I did very well in class and my teachers loved me.
I started making a few friends, but the language barrier still made it hard for me to rev up my game and get closer to them. File photo from Shutterstock. It was supposed to be a normal lunch break for me again — my usual grab-bread-and-wait-for-the-bell kind of day. But for some reason, bullies saw right through the crowd and found their way to me. I took a last bite of my lunch, threw the unfinished bread into the garbage can, and walked to the entrance. Then I saw two kids running. I didn't know where they were going or why they were running.
I didn't care because I didn't really know them. They were older popular kids — one was Turkish, the other was Russian. I thought maybe they were playing around or were in a hurry to get inside. Before I knew it, I was already sitting right next to my unfinished bread. Inside the trash can. The students at the entrance were all staring at me — some were shocked, but most of them were laughing. I remember about 20 students were there when it happened, but none of them offered to help me, even after the bullies scrammed away. I tried to stand up as fast I could, but my arms and feet were still numb because of fear and embarrassment.
Bullying: Lola's story | Childline
A teacher saw me and helped me get up. He asked me if I was okay, and, realizing that other students were still staring at me, I held my tears in, thanked the teacher, and walked inside like nothing happened. I went straight to the comfort room, locked myself in one of the cubicles and cried as silently as I could. Yet here I am, suddenly finding myself crying over videos about bullying. Contrary to what a lot of people think, victims usually blame themselves more than anyone. They blame themselves for being weak, for not being popular, for not looking good enough, for not being white, for not being born to a more privileged side of the world, etc.
This is because we grow up in a society that tells us that this is an eat-or-be-eaten world. We grow up in a society that tells us that being weak is a sin, and that nobody else is to be blamed for this but yourself. Never mind that the world is already unequal as it is, that some people are already being discriminated on the basis of their race, color, and gender. What bullies sees as just "having fun" makes people look down on themselves and not see their worth.
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Bullying is not just physical harm and is much more common than people think. Being singled out and treated differently is discrimination. It belittles, humiliates, and demeans a person. Gossiping too is bullying, one that harms reputation. In the Philippines, bullying has become even more rampant through social media. Scandals and photos that humiliate people often go viral on Facebook and Twitter. Celebrities online are treated like objects, devoid of feelings and unentitled to defend themselves.
We call supporters of politicians we hate "retards," completely disregarding the many people the word hurts.
Even up to this day, I still ask myself: "What if those people who saw me getting bullied tried to help? What if even one person then warned me about the bullies, called for help, or told them to stop? The world is wild and crazy. It can really be an eat-or-be-eaten world and I learned that the hard way.
Neither are we robots.
Bullied: Your stories of bullying and its lasting effects
Virginia Shea in her book about netiquette gave a simple yet great piece of advice: remember the human. Remember the human who is your classmate and is probably having a hard time making friends. Remember the human who is your neighbor, the one who's hating himself for having dark skin, acne, and curly hair. Remember the human in your friend who might not have the courage to tell you that he or she is hurting when you jokingly call her fat and ugly. Remember the human in that gay schoolmate who people make fun of and tease all day.
Remember that you are human too.
The second factor was my willingness to ask for and receive help. Also to shut up and listen. I was very conscious about not using my supporters and did my best to offer a helping hand and support in return. This too had a learning curve. There were plenty of times when I didn't want to accept help or didn't know I needed it. To this day I give back in honor of those who gave to me. Find your clan and pay it forward. Finally, I became much better about listening to my instincts and made space for my authentic self to rise up. What does that even mean? I heard a voice that said I was meant to do good in the world.
It started as a deep and distant rumble and it took me off guard. They disrupt the status quo and rock the world.
Be warned, they might also tell you to grow your hair out. Funny how life has come full circle. Looking back, he probably did the right thing—doing whatever it took to get me to the finish line. High school never saw it coming. Brad Waters, MSW, is a career coach-consultant who helps people clarify career paths, make job transitions, and improve resumes. Finding humanity and forgiveness in a time of public shaming. Creating a global ripple of impact from everyday acts of goodness. This is the listening practice that you'll fall in love with.
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