As adults, we start to notice it again in the workplace. We also see it online. With our relatively recent societal shift to dependence on technology and the Internet, we’re finding people expressing every thought (especially the negative ones that are directed to specific groups and people) without foresight into their consequences. It’s as if you’re safe to say whatever you please, because you’re not being looked at while you say it.
However, we pass it off as the learning stage in a fairly infantile industry, believing it won’t have lasting effects and people know the difference between their offline and online life. The correlation between childhood bullying and what is being seen online has me wondering if we've really grown up or changed.
A recent study, as reported by Digital Journal
, shows that bullying during childhood affects us during our adult years with increased incidents of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It seemed obvious to me.
I was the ‘fat kid.’ It made me an easy target. Name calling was standard - as was the tripping and food throwing as I walked through the halls. In many of the incidents, the laughter from the other kids and the adults ignoring it hurt me more.
When I was in grade 5, a few kids were yelling and throwing rocks at me while I walked home. I started crying and ended up passing out (because apparently you’re supposed to breathe at the same time.) My mom called the principal and the next day I was called into her office. She told me I had passed out because of the crying, not the rocks. She asked me if I was hurt by any of the rocks. When I said no, she smiled and said, “Good. You’re OK then.” I was dismissed and no one was punished.
In Shane Koyczan’s recent poem/video
that is currently seeing great success, the ridiculousness of the ‘sticks and stones’ adage is pointed out perfectly. It shouldn’t take a genius to figure that out. All of us who were bullied know that, despite what we might tell ourselves. If a car had been travelling too fast and sent a rock flying, and it hit me with great force, I probably wouldn’t even remember that day. However, I do recall the principal’s smile and how she disregarded me so she wouldn’t have to do anything.
I've tried to console myself over the years, saying adults only see kids as innocent and bullies are just ignorant and don’t know that it hurts. But, let’s face it, we all know that’s BS. Adults want to be naive; they want to not act, because it’s easier and life is hard enough as it is. Bullies know that it hurts – it’s why they keep doing it. By and large, it’s to make themselves feel better – to have some control.
For about 26 years, I was convinced I was a bad person. I have been given two curses: I’m abnormally observant and habitually naive. While growing up, I was treated poorly; therefore, I believed there was something wrong with me. I can’t begin to tell you how deeply I believed this. After all, it’s not like people could hate someone just because of the way they look, right?!
Of course the bullying followed through with me. My level of self-loathing is off the charts. I act cold and robotic in public because being left alone is better than rejection. To this day, I have to tell myself I’m worth accomplishing something, however small.
My weight reached over 300lbs. A couple years ago, I started to lose some of it. It was then that I noticed how obsessed with image our society really is. (Feel free to read this as a call for revolution – I think we need a major overhaul anyway.)
When I lost 50lbs, I noticed people smiled at me and opened the door for me more. At first, I was stunned. I tried to figure out how I had changed, only to realize it was only my weight that had changed. Admittedly, I enjoyed this extra kindness.
After about 100lbs gone, people would talk to me – I mean really talk to me, without aggressive or passive aggressive comments! I was amazed. I soon realized, they wouldn’t have talked to me several months before. I’m the exact same person I always was. Losing weight doesn’t change the parts of you that matter; your beliefs, values and the way you treat people don’t generally change. But the world treats you better, even if your weight-loss changed you in a negative way.
Bullying now has changed a little bit for me. Some women who knew me before I started losing weight will sometimes offhandedly comment about women who have lost a lot of weight and left their husbands; they aren’t talking to me, but they look at me as they call them self-absorbed, home wreckers.
I’m also the mother to a little girl, which makes me look at it from another angle. If you’re paying close enough attention, you will notice that when a child calls someone a ‘retard’ or uses another horrible term, most parents spin around at lightning speed to reprimand them. The exception for this is when a child calls someone ‘fat.’ The parents will then turn away from their child as fast as they can and pretend they didn't hear anything; like the weight of the word ‘fat’ won't cause any damage. I remember the faces of those parents ignoring the word better than the sound of the offending word itself.
It seems it’s a cycle that won’t end. Parents of young children today were kids when I was a kid. Maybe they didn’t poke the fat kid and say “3-pointer!” and then mock up an earthquake drill, but maybe they laughed when someone did. Now that they’re adults and they may not laugh, but perhaps they think ignoring the issue, like my principal did, is better. It’s not, it still hurts. I fear for my daughter that will be going to school with children who don’t think some offending words are as bad as others and negligence is acceptable, because it’s what their parents have taught them.
There are many kinds of bullying. When you’re a child it happens at school, on the playground, and at home. As an adult, it happens at home, at work, and in social circles. Sometimes it’s bold, and may come in the form of abuse. Sometimes it’s subtle and hard to notice because its presence comes in the form of doing nothing.
As I said, I’m habitually naive; I will always hold onto hope that the current anti-bullying movement will change the world for everyone’s benefit. Negativity has never helped and neutrality can be just as dangerous.
Stories may differ, but they all have a human face behind it. We’re all human; big people, small people, black people, white people, old people and young people. We’re all human. Part of being human means we all have flaws, vices and issues. You would think that knowledge would quit the negativity, but it just seems to exacerbate the problem.
I may not be able to see your flaws or vices, like you may be able to see one of mine, but I know you have them and I will still give you the respect you deserve. That I deserve.