This is a post about bullying.
Now and then, when I head home to see my family and catch up with my brother, I delve into his world. He’s at that difficult age where he’s pressured to do well at school to pass all those important exams that will, as society tells us, define our futures. In addition, he’s balancing friendships, avoiding conflict with kids that aren’t so nice and understanding all the other confusing things going on at that age.
Recently, one thing that has been consistent in our conversations is the topic of bullying.
Every time I have these conversations in particular with him, it takes me back to my own experience at school. Those days can only be described as definitely confusing but also worry-driven, anxiety-inducing and constantly wishing that I could permanently wear an invisibility cloak. You could say that school was a literal hell for me.
I was picked on for several things — for being too “dumb” because I was a slow reader and found it hard to pronounce words (learning different languages growing up must’ve really confused me.) I was also bullied for how I look. I used to have a gap in between my centre teeth for the longest time which people thought was hilarious. Along with that, I had curly, bushy hair (that was an afro at one point) so the kids used to call me all sorts of things from Tracy Beaker to ugly duckling.
Some poked fun of my roots, telling me to open my eyes, to go back to where I came from or conversely, that “I’m not a proper Asian.” or “the dumber Asian” because my skin is “darker” and not good at maths.
Ouch. Kids are mean.
My bullies would also make fun of me when I was alone in the playground drawing out my website ideas, or when I was in the library writing CSS to prettify my website. There was one time some kids found out my URL, opened it up during IT and read my posts out loud to everyone. It was mortifying. I’ve always loved technology and the internet growing up, but these incidents discouraged me a lot. As many of you know, this is why I ended up giving up anything related to tech after GCSEs — I was fearful of being judged and ridiculed in the future, at university and the workplace.
Most of my school life as a result was me feeling insecure, hiding behind make-up, different hair colours and “trying” to fit in (and totally failing)
Thinking back at it now, I laugh…relieved that I kept my hobbies going (and being unapologetically me) on the down low because I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s all well and good now that I’m a lot older with the days of crying as I did my homework way behind me, but hearing similar experiences from my brother makes my heart race faster and the anger and sadness boil up within me.
If you’ve been bullied before for how you look, what you’re interested in, what you eat, if you are a fast reader or a slow one…for being YOURSELF… Please remember that you are not alone. And please speak out, being bullied and then being upset about it isn’t a sign of weakness.
I never told my parents about the trauma I was experiencing day-in and day-out at school, fearing that they would think exactly that. I never opened up to them until I finished school for good, and hearing their response filled me with regret, “we didn’t even know. You should’ve told us!”
With my brother, the approach has been different and we’re all glad that he opens up about it. Although sometimes it takes a little push, but it’s obvious that something has happened when he’s quietly in the corner clearly with a lot on his mind. At his age, the only thing he should really be worrying about is exams but it clearly it is something more.
As a family member who has been through it all before, seeing it in others is both a superpower and a curse. There are times I wish I didn’t know, because it honestly breaks my heart knowing that not only is it continuing to happen to my brother but also kids all around the world. Not only that, with the rise of children having access to social media, bullies are creative with the way they affect the people that they bully. It is horrendous to watch from the sidelines.
Although bullying never really truly goes away after school (we’ve seen examples from people like Little Mix’s Jesy, workplace bullying and shitty people in further education) you become more resilient and I found more empowered to speak up. It does get better, I promise.
One of the things I’ve been so passionate about recently has been to raise awareness at schools, on social media and here on my blog. With World Mental Heath Day celebrated recently, I was reminded that you never really know what anyone is going through.
We all see a rise in anxiety, depression and suicide rates increase year after year and conversations around mental health becoming less taboo yet we are still seeing astonishing accounts of bullying at schools and in the workplace.
So, what can we do? As an individual, I’m just sat here writing (and maybe ranting) with a heavy heart from experience and hearing it from my brother. But collectively, we can continue to raise awareness and shed some light on showing some care and understanding on bullies behaviours. In addition, bringing to their attention that they are affecting people in a very negative way. Similarly, being brave and caring enough to prioritise yourself in the workplace and speaking to the right group to support you.
All in all, not staying quiet about it and bottling it in. No one should feel uncomfortable or anxious to go to school or work with the fear of pupils/colleagues.
Now, I’m not perfect nor am I saying that I’m 100% pure and never said a bad word about anyone. If I said that then that is a flat out lie. But every single day I am improving my mindfulness around gossiping and speaking badly about others. It sucks for me, and the other person doesn’t deserve it. Ever since reading books like the Judgement Detox (highly recommend) and practising meditation with Calm, I’m doing less of it. The outcome? I feel better and less negativity baggage. It’s freeing.
I came across this post recently on LinkedIn and couldn’t be quicker in sharing it:
TL:DR — Don’t be a dick. Choose kindness instead.