I used to LOVE Seventeen magazine. Love it. Not when I was 17, mind you. But when I was 11 and 12 and 13, Seventeen was just the best. . . .
So, when a headline caught my eye this morning and then I saw that it was an article from Seventeen, well, the 12 year old in me just had to click.
The headline is one of those hideously tacky ones that have become the norm in online ‘journalism’ and that I hate with a passion that is probably unhealthy:
(In fact, it’s not as bad as the worst ones. At least it didn’t say “I Was Bullied So Badly for My Weight But What Happened Next Will BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!!”)
Anyway. . . .
I know what it’s like to be ‘bullied for your weight’ (as a child and as an adult). I also know more than a little bit about how bullying leaves an indelible mark.
So, I clicked.
Emily-Anne’s experience was not the same as mine, but her conclusion is: “when you look in the mirror and you only see your flaws, it can be really hard to be your best self.”
Bullying is a nasty game. Sometimes it’s overt. Sometimes it’s subtle. Often – all too often – it’s encouraged (if not actively managed) by adults, parents, teachers, employers, and those in positions of power.
As children, we’re told to ‘buck up’, ‘toughen up’, ignore them. The suggestion is that if we’re strong enough or ‘good enough’, we’ll win in the end.
As adults, we’re encouraged to ‘take it on the chin’ or not to ‘rock the boat’. Again, the suggestion is that if we’re strong enough or ‘good enough’, we’ll win in the end.
Instead, I think, what we teach children and adults is that ‘meanness’ is okay, that meanness is, in fact, standard operating procedure.
It’s not. It’s not okay, and it certainly shouldn’t be SOP.
I remember, as a successful businesswoman in my 30s, walking to work one day so consumed with anger and bitterness that I thought ‘this had got to change; this is going to kill me’. I was in a situation where I was being bullied at work – by the HR Director, ironically – and I was becoming a person I didn’t want to be. Definitely not my best self.
I made a conscious decision to change. To seek happiness. To be a better person – maybe not my best self, but at least a better self.
“When I was a kid, I was so ashamed of being made fun of for being fat that I tried to cover it up. So, one of my biggest pieces of advice for young people is to tell someone when you’re being bullied, because it makes it easier if you don’t keep it bottled up inside like I did. The more I tell my story, the easier it’s been for me to see the truth and not feel so ashamed.”
I add, don’t let the anger consume you. Don’t think you aren’t tough enough or strong enough. Don’t think meanness is an acceptable way of communicating. Don’t let the cycle of abuse continue.
Be able to look in the mirror and know you’re being your best self.
There are organisations out there specifically focused on helping young people. The two mentioned in the Seventeen article are the organisation founded by Emily herself – We Stop Hate – and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Personally, I’ve found addressing bullying in the workplace to be a very difficult field to navigate. Harassment is illegal; bullying is not. However, many companies have policies in place stating that they do not condone bullying.