Bullying: Let’s Be Real

This week I read two stories in relation to bullying. The first was about a young, ridiculously fit mother of three. She posted, in her moment of triumph, a picture of her 8 month post partum body. She was surrounded by her three adorable little boys and created the simple caption, “What’s your excuse”?

This garnered her major attention. A lot of it was negative. For me, it was funny, really. I read the headline about this ‘controversial’ picture before I knew what the hullabaloo was about and wondered what could possibly be so upsetting. Upon reading the article, I discovered that this woman was being accused of being a great big bully by ‘fat shaming’ others. (Please note, I was probably nursing my 4 month old while scarfing down a chocolate bar-because that’s how I roll. I still didn’t find it offensive.) Ironically, it would seem this woman is experiencing major bullying herself now. Is it just me, or doesn’t that wreak of hypocrisy?

Then, there was the story about a young woman who was bullied by what probably seemed like everyone around her, even by her ex-best friend. This, stemming from pernicious gossip over a boy. The abuse was so incessant, so inescapable, she found the tallest building she could gain access to and jumped. She was twelve years old.

I’ve been scratching my head all week, trying to equate the two. How can these two situations be the same?

First, we have a woman who, through hard work and a boatload of discipline, accomplished something pretty incredible. Good grief, it’s awesome! By the time I squeeze into my size 8 jeans, (with or without actually zipping them up) I’m ready to call it a victory. The fact that she took her goals a step further and actually accomplished them deserves credit.

Don’t we all, having reached that proverbial peak previously unattainable, all kinda want to make like Katy Perry and ROAR? It isn’t about making anyone else feel shame. It’s about that brilliant moment when we’ve tasted a morsel of our own potential. No one was targeted by the caption on her picture. Her question was general, to anyone who was willing to internalize it.

Second, we have a young, impressionable child, in the throes of adolescence. This is arguably the most awkward time of a girl’s life. Chances are, she made some of the same silly, embarrassing mistakes most of us made back then. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, she became a moving target. She dealt with a near constant bombardment of emotional and verbal abuse by her peers.

Truly, we’ve all experienced the barbs of hurtful things others have done/said to us. Once, I had a guy ‘friend’ tell me my only assets were my breasts. Yeah. That one was devastating. Telling me that didn’t necessarily make him a bully, it just made him a jerk. (Gratefully, I was old enough to recover from such a betrayal of friendship.)

 

So how are the two situations the same?

 

Quite simply, they are not.

 

The difference here is this child was directly and intentionally made to feel worthless on a constant basis. On purpose. This is bullying. Reading a caption that may hit a little too close to home is not. Perhaps it could have been construed as insensitive, maybe even rude to some. I can’t determine that. What I can determine is that these are polarized.

Perhaps I’m a little bitter about this. But before anyone accuses me of not understanding what it’s like, let me tell you about my baby brother.

He is the face of bullying.

This child was subjected to years of hateful, vindictive verbal and emotional abuse. We grew up on a small military base in Utah and he was different. He thought differently, behaved differently and no one knew quite what to do about it. Back then, (Greeeeeeat! Now I’m sounding like a dinosaur) there weren’t diagnoses to explain why a kid behaved so ‘strangely’.

So naturally, everyday he went to elementary school knowing he wouldn’t have a friend in the world. Everyday. If anyone were to speak to him it was to intentionally make him feel like crap. Inside and outside his classroom, he lived in a world with something called ‘Danny Germs’. At first blush, it seems kinda funny. But when it went on and on and no one would touch him without theatrics; when his mother was reduced to sobs because she was completely powerless to stop it, it became seriously unfunny. He was in Junior High when my parents finally received orders for an overseas assignment. One of the major reasons for their relief in getting out of there was knowing he would get a break from the torture.

 

While he has moved on with his life, he still bares scars, deep ones.

 

So what’s my point in all of this?

 

In my opinion, we are lessening the real, dangerous incidences of bullying by labeling anything that makes us feel badly as such. I believe, that we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions before we decide whether or not we are indeed victims of bullying:

 

Is it direct and intentional?

 

Is this a common occurrence or an isolated event when another individual is being a complete dirtbag?

 

Is this an instance of public humiliation due to a particular trait that makes a person different?

 

Am I missing anything, dear reader? Is there something you would add? I would really like your thoughts on this. In the meantime, I encourage you, when faced with such a situation, consider whether it’s truly an issue needing to be addressed or one that, as difficult as it may be, may require you to take a deep breath and pull up your big kid underwear.

 

Lastly, it may be difficult sometimes, but know this, karma is universal. There’s a certain kind of misery that comes to a bully. What a pity such a person is.

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About T.D.

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by my corner of the blogosphere. I hope you like it here. This blog is where I ramble about the hats I wear (wife, mother, author, educator, etc) and everything in between. A wise man once said 'Happiness is a habit; cultivate it'. Here on this blog, I intend to do just that.
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4 Responses to Bullying: Let’s Be Real

  1. Stacey Lane says:

    Dear T- Bullying makes me insane! I have been working up at our school and watching human interaction at it’s core. You know who are the bullies? The adults! Most of the “Classified” employees (not teachers); the duty people and aids are horrible. I come home emotionally depleted because I’ve heard so much shaming, yelling and disrespect on their part. I try to counteract it by using a kind tone, but it’s just a trickle. And I’m only there occasionally.

    I’ve started a FB page for abuse awareness called “Not to Women Like Us- Shining Light on Abuse” because we downplay the hurt that words and behaviors can cause. Bullying isn’t just threatening to hurt someone or punching; it’s any behavior meant to lessen someone’s value in the world. I’ve seen too many bright lights extinguished from this.

    I say, “Let’s Stand Up and Show How Big our Brave Is!” (Sarah Barellis’s song, Brave!)

  2. Kelley says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, Trish. I saw the picture of that young mom, and I thought it was awesome. I think many women allow themselves to have such a complex about their weight that they can’t bear the thought of someone looking fantastic and feeling great about it. The Internet is, unfortunately, a really great place for this because people don’t know each other personally and so feel justified in mouthing off whatever comes to mind, not realizing the impact of their words because they don’t see the effects.

    I am so sorry to hear of Danny’s bullying. It doesn’t surprise me, though. That particular small town is ripe for bullying because so many people are not accustomed to differences. I was bullied out there, too. It was difficult, but thankfully it wasn’t devastating because I wasn’t subjected to it for years on end. I hope that Danny is able to find a way to clear all that crap and heal from it.

    My kids witness bullying occasionally, and I always tell them that often the bully should be pitied, too. That person is obviously so insecure in themselves that they feel that making someone else feel bad will make them feel better. This would apply back to the situation with the young mom, too.

  3. I personally am so tired of everyone saying that everything is bullying! There are some really terrible situations out there that are causing people to kill themselves, just like the young lady in your post.

    We need to teach our children, no matter what their age what the difference is between simple teasing and outright bullying; maybe then our children will be able to recognize it and do something about it.

    Let’s help them understand what harassment and true bullying looks like so kids will stop dying.

  4. Robin says:

    I agree that the term “bullying” is used too broadly which minimizes its true devastating nature. In the case of the fit mom, for me, the tricky part is her use of the word “excuse”. “What’s your excuse?” She is asking anyone who hasn’t reached her level of fitness to account for, apologize or justify their actions (or inaction as the case may be). Translation: Extreme focus on fitness is RIGHT, anything else is WRONG. I wish she had just said “Look what I accomplished!” so I could really applaud her.

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