The first time I wrote this piece, I was afraid to tie myself and my own stories into the narrative. But, I am now proud to share the final version with all of you… This is the advice I was given in high school, but could never take to heart. Now, I live my life according to this rule: There is no such thing as a bully.
A bully is only a figment of the imagination. The torment, anxiety and emotional abuse so many unfortunate souls experienced throughout adolescence, and perhaps still in the adult world, was not the fault of the bully. The fault lies in our selves. Our minds, deceitful creatures that they are, found a weakness in our souls and allowed the negativity to trickle its way down into the forefront of our brains and consume our thoughts. We are our own worst enemies. There is no such thing as a bully.
In school, children walk the halls every day feeling ashamed, embarrassed even, due to the hurtful comments of some peer. Assuming a victim syndrome, they may sit alone in the cafeteria, they may skulk quietly through the hallways in hopes that their steps go unnoticed, they may let their grades slip in protest, they may sit in a slumped, lonesome state on the school bus, grateful to have survived another day, but fearful of what tomorrow will bring. And, yes, their peers may have been the ones to clench the fists, spew the hateful words, and whisper the idle gossip, but their peers were not the ones who caused the pain.
The little girl crying in the corner, feeling confused, alone and at her wit’s end, is the one to blame for her sadness. And I know, and I can say this in confidence, because I once was the little girl.
Now in my last year of college, I know the truth, and my intention is to expose that truth to the world and help the millions of children currently suffering the same syndrome—the self-deprecating, bullying syndrome.
The syndrome starts to develop in the hearts and minds of preschoolers. Kids begin to form cliques and rank one another based on looks, personalities and points of view. Freud claimed that sexual and aggressive drives influence a being’s behavior. It is the aggressive drive that revs the syndrome. Little girls and boys cry on the playground when their peers push them to their limits, whether that is literally with fists or figuratively with words. And the victimized cry and sulk, hiding behind swing sets and fighting tears in sandboxes, and allow themselves to melt into a pool of their own self-pity, as their aggressors laugh in triumph. The aggressor does not cause the pain. The crying and self-loathing is what causes the pain. There is no such thing as a bully.
Fast forward to high school, dealing with troubled teens fueled by their jealousies and insecurities, and understand bullying from the root of its psychological standpoint. To understand bullying, one must understand that a jealous peer will only successfully accomplish his or her acts of indecency if the victim allows the peer’s actions to penetrate the soul. A vindictive, young girl whispers idle gossip about a competitor to win attention and status amongst her friends as a leader. The gossip will have no effect if the victimized refuses to take the words to heart. And if the gossip has no effect, there is no such thing as a bully.
As Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?”
I stood at the edge of the school grounds, confused and alone, clutching my worn copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” as if it were the only thing that mattered. If I positioned the binding in my hands just right, I could completely hide my face and successfully mask the tears as they quietly cascaded down my cheeks. They all stood in a huddled circle, their enmeshed preteen souls full of senses of entitlement and empowerment. They whispered idle gossip, snickered and leered in my direction, and all for what? Because I developed a sense of boredom listening to the same one hit wonder belt out meaningless, juvenile lyrics to some nonsensical melody for the thousandth time on the radio? Because I would rather absorb my thoughts in the literary adventures of Holden Caulfield and Jane Eyre and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than talk mindlessly about who was kissing whom last night at the football game and what that meant for the social dynamics of the class? Because I did not wear the coolest trends and did not watch the latest and greatest reality TV shows? Because I was me?
Because I was me. Those girls bullied me, because they thought they could. And they thought they could, because I allowed them to think that they could. Each tear I shed that day and many days and nights after that was my own fault and my own rightful punishment.
The weakness is in our own hearts and souls. If we do not believe in ourselves and our abilities and our strengths and our virtues, then it should come as no surprise when a fellow being attempts, and succeeds, to diminish our integrities. For, if we do not have faith in our own characters, why should anyone else? As a teen, I immersed myself into the fictional worlds of Holden and Jane, but I never quite grasped the reality behind the literary fantasy. If I were to one day live a life free of bullying, if I were to one day step out of my role as victim and into my rightful character portrayal as heroine, I needed to toughen up, walk through the halls confident in my own self-worth and smile at those who dared to challenge my confidence.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have never been victim to bullying. There is no such thing as a bully.
In adulthood, the alleged acts of bullying take on more forms than the obvious ones we dealt with as children and teenagers. There are mini battles in the workplace and on the city streets and in our homes with our loved ones. And we must take all these battles in stride, and we must fight on.
An overworked, underpaid taxi driver cuts a corner too sharply and almost slams into an innocent passerby. But it is the taxi driver who screams, in a fit of anger, for the passerby to watch where he is walking if he wants to keep walking in the future. The passerby hits the taxi car with his briefcase, and it is a beautiful moment. He did not succumb to the acts of the indecent. He fought back. And, in doing so, he proved that there is no such thing as a bully.
As good-natured as we may be, it is when we allow the bad to penetrate through that we find ourselves feeling lost and insecure. If we remain resilient and continue to believe in the goodness of our character, the acts of bullying are of no consequence. If we stand strong, there is no such thing as a bully.
And for all those who are reading this piece and expressing their doubts, know that I have days in which I, too, will doubt the words I am saying. It is human nature to feel weakness and to sometimes perish in moments when it would be better to display our fortitude. But all I really wish to convey is the idea that no individual should ever sit back and allow every negative comment and every insult to infiltrate his or her mindset and affect his or her persona for the worse.
Which is why anti-bullying organizations exist. Love is Louder and It Gets Better and little niche sites like my own, BelittletheBullies, all exist to help reform the afflicted from a psychological perspective. On my site, I share my own horrific bullying stories, all the while hoping that through my retellings and words of encouragement, bullied teens will hear my pleas and will not repeat my mistakes. In my writings, the pieces never center themselves on the actual acts of malice committed. I write more for the purpose to offer teens hope and to show them that to have great integrity and heart is to have great character. I write to show the afflicted that a bully can never diminish one’s character. I write to give others inner strength, a thing I was too stupid to possess as a young girl myself. I write to prove that there is no such thing as a bully.
Ask me a simple question. What is bullying? And I will tell you that it is a constant fight, a constant inner battle within our selves. Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” There will always be people who try to make you believe that their thoughts about your integrity and self-worth are the only thoughts that matter, but that is an incredibly flawed statement. And it is those people, who wish you to believe such illogical reasoning, who are the worthless creatures. There is no such thing as a bully.
What is my advice to the currently afflicted? Stop searching for advocates and start becoming your own. Ayn Rand once said, “In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title.” Do not let others diminish your self-worth, your integrity and the strong character I know you possess. Do not let the opinions of the insignificants become the guiding forces in your life.
Today, I look back at the little girl I once was, hiding in the corner, hiding more from herself than from anyone and anything else, and I smile. Because if I were to never experience her tortures and her downfalls and battle her inner demons, then I would not be the young lady I am today. And if I were not the young lady I am today, I would still believe in bullies. But there is no such thing as a bully.