Reach out. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you were a bully, tell about it -- have you changed since then? Have you overcome bullying? Are you being bullied? Do you still hurt? Do you cry? Did you forgive and do something positive in turn? This is what we all want to hear!!! Don't be afraid, reach out. It is time to heal and it starts with being brave enough to talk about it.
Humble and proud. Yes, we can all live this way. The wonderful part about being humble is that we can define ourselves with greatness and graciousness simultaneously. We can reach for the gold ourselves and help others reach with us along the way!
Feeling proud is beautiful. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments...find someone to be proud of soon after -- this is humility. We stay humble when we work hard for what we want. Goals are an important part of life. So...the next time anyone makes you/us feel uncomfortable for being proud or accomplished, pay a compliment to them. They need it! It will make everyone feel golden.
Dont ever settle. When we settle, our minds close to new opportunities. Accomplish and set new goals. Help yourself achieve those goals by feeling confident and worthy. When time, effort, and love have been put forth, that golden feeling can be attained. Dont get trapped by the golden feeling, just bathe in it. Swim in your accomplishment for a few hours and be proud -- then help someone else swim in it!
Keep in mind, that some people like to bring you down when you achieve. Remind them that they are not sure of the times you have fallen. Perhaps this accomplishment is your time to rise.
When Life Hands You Lemons, Write A Blog
Writing is one efficient way for me to release pain and truth. It turns pain into an action plan, a next step. Our family has always been a team. We are in this life together. We are advocates for one another and when one aches, we all ache. We rely heavily on one another throughout the ups and downs and we have done just that the last few months. Experiencing bullying with a child (or grandchild) is painful and trying. It takes courage not to blow everything out of the water and just use names. But that wouldn't be kind and it wouldn't help solve the problem. Our family been keeping the phrase "rise above" in the forefront of our minds. Albeit, this experience has been painful for my daughter and, in turn, our entire family, it has also helped us gain immense knowledge about the ramifications of bullying. We have learned the importance of rising above and sometimess....letting go and moving on. Sometimes this means redefining yourself, choosing a different path. We should "never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life. Define yourself." -Harvey Fierstein
Our daughter is working on taking sour lemons and turning them into sweet lemonade. She spent almost 10 weeks of summer trying to determine the why: a close friend ignoring her on purpose, a friend's mom blocking her (but following other mutual friends), a close friend taking other friends away with intent to be hurtful. The mind games.....when my husband and I noticed that it was beginning to diminish our daughter's smile and vivacious spirit we knew it was time. It hit us like a ton of bricks...a new path must be chosen, but it felt so hard. She needed the opportunity to free herself and stand up for what she believes in. She let us know it was time to move on. Her tears let us know. Even in the midst of all of this pain, she continued to remind our family of the Golden Rule... and it is such a simple way to live. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12) She makes us smile and we are so proud. We are very thankful for her and this message.
We researched ways to help our daughter become more assertive. We encouraged her to tell any nearby adult if "it" happened. We read books and articles to help her. I realized, though, that our daughte was/is in control of her actions, her voice, her life. But she couldn't/can't control others and she certainly couldn't talk to a friend who was ignoring her. We are Christians and we forgive. Our daughter forgives but, sadly, she will never forget. This particular life experience is not a scar, it is a battle wound. Scars stick around forever. Battle wounds... hurt...they cause pain until healing takes place. Even with a battle wound, she is able to search for the silver lining. She is finding it day by day and her faith in others is being restored. She sees that kindness does exist and this makes our hearts full.
For now, the wound is healing. She is redefining her life. She took a huge leap of faith and left most of what she knew and loved. She did not give up. She would never do that. She just moved on. She chose a new path. There was no other way out and we knew it , she knew it-- we certainly can't make people change. Yes, taking the leap removed her from her comfort zone, old friends, and some important adults in her life.....she will hold tight to the good memories. Her inner strength is abounding and a new zest has come to fruition. She is putting trust and faith in herself and others. This is her journey and she is on the uphill ride. Life is a climb. She is a climber!
