn’t exactly my forte. The thought of running around a track makes me shudder. This particular physical education class was highly unorganized. The coach left a great amount of time for kids to torment other kids. Unfortunately, I sat in between two popular boys and best friends. I became their hot topic for conversation— mostly as the “fat girl.” This turned into throwing things at me, and it spread to their other friends in the class. It escalated from there.
As a brand new school, the coaches lacked scales for weighing. His alternative was to have us weigh ourselves at home and tell him our weight in class. Instead of taking us into a separate room individually, he asked for our weight in front of the class of 40 students. I don’t think he truly thought the situation over.
When I told him a weight that was actually less than my real weight, my classmates gasped and snickered, which turned into making snide comments and laughing at my expense. I was mortified. I wanted to run, but I had nowhere to go.
After that, kids felt comfortable saying things to my face. They verbally attacked me, and I no longer felt comfortable with going to school every day. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. The thought of crumbling under the constant ridicule broke me. I cried until it felt like I couldn’t cry anymore and spiraled into a pit of hopelessness. By winter break, my mom pulled me from the school and started homeschooling me.
At that point, my confidence level was nonexistent. The bullying in 6th grade crushed me and tossed me to the side of the street. Before that time, it had never crossed my mind that I was different from other kids. It never mattered that I didn’t look the same; it didn’t bother me until others treated me badly because of it.
I don’t think those boys realize the impact they had on me— they most likely don’t remember me. I changed the way I dressed. I now cover up as much as possible because, in my mind, if they can’t see my body, they can’t judge my body. It doesn’t matter if it’s 80 degrees outside, I will wear a jacket or sweater in fear of being criticized if I don’t.
They made me paranoid. I can’t walk around my school I go to now without thinking that everyone is staring and talking about me. All my previous confidence melted away, and I was left a shy and defenseless bullying victim.
Three years later, I’m still recovering. I’ve slowly worked my confidence level back up to about a five. I don’t hate myself, but I definitely don’t love myself yet.
Here’s the sad truth of this situation: I put the blame on myself. The thought, “They’re just jerks. I don’t need to listen to them,” never crossed my mind. They made me believe I needed to change myself because I wasn’t like them. I deserved to be bullied. It was my own fault that I was treated that way. I let them tell me who I was and who I needed to be, and that’s the definition of bullying.
Being a victim of bullying is letting someone else define you. Bullies will call you “fat” or “ugly,” and you begin to feel as though that is all you are. You’re not yourself anymore; you’re whatever derogatory term someone else chooses to use against you. You are not a definition in a text book, but a bully makes you feel like you’re no more than that.
Those bullies affected me more than my friends do. I think people are more likely to believe a negative comment about themselves than to believe a positive one. It only took two boys who were previously irrelevant to my life to change my life. I’m not going to be able to look at myself in the same way I used to. It feels like there will always be a shadow of doubt in the back of my mind saying: Am I good enough?
However, my bullies established a quality in me that I didn’t own before: I want to protect people. Now, if I see a kid harassing someone, I, without hesitation, will step in and stop it. I never want to see another kid destroyed by the harmful effects of bullying.
When I stand up for others, I become all the more likely to stand up for myself. For the past three years, it’s felt like I wasn’t strong enough to defend myself, but that’s nowhere near close to the truth. I decide my strength; I decide my confidence. I define myself, and no one can define me.