I am pondering more on how and why I react to the anger and blame of others. I have just started to see that sometimes, perhaps I am just conditioned to accept the blame and anger poured out on me. I may be inconvenient, dramatic. I may need something from you. With all of this being said, I know who I am. I understand the importance of the integrity, character and ethics I was raised to incorporate into my daily life. I don’t manipulate you or cheat on you. I won’t lie to you. Is it that why I am a target for people who just feel the need to blame someone and it seems easy to blame the nice one, the one that sees the best in people. The one that will forgive you, because maybe, you just had a bad day. This week, I had thoughts for the first time in a very long time about the bullying that went on during my elementary/middle school years. My thoughts turned into a theory this time. I had never once thought the bullying when I was a kid had anything to do with relationships I have now, especially the romantic ones. Where’s the connection? Is there one? I mean, after all, I grew up and become a professional after college and grad school How would my grade school recess misery translate to any anxiety in my current relationships, period?
Long ago, I was wearing the target. In grade school. Everyday. On the bus, in the school yard. In class. The target was super-sized, before super-size even existed. Bright colors and all. So obvious. I had no social skills, no game, not much going for me. Last one picked for teams in gym class. That one. You know who I am. I was called all kinds of names (“reject”, “retarded”, “loser” were a select few repeated daily). Jokes played and humiliating tricks weekly.
For all of those who read this and say “toughen up, thicken your skin” to a child bullied, why should an innocent child thicken their skin due to the rudeness and abuse from other children? You may say that the child will have to learn this eventually beyond the school yard, so start now. That’s awesome. If you recognize there is an unsavory situation, such as a child being bullied and that’s the primary solution an adult can summon up, I worry. Why not give this kid some coping skills, or help them with dealing with a hard situation. There are MANY poor solutions that create a bigger target for the child, like obvious protected status. This is a precarious and difficult situation for the child. Use caution and pay attention. There are a few other things I have heard back in my youthful days that swept child bullying under the rug:
- Boys will be boys.
- Sticks and stones…
- “if he’s mean to you and teases you, that means he really likes you”
From experience, I can tell you straight away that these little cutesy phrases are not helpful in the moment. I am not convinced that violence is the answer either. Believe me, there were many times I wished I knew how to fight. I wanted those kids bloody, vulnerable and asking of mercy at recess; fantasies of revenge and actual violence really don’t answer the problem either. So what do you do? You grow up and you take it. You take it every single day. You stop crying because your feelings were hurt.You stopped crying a long time ago. You may even start believing what they say. That happened to me. I can only speak of myself. I absolutely do not speak for other adults bullied as kids. I would love to hear from them!
Once high school began (new school, new people, new start), adolescence hit. People started to make fun of me and talk about me, but this time it’s behind my back. I know I was awkward. I didn’t know how to converse with others. I know I couldn’t really relate well to anyone. I can imagine a great many reasons why they may have even made an effort and given up, because I may not have even recognized their effort(s). A singular sentence, a hello…. and I probably dismissed it because I didn’t even know how to respond. My experience from 3rd to 8th grade left me little raw, I guess. At least, in high school, they were trying to not make me feel like nothing in front of my face, for the most part. Behind my back is much better. Right? Yeah, I am not sure either. I heard about the behind-my-back talking from only one person; who knows it if is even true. So I made a plan for college. I would CHANGE me.
College started in the mid 80s for me. I never did get to develop those social skills to make it through sorority rush, but by then, I really didn’t care. I met lots of cool independent students and a lot of fraternity brothers. The fraternity crowd seemed to love to give freshmen girls (at barely 18, I was still a girl) tons of attention and a selection of 20 flavored schnapps. That is a whole other issue, I will address at some point soon. The social experiment during my four-year undergrad degree could take up tons of space on this blog site! It was a million years ago, or at least close to 30 years ago when I started that journey. I became stronger and I developed a personality; I had a bit of adjustment issues there, but I developed a bit more of my identity. Isn’t that what the college years were for? I learned to laugh, assert myself, have fun, and smile. I learned to make some really good friends. And I was lucky to have them.
Today, I am looking back and thinking. WTF happened? Did the childhood bullying decrease my self-esteem and increase my tolerance for emotional abuse to the extent that I tolerated it from my ex-husband? Can I stop the level of inappropriate anger aimed at me simply by walking away? Already, I have stopped tons of inappropriate behavior from so many people who want stupid sexy stuff and sexy talk on dating sites or at bars. I tell them that’s not appropriate and I kick them to the curb. That’s easy. The bullying was done in school when no one liked me and it was very unpopular to openly admit you were really friends with me or hang out with me outside of school. So its harder sometimes to recognize a similar brand of emotional abuse coming from the very people who tell me they really like me or even falling in love with me. If they loved me, they couldn’t possibly be treating me badly?
So I ask:
I am not so sure. I just don’t know anymore. What do you think? Is the long-term bullying effect possible? Even in very subtle undertones? You never know until you are sitting there feeling rejected like you did in third grade.
By the way:
This bullying subject is not likely to go away for me. It’s a concern I have for kids today that suffer from a different type of insidious bullying: Cyberbullying. I will address this in the future.
My blog is about relationships. Any kind. I have been focusing a lot lately on the romantic one I was in ( but no more!), but its important that we consider all different relationships to figure out the best harmony and balance for ourselves.