My husband witnessed some of this happen and I did too. We (family) are her biggest advocates and we are eager to see her rise above. "The first time you step up will be the hardest. Kind of like anything we try to tackle in life. Anything worth doing is going to be difficult. You know how it is. But I hope you take that chance to do the right thing. And start to build a habit of it. And in time, people will take notice. And you’ll have set an example, and you’ll have held to a standard. And in time, people will be drawn to you because you’re not like everyone else. This is how people differentiate themselves from everyone else, from the masses. And have amazing lives – lives that rise above all of the stuff that wants to hold us down." (CB Research Center)
What can we do? A positive change is possible....
As an educator and mother, I find change very important. Change brings diversity, inclusion, compassion, and understanding. Very recently, I have joined the Ophelia Project. My bullying platform is just that a platform -- a way to speak out and share my voice. Bullying comes in many forms and it is our responsibilty to take one step toward a positive change in this world. We are losing teens often and it can be prevented. I encourage you to be an UPSTANDER and not a BYSTANDER. If you ever witness any situation of bullying (gossipping, intentional leaving out, berating, demeaning behavior) be the ONE to help. We are the World and we are put here to help.
The Ophelia Project states that "becoming pro-active is critical. Rather than reacting to incidents of peer aggression after they occur, students, teachers, and school administrators must work together to create a school culture that values cooperation, friendship, and a true appreciation of diversity. The Five Critical Steps in the following pages describes a comprehensive approach to identifying peer aggression: seeing the behaviors, naming the behaviors, stating positive normative beliefs, fostering pro-social skills, and finally developing practical prevention and intervention strategies." The minute we become the change, we help..we become the UPSTANDER. One upstander starts a chain reaction. Keep your eyes out for those being bullied, for sometimes it is someone you least expect. The prettiest girl in your senior class, the quiet reader in the 6th-grade classroom reading corner, the smiling child playing on the slide alone, the star gymnast, the child with glasses, the child with rags for clothes, the child with the most expensive clothes and shoes, the dancer sitting alone waiting for class. *http://www.opheliaproject.org/teaching/STEPSTeachers.pdf*
Bullying can be covert. It is more difficult to recognize and it can be carried out behind the bullied person's back. The purpose is to harm someone's reputation and/or to humiliate. Be the one to make a change. Remember to be the UPSTANDER. You could save a life. Together we could save many lives. The National Centre Against Bullying states covert/social bullying as:
- lying and spreading rumours
- negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks
- playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
- mimicking unkindly
- encouraging others to socially exclude someone
- damaging someone's social reputation or social acceptance
Amy Chenault (wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, friend)
My Bully, My Friend: My BF
This is hard. I have been bullied and scapegoated. The two are similar -- the latter is usually used to exile a person or group that is threatening the staus quo. With that said, I have learned that I had a bully friend, a BF,....and, sadly, it doesn't stand for best friend. I will reference BF because names are not of any importance to me. This blog post is just that, a blog; a way to reach out and spread awareness that bullying exists. Bullying and scapegoating happens more than we know. And probably more than we want to admit because it is personal. Articles keep popping up everywhere of tweens and teens (especially girls) losing their lives over being bullied. When will this stop? What is the problem? It must be projection.
"The technical name for this dumping process is projection, and it is the projection defense that is behind all bullying and scapegoating. With the projection defense, feelings of guilt, aggression, blame and suffering are transferred away from a person or group so as to fulfill an unconscious drive to resolve or avoid these bad feelings. This is done by the displacement of responsibility and blame to the other who serves as a target for blame both for the scapegoater and his/her supporters." - Psychology Today
When I realized it was happening to me and tranferring to my daughter, I realized I had to find a way out. I began reading hundreds, yes hundreds, of books and articles to better educate myself. I am learning as I go --how to be more assertive, kind but assertive. Truth is, I am often a doormat. I didn't always realize one can be kind and assertive simultaneously. We are allowed to take up for ourselves. We don't have to be victims...but it takes a lot of courage. I know. But getting it out feels good and I felt compelled to create this blog to reach others in a similar situation. We must help and protect others. We could save one life. Perhaps many lives.
Me as a target: BF behaved the way a best friend might: got close, gained welcome into my home, sought personal information, and learned of my personal strife (everyone has strife!) and goals. Let's cut to the chase: I was dropped like a hot potato. You heard it, dropped. The process of "friendship" was slow and drawn out, but the drop....it was fast. Done. Done with me. Used. Projection. My BF pretended to really like me, for a while. BF pretended to be interested in my life. BF even gave me gifts. BF pretended to be interested in my daughter and my family. Why?
