Did you know that the latest data from the U.S. government show that school-based bullying was in decline? According to the stats, the current level of bullied students ages 12 to 18 is 22%. That’s down from 28% – the dominating number over the last decade.
22% is still a high number. Let’s be graphic about it; it means that 5 students are being bullied in an average American class of 23 students. 5 of these kids are being tortured on a daily basis. Instead of going to school for learning and making friends, their usual day involves being kicked, punched, slapped, name-called, and shamed.
And I’m not exaggerating even slightly. People who’ve never been bullied don’t understand. They think we exaggerate. You, me, and everyone else who’s been bullied know better. The saddest part is that bullied children suffer in silence. Research showed that up to 50% of children said they would never or rarely tell their parents about any type of victimization.
Now, I’m a grown, strong person. But you know what? It took me a long time to recover from those traumatic experiences in my teenage years. I was bullied as an adult, too. The office can be just as harsh as the classroom. When they say that bullying is not innocent and it has long-term effects, they are not kidding.
But as any other experience in life, this one has a lesson to teach, too. Both children and adults are being bullied for various reasons. It’s hard to rise above that experience, but if you find the strength to do that, it will literally transform you into a more confident person. It’s possible to turn the frustration into success!
There are three main ways how being bullied can make you more successful. Let’s check them out:
You Can Grow Stronger Out of the Experience
Please take a moment to let that information sink in.
In Angst, a documentary created to raise awareness around anxiety, Michael Phelps, tThe swimmer, winner of 28 Olympic medals, shared a very personal experience. “I just didn’t like who I was” – those are his own words, and they perfectly reflect what happens in the fragile mind of a bullied person. Bullies crush you! They completely ruin your self-confidence to a point where you don’t even like yourself.
But he went through that experience and he ended up being one of the strongest people we’ve heard of. How many Olympic medals does he have, again? 28! An all-time record. That’s how strong he is.
Michael Phelps has a foundation called IM, which is not only about helping kids advance their swimming skills, but to enhance their overall confidence and strength as well. This is what he said about the bullying experience: “I kind of laugh at it now. I think it made me stronger going through that.”
You might be wondering: how exactly does being bullied make you stronger? What can we learn from this example?
- When he got suspended from school for fighting one of his bullies, Phelps realized he had to take his frustration elsewhere, so he channelled it through swimming.
- In most cases, kids and grown people do not talk about being bullied. It might be a kid at school who stole their book review, or it might be a colleague at work who keeps making insensitive jokes, one day after another. The student could go to the teacher and the worker could talk to a superior, but most of the time people don’t share these things. That’s because the bully has some kind of authority over them.
So what do they do? They put up for some time, but there’s a limit. At one point or another, they gather strength and fight for themselves, just like Phelps did. It’s best not to come to that point. Tell an adult! Your parents will be willing to listen. Most teachers today are aware of the bullying issue and are willing to help.
You won’t be a nark. You’ll just explain what happened and how you don’t think it’s right. Your bully threatens there will be consequences, but don’t worry about that. You won’t.
You Learn How to Overcome Obstacles
Life is not fair. Being bullied teaches that lesson better than any other experience. You’re being bullied because of physical flaws or just because. You did nothing wrong and you don’t deserve being treated that way. But that’s just one of the many obstacles you’ll face in life.
Let’s take a look at another example of a successful man who was once bullied: Chris Rock. Yeah; that humor has to come from somewhere. It’s the experiences in life that make you who you are. In Chris Rock’s case, being bullied made him who he is.
Chris Rock was the only black boy in his grade. He was also that little guy that anyone could exercise power over. Does he feel sorry for it? Absolutely not. “Put the most successful men and women in the world in one room, and ask them to put their hands up to see which ones were bullied. Most of ‘em!”
You get the point, right? Successful people have been bullied, too. For some of them, that experience pushed them towards strength and success. It was just an obstacle that they had to learn how to overcome.
President Bill Clinton was also bullied. I know; I know. You’ve always seen him as a pretty strong person with great success among women. But in high school, Bill Clinton was a fat boy in a band, and that was his guilt. Bullies picked on him for his clothes, appearance, and the music he liked.
In an interview for E!, this is what Bill Clinton said: “Children have to maintain control of their own lives. It begins with how they see themselves – that their life is worth just as much as the person doing the bullying and that they have to see themselves as worthy.”
The lessons to learn?
