Jennifer Lawrence, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Robert Patterson, Miley Cyrus, Marshall Mathers (Eminem), and Lady Gaga share more than celebrity status. They know what it’s like to be bullied.
“Girls can be mean,” said Jennifer Lawrence. “A popular girl once gave me invitations to hand out to her birthday party – a party I wasn’t invited to.”
“I grew up in Tennessee,” explained Justin Timberlake. “If you didn’t play football, you were a sissy. I got slurs all the time because I was in music and art.”
“Some of the girls in my school were big and tough. I was scrawny and short,” admitted Miley Cyrus. “They shoved me in the school bathroom where I was trapped. I banged on the door until my fists hurt. Nobody came. I waited for someone to rescue me. I wondered how my life got so messed up.”
Rather than giving the past the power to control them, each one of them carved out a new course. As artists and anti-bullying activists, they encourage others, particularly young people, to speak out against bullying.
Memories of bullying are often internalized and become part of the tape many victims play in their own heads. Without a means of defense to protect themselves, those who have been bullied often experience depression, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and fear. Many children who are bullied carry those unresolved issues with them into adulthood.
Like Jennifer and Miley, I did not have skills to protect myself from bullying. I attended Catholic schools when I was growing up. “Turn the other cheek” and “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” were ingrained into my character. When I was insulted and bullied by others – particularly by those I most admired – I sank into a world of silence. I withdrew from the world.
I wanted to run away to a place where I could reinvent myself after I graduated from high school. I saved money and enrolled at a college far from home. However, I carried the voices of insults and bullying inside me – and I became my own worst enemy. Although I was president of the student government association and nominated for many campus leadership awards, I was drowning in depression. I did not find my own voice until many years later as a teacher in an urban school district. I had to choose whether I was going to allow others to intimidate me – or learn how to chart my own course.
Dr. Dan Owleus, founder of the Owleus Bullying Prevention Program and author of Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do, explains, “Bullying poisons the educational environment and affects the learning of every child.” Approximately one out of every four students reports being bullied at school (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015). Sixty-four percent of the children who were bullied in schools did not report it (National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance, 2010).
Fortunately, schools with anti-bullying prevention programs often report a 20-25 percent decrease in bullying behaviors. Moreover, more than half of bullying situations involving young people stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the child being bullied.
Although programs designed to address bullying often promote positive character values, we must do more than enforce consequences after bullying has already occurred. We need to teach kids how to take good care of themselves before they feel threatened by a bully.
Try these suggestions if you (or someone you care about) is intimidated or harassed by a bully:
Many years after I experienced bullying in high school, I shared my feelings with a counselor. I asked him, “Why me? Why did the bullies single me out?” The counselor answered, “Because you took it.”
He was right.
I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I believed what the bullies said was true. I believed everyone hated me. I believed I was no good. It was up to me to change my thoughts and my beliefs.
When you get sick of tired of being sick and tired, you change your behavior. When I changed my behavior and refused to be threatened and controlled by bullies (both real and voices from the past), the harassment stopped.
I once heard a wise seventh grader say, “Ignore the people who talk behind your back. That’s where they belong: Behind you.” When children (and adults) set strong personal boundaries and refuse to allow others to define who they are, they discover confidence. Remember that your future is always ahead of you; never behind you.
What can you do if someone bullies you? What can you do if you see someone bully another person?
Free yourself from negative, self-defeating thoughts with suggestions from Replace Old Tapes with New Messages.
Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmation. Discover how to Put the Positive in Your Affirmation.
Are you ready to make a change in your life? Begin with these tips from What You Must Let Go to Move Forward.
Find 8 Ways to Feel Positive (Even When Everything Seems Wrong).
Get inspired with wonderful words from 11 Inspiring Quotes When You Need Encouragement.
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