Many days, a friend, and the next day, bully friend. We used to share stories, laughter, dreams, then silent treatment. Wait-- not totally silent. Only when it suited. One time, at an important life event, BF pointed a finger and said, "You are silenced." It all happened so fast, in public. It felt like public shaming. A person with me knew the level of frustration I had experienced moments before and tried to help. This time, she got the wrath. Since children were around us, this was not the time or place for anyone to prove anything. Consequently, I said nothing to defend. (I had tried earlier in the day to communicate effectively but to no avail.) Often bullies have a plan and know when to execute it.
Looking back now, I feel blessed. People who must always be in an authoritarian postion will find the kindest people around -- perhaps the bully is ultimately projecting fear. Don't be a doormat, when that moment of discovery hits -- and you know something is NOT RIGHT -- go with it. Remove yourself! Don't keep going back for more!
I have learned that the BF dabbled here and there. Often times, the lead bully or scapegoater forms a group and singly gathers support until the target is completely alone, on an island. And there is power in numbers so the bully racks up links in the chain. Fortunately, over time, friends have told me what I need to know. You see, this world is small. Connections are indeed, everywhere. (And we should not be afraid to reach out and make additional connections. We need each other in this world!) As for me, I simply asked questions regarding myself -- and guess what, there is no harm in talking about myself -- isn't that ironic? (Thank you, Alanis Morrissette -- Ironic is one of my favorites!) Remember, if you are ever in a situation with a BF, I highly suggest reaching out to others. Here is what I tried: "Has anyone talked to you about me recently? If yes, what was said about me and how was my name used?" You might run into some brick walls...not everyone feels comfortable helping because they might also feel intimidation from the BF, especially if the BF is a mutual "friend". Keep in mind that we can clear our own names by talking to others, especially in a bullying situation. Thank goodness for friends and kind, honest people in this world. My faith in people is being restored, even as I write this. Humility in the right doses is a fine characteristic!
What are you going to do? When someone intentionally spreads rumors or gossip....it is social bullying. How will you handle it? Definitely it depends on the severity of the gossip although I believe all gossip is hurtful. If the gossip becomes so obvious that you are feeling ostracized or your career or reputation is at stake -- take action. (Hopefully, it won't get to this point.)
It is sad -- almost pathetic -- when children are involved in bullying and adults know it is happening, or condone it. In my case, the lowest blow occured at yet another important life event in which my BF insisted that we celebrate together (Our daughters were there.). We didn't celebrate together. The event was used as one of those "in your face", but so strategic it was camoflauged so others would not have noticed. The demarcation line existed but in a very fine line and for my eyes only. (Here's the doormat -- my BF knew me well enough to know I would not say anything in public.) It is very difficult to explain without details. Only a few family members in my life know exactly what happened on this particular day. But I received the subliminal message loud and clear; this BF no longer needed me. I had served the BF's purpose. What seems cryptic to you wonderful readers was yet another attempt to squash me. After the event, I reminded myself and my daughter who also felt the blow of being intentionally ousted in a small group, of Christopher Robin's and Pooh Bear's famous quote, "You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." It was all I could do at that moment -- because my daughter and I both knew the ramifications of this ousting was indeed meant to speak volumes and could change the course of our lives.
As a sidenote, but one that is relevant in this world today . . . is it brave to block on social media? After all, social media has become like real life for many of us. Most of us use it to connect -- among other things. Question: Have you ever been blocked on social media? Was it painful? Why? Essentially, it's my opinion that blocking does not show power. I believe power should be used to extend goodness and kindness. While that kind of power exists in a Utopian society, I can hope and do my part to practice it in reality. But I digress . . . Social media "control" is when you block someone from your life and don't provide a face-to-face explanation or any explanation at all. Do people block to prove a point? Is it an instant action regretted? What actually is the point? A cyberspace snob? Or is it more? That we can click a button, that we have control over our own lives and block whoever we darn-well please, that we can hate on people and show it on Facebook? I will say, when life hands you a block on social media, especially one with no explanation, you say, "Good luck blocking that truth/guilt out of your heart." That one does not belong on your doormat.
