This is the eighth part in my 12-part series The Inner World Of Bullying.
A Typical Day In The Life Of Someone Being Bullied
You wake up, you get ready and go to school. You are in the corridor before classes begin and suddenly you hear this laughter. Group laughter. You already know who is laughing. You have become used to their laughter. You ignore them, walk past them, walk on. You can’t see them now but you can still hear them laughing and shouting the name you are known by and more that you can’t even make out. It is lost in their in-joke, in their idiotic laughter. You sit in class. An introvert who has Social Anxiety Disorder (though you don’t know that part yet) so you don’t talk much. You don’t talk much with the other students or participate much in class discussions. So there is not much to be negative about but still they find everything about you negative. They laugh that you have no friends (you have one but they erase that fact) and they call you “dumb”. You ignore them, that’s become your method. You find on the occasions you have tried to stand up for yourself that it gives them a kick, makes them feel important so you don’t do that anymore. It’s what they are looking for. Break comes. The non-social butterfly that you are reads while relaxing at the radiator. Lost in worlds. A budding writer waiting to take flight. But they come over with their predictable you have no friends act in a bid to clip your wings. But those wings can’t be clipped and you ignore, ignore, ignore. Then they call you smelly, say you have nits. Ignore. You go back into class and while you wait for the teacher to arrive they start making sexual comments about you. You feel embarrassed. There is other children around listening. You are too young to even know what their comments are all about. They are too young to know what their comments even are about but you are uncomfortable. You have never experienced anyone talking about you so vulgarly and now it’s happening in front of everyone and now they are doing sexual gestures and you want the ground to swallow you up but you ignore and you ignore. And you are glad when the teacher comes in and the class can start. Throughout the class they throw things at you. Pencils, paper planes and even pencil cases. You feel awkward and embarrassed even though none of this is in any way your fault. And you ignore. You go to PE class. Great, it’s picking teams day. You are picked last which you don’t take as any huge offence. You aren’t good at sports and you are really quite unfit my classic literature-loving friend. The same kids when it’s a schoolwork or a good behaviour team pick you a lot quicker after all. But it’s an opportunity for those bullies to say you have no friends and to laugh, laugh, laugh. At least it’s not like other days though when you are last and one of them is the team captain who is forced to let you join the team. And while they complain you ignore but think why the hell would you think I would want to join your team anyway but you know let’s get on with it. Either way they laugh and snigger while making sexual comments about your chest and how it jumps up and down as you run. You feel uncomfortable but you ignore all the way through. You begin to walk home and you hear them behind you. The laughter, the nonsense shouting and then the stones come. So you begin to run because a stone to the head you can’t ignore as much. Your heart is beating. You are fearful and you don’t really run and you want to get home to the safety of your house and every time you aren’t sure exactly how dangerous they are but you aren’t willing to stop and take that chance. And you get home and you are safe. You don’t think about them after until the day starts again. What I described here ok may not be an exact picture of any particular day I had in my experiences because we are going back many years and my memory is not that sublime but they are certainly regular things I experienced that would come into typical days. It’s also not a full representation of every person’s experiences being bullied because it is from mine. However a lot of the bullying here is very typical of people’s experiences with variations.
Society’s Profile Of A Person Who Is Bullied
Many people like to separate people into very easy to understand categories and that is where the problem lies. Generally people see people who have been bullied as victims and they believe that a victim is simply put down all the time and never fights back. They have this idea that the victim in order to really have been bullied has to be kind and never say anything negative about the bully. Once a person who is bullied fights back many people would actually say that person is not been bullied. “Ah now, they are strong enough to stand up for themselves. Sure they are as bad as them. I wouldn’t worry about them.” Strength in the face of bullying comes in different forms. I didn’t fight back in the traditional sense of the word growing up and that seems to be my tactic/coping mechanism every time I have faced bullying and there is a strength and a fight in that too. Some people be the bigger person. Some people show a lot of kindness to the bully. There is strength and fight in those things as well. You are fighting through a difficult situation in your way. The problem is all of those ways are accepted largely in society as correct ways for a person who is being bullied to behave. It’s accepted and people accept the person is facing bullying. It is a lot harder for a lot of people to accept that a person is being bullied if a person fights back in a way where they are defending themselves. If they fight back in a way which is thought of as the traditional way to fight back in society in other words. The definition of bullying is someone coming at you unprovoked and repetitively being cruel and unfair to you. No matter what way you fight back it doesn’t change that fact. Sometimes I think what it might be is that a lot of people perceive someone who doesn’t fight back in the traditional sense to be weak (couldn’t be further from the truth) and they feel good about themselves when they support that person. It also fits their image of what a person being bullied is like and they feel uncomfortable when that narrative is different. Where in reality a true anti-bullying supporter supports people no matter what their coping mechanism is because they are genuinely against bullying and that doesn’t change because the person being bullied doesn’t live up to some societal stereotype.
Society’s Profile Of A Bully
Society doesn’t like bullies but also portrays bullies as powerful. Yes many will say it’s wrong but they will also say a person being bullied needs to “toughen up” to deal with the bully. Of course the irony is that if a person being bullied even stands up for themselves they are ridiculed for it and even made out to be a bully so how society would actually react to someone “toughening up” or actually becoming like the bully in other words would be even worse. A bully is not liked but is glorified. What I mean by that is that a lot of people are more fascinated or interested in what goes on in a bully’s mind than in the mind of someone who has being bullied. I get it when a person wants to know so they can somehow eliminate bullying or help people who are being bullied but there is a lot of people who simply find the bully more interesting. You see time and time again with reformed bullies too how society pushes for “the everyone deserves a second chance” slogan. Which I agree with. But there is not the same emotion and passion from these same people when a person who is being bullied tells their story. It’s more along the lines of it’s sad but it happens a lot of people, they need to get on with their lives sort of thing.
Communicating About Your Emotions Is Good
Firstly it’s not for everyone and that’s fine. But people who have being bullied or went through traumatic or upsetting things in general have a right to communicate about their emotions. It is actually rather powerful as it makes you feel less alone. I have definitely felt that from hearing people’s stories. You can’t have your emotions in this world though without someone moaning about having to listen to you. Then they call you damaged and broken and everything. Yet if a bully talks about their reformed story they feel very invested. You do have scars. Not everyone is damaged or broken by their experiences but some people are. None of these things are grounds for any decent person to act superior or dismiss that person’s feelings. For example say you have come through bullying and you have none of this baggage, good for you, chuffed for you. But that’s not everyone’s experiences and I think in order to be compassionate to people, we do have to understand that people don’t react to traumatic experiences and experiences which hurt them in the same way. And to bring this whole thing full circle, they aren’t weak because of it.
Obviously this post is not about the whole of society. There is a lot of people very understanding of the experiences of people who have being bullied and do a lot to try to eliminate bullying. But these are observations I have had about society because it can be a hard experience being bullied without being told how to react and how to feel after too. Bullies are not scrutinised in the same way often. People who have been bullied are often judged more and that should not be the way. I am all for people changing their lives around, good luck to them. But the experiences of people being bullied or how they react should never be judged harshly in order to make a bully feel better about themselves. We have to stop looking for perfect boxes of the bully being a complete villain and the person being bullied being a perfect saint. Because the truth is that both are just people with both good and bad points. With different ways of handling things. But in the situation one is being bullied and the other is the bully and that should never be forgotten when coming to deal with the situation. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s about fairness and a person not being destroyed. It’s about an issue and it’s about life. Just because a person being bullied doesn’t react the way that fits your perfect image or isn’t perfect does never mean that they deserve to be bullied in any way, are ever as bad as the bully or that in any way they “put in for it”.