- Don’t let this experience turn you into a hateful or/and depressed, shy person. You’re worthy and you’re great, no matter what the bullies make you feel like. Look at it as an experience. Imagine what you want to be in future and see how you can surpass this obstacle to get where you’re headed to.
- Try to understand that you’re not alone in this. As Chris Rock said, many other kids are being bullied. Maybe you could team up and support each other? They need a friend, just like you do. Nancy Prisby, a social worker and a parenting coach, gave good advice to parents: “Bullying, if handled well, can be a way to help a child grow stronger. But the answer is not to just tell the child to buck up and do it alone.” You’re stronger when you’re not alone! Just be a good friend and life will become easier.
- Bullying is a test on self-love, but it’s also a test on your approach to people in general. Are you able to be kind to all people, no matter how mean they are? You can be if you understand their background. Bullies often come from dysfunctional families. They may witness their parents being aggressive towards other people, so they consider this to be normal behavior. Some parents even reward them for such behavior, so it’s the best they know. Many children are aggressive because they survive aggression in their homes. Their parents beat them, since they believe that that’s the way you teach a child a lesson. No; you shouldn’t tolerate a bully’s aggression just because you realize that life is not easy for them. But you have to realize that these are just kids or just people, after all. Maybe you can’t help them change these behavioral patterns, but you can simply step away and let them carry their burden. Don’t let them turn you into a bitter and angry person.
You Learn to Accept Your Weaknesses
I remember the day I decided it was enough. It was a pretty bad day at work. (Yes; I was being bullied at work. By my superior!) I came home, I took a deep breath, and I decided that enough was enough.
I wrote a pretty lengthy email message. Don’t worry; I won’t make you read the whole thing. But here’s the important part:
“So far you’ve mocked my height, my hair, my clothes, my appearance, my salary… I stopped counting somewhere along the way. You got into this role of an instructor, thinking you could teach me everything about my flaws. Don’t worry. I’ve already put those flaws under a microscope. I accepted them way before you came along. Can you say the same thing about yourself?
You tried to silence me and break me. It worked for a while. It was enough.”
After this, I went to my boss, I gave him all the details, and I quit the job. The bully was fired, since I had emails to prove my accusations.
My personal lesson is all about strength and getting to that “enough” moment. It’s about a civilized approach. But it’s also about acceptance.
My bully mocked me about obvious things. He wasn’t wrong. Yes; I was poor, living in a tiny apartment barely making ends meet, and driving a disaster of a car. I knew that, my bully knew that. When he threw such things in my face, it was hurtful. Because it was true. Those were flaws and I decided that instead of ignoring them, I should accept myself for who I am. My life does not depend on my flaws. It’s the strength that matters.
Out of all celebrities who were once bullied, I relate to Sandra Bullock’s message the most. She was bullied because of her uniqueness. This is part of her experience, as she shared it: “I had a lisp as a child, it’s all these things that made me different and I tried to squelch and then once I realized I had squelched them I didn’t feel like myself anymore.”
- If you try to hide or change the things that people bully you for, you become someone else. That’s not how you get out of this as a winner. Accept the fact that you’re not perfect. No one is! You can work on your flaws because you want to; not because your bully pointed them out.
- Everyone has flaws. Your height or your clothes do not make you a better or worse person. Remember that!
- Speaking up is important! I wasn’t a snitch who got someone fired; I was just defending myself and I said nothing but the truth. I will never regret that action. It taught me a lesson, and it taught my bully a lesson.
No One Should Be Bullied. But When You Are, It’s Not So Bad
We can’t really speak of benefits to bullying. It’s bad and no one deserves it. With that to mind, the experience doesn’t have to crush you. You can grow stronger out of it; you just have to show some endurance and strength of character.
From time to time, maybe you should try to see things from a different perspective. Try to understand how the bully thinks. Most bullies have low self-esteem because they’ve been bullied before, they are lonely, or they come from disturbed families. Psychologists found that bullying frequently resulted from body appearance and facial appearance.
Life is not easy on them, so they take the frustration on weaker people. That’s not nice, but it’s their defense mechanism. Don’t hate them! Hate is never a good thing. You’ll grow stronger out of this experience if you understand them and you forgive.
Talk to someone, talk to your bully, and be honest with yourself. When you realize that who you are is good enough and you make peace with your flaws, nothing and no one can break you. Not even the bully.