Let's consider as a possible BF course of action . . . blocking on Facebook. It brings insinuations -If indeed you are being bullied in any way, such action speaks volumes to mutual friends. It's kin to spreading a silent rumor . . . that might be happening, the blocker leads people to think something bad about someone else. It is a "silent" way of rendering strong suggestion. And coupled with other physical actions , the block is probably a tactic. But remember, although we can't control others, we can control ourselves and our lives and remind those who dabble in gossip that we have a voice. Being blocked on social media -- is not the end of the world! Keeping with the subject, it likely suggests motives.
But keep on keeping on with your glass half-full. If you are inclined, pray for people who feel the need to bully. My high school chorus teacher taught me the Irish Blessing: "May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand." This is what I bestow upon my BF. There is no purpose in hatred.
Through this experience with my BF, I have reached out to many people and I have realized how fortunate I really am. In losing one bully friend, I have reestablished other relationships. I have also made new friends along the way.
Finally, I am human and I have survived a BF. I survived when my BF cast a stone at me and extended it to my family -- even to my young daughter. While I will forgive, I will most certainly not forget any of this. You see, I still have lots of questions. One day, I might ask my BF a load of questions. Until then, I will share this way -- all facts; I even kept a detailed journal of the remarks and gestures as they occured. Perhaps my subconscious knew best.
My BF mostly used verbal/social bullying and that does damage to the soul. It will take some time for recovery. May we know the impact we have on other human beings and their lives. Life is not perfect and people are not perfect. Unless a person's life in this world is over, well -- it can change in a second! So don't throw stones and don't throw sticks!!! Through all of this, I am in charge of my destiny. I control my feelings and relationships. You can do the same. My steering wheel is powered by me and by God.
A BF can push your buttons -- and far worse as we see in the news every day; but we can turn adversity into positivity. Bully friend(s) teach us that: "In life, we never lose friends, we only learn who the true ones are." Pointing fingers and belittling are not characteristics I will portray. Bullies want your voice silenced so their voice can be heard -- but just scream louder. Go to the summit! I will continue to use my voice to encourage others to do the same. I have the confidence to take a stand. Be a best friend, not a bully friend. Help, don't hurt.
Julie Sears (mother of 3, wife)
I also think it's not just the blatant cyber-bullying aspect of it. As a mom of a kid who doesn't get invited to parties and get-togethers very often, I know it would crush him to see pictures of kids he thought were friends having fun without having been invited to join. It's hard enough to know something is going on without you, but seeing pictures makes it hurt worse. I know most kids who post those type of pics mean no harm, and you can't invite everyone, but I know it would upset my son. You just have to know what your child may or may not be able to handle maturity and emotion-wise.
Becca Allan (mother of four, wife)
Delaney Wells (Dance Instructor at the Dance Company, talented dancer, mom)
Livingston Lewis (husband, father of two)
Bullying is one of my biggest fears as a dad of a young girl. The year Corinne spent with you at GAES was so uplifting and put her on such a good path. I look forward to seeing how your blog encourages many people. Your genuine positivity and caring are remarkable.
Jeff Hooper, WatchDog (middle school dad)
Hi Amy, and thanks for doing this. I'm sorry for the bullying that you and Clara have endured. In certain life moments, I am brought back to a particular incident from my childhood. I think that incident still affects me. If only I had communicated about it! Anyway, I love this effort of yours to allow for sharing and encouragement.
Particularly over the last year, Kayla and I've had so many conversations in this area. I've observed that, EVEN among her close friend group of multiple years, they sometimes engage in what I think of as bullying behaviors. It's particularly over social media, but even sometimes in person. They seem to exempt themselves from being bullies, just based on their years of interactions. BUT, on closer examination, it turns out that they can see that someone got truly hurt. "We thought she knew that we were only joking" is a dangerous excuse.
I find them doing much better, but only because of more awareness and more conversation. So, again, thanks for opening another such channel.
When I was at HCMS in May for a WatchDOG day, I saw Clara in the cafeteria. She gave a big smile and a "hello," and it was very nice to see her and her bow! (What a great and friendly kid, as you know.)
Good luck with this, and thanks again.