Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Not Afraid, To Take A Stand.

Recently, I decided to get brave. I decided that it wasn't ok to keep quiet about bullying. And following the response to I'll Tell On You, I was really quite overwhelmed. Overwhelmed not just by the words of kindness from people I've never met but by the number of you who have experienced bullying. Not just at school but as adults in work, at university and at the hands of those that we are conditioned to believe won't hurt us.

Of those people, 3 stood out as having stories that I wanted to share. They stood out because despite their setbacks and their experiences, they are talented and interesting people who understand the value of human kindness and are not afraid to share it. So with massive thanks to Bee and to Ayden and to Michelle for not being afraid, for taking a stand against the people in this world who think it's acceptable to be mean, cruel or unkind. Because these are the people who remind us that the there's more to life and more to people.

Bee

Here it goes:
1.What are your experiences of bullying- what age were you, what form did it take, where did you experience it? I experienced bullying in the workplace at the age of 18 whilst taking a 'gap year' due to health reasons. It was a new environment for me, a new start and a new lease of life. Or so I thought. I won't go into my exact position or location, as I feel that's unnecessary, but I will say that it was at a holiday camp. A holiday camp that, ironically, has been voted as one of the best places to work by its employees. Many people forget that bullying can take many forms focusing on the impact of physical bullying before even contemplating other ways. For me, I experienced verbal and, in some cases, mental bullying.

2. Did you find a resolution to the problem, if so how? If it's ongoing do you have a coping strategy? Perhaps stupidly, my resolution to the problem was to run away...to be done with the situation as soon as possible. Obviously, I'm not saying I should've dealt with it but I think I should've perhaps tackled the situation first before leaving. At first, my coping strategy was to just stay away from the person involved. I kept quiet and kept low. However, this didn't really work in the long run. No matter what I did, the situation didn't seem to resolve itself.

3. What would be your best advice to anyone in a similar situation?  My advice to anyone coping with bullying in the workplace is to speak to the HR department. They might be able to deal with the situation, talk to the person in question or move you to a different department. Secondly, speak to your loved ones about it and get their opinions. There's no need to suffer in silence. If you are feeling threatened by anybody don't think you should keep it to yourself. My overall advice is the following: remember that no amount of money is worth feeling less of a person than you know you are.

4. How would you handle a situation that had the potential to escalate to bullying now? I think I handled it in the best way for me. I 'suffer' from something called Crohns Disease which is worsened my stress. Therefore, I had to just get out of the situation in the quickest way possible in order to keep my health on track. I'd probably say that if I were to experience a similar situation now, I would make sure that, upon leaving, the person knew exactly why I was leaving and why they can't behave the way they did.

5. How do you define bullying?
 I think bullying is a difficult word to define simply because everyone seems to have different opinions/experiences. Personally, I believe that bullying is a series of acts/behaviours that makes one feel threatened/upset in any way.


Ayden

1. What are your experiences of bullying- what age were you, what form did it take, where did you experience it?
I have experienced bullying at 4 times in my life, I'd say. The first time was with a 'best friend' in primary school (which led into high school) the second time was with my boyfriend when I was in my teens, the third time was with a 'friend' at university, and the fourth time was in the last year or so in the workplace. The saddest thing of all is that in 3 out of the 4 situations, which were all at different stepping stones in my life - the bullying was being done by people close to me. People who I thought cared about me. So I could justify it as them being over protective, and their harsh opinions meant they only wanted the best for me. I also blamed it on my character, was it something that I was doing that ended up turning the person close to me against me like this. It was only years later, that I took a step back and realised that the situation with my best friend, and then my boyfriend, was definitely a form of bullying. So when I hit a similar situation at university and then in the workplace once I graduated, I was a bit thicker skinned and was able to deal with differently (or actually just deal with it in general)

2. Did you find a resolution to the problem, if so how? If it's ongoing do you have a coping strategy? 
I never found a resolution to the bullying with the best friend in my younger years, and then with my boyfriend in high school. Both situations, when thinking of them now, make me want to slap myself for being so stupid. I was always a worrier as a little girl, a complete walkover, and a people pleaser. I cared far too much about what other people thought of me, and was never hesitant in putting someone else's happiness before my own. I just wanted to make people happy. These two people knew how to wrap me around their little fingers. It is pretty upsetting/humiliating to think back on, and when I've told newer friends and my current boyfriend of what I went through, they were shocked, they didn't get it. Well, neither do I to be honest. The only reason I am the 'get up and go' kind of person that I am today, is because I felt the biggest release and bout of freedom when I didn't have these two people in my life anymore. They were both like anchors, weighing me down. I have never experienced bullying from a stranger, it's always been from someone reasonably close to me. It was so intense, and when both of these people had finally drifted out of my life, I felt like I could take on the world.
But then, I faced a similar situation at university. One person who I worked closely with but totally knew how to get under my skin. So frustrated with myself, I knew exactly what was happening. Yet I still let them play their games (and also play me like putty in their hands) Again, always questioning myself. Its funny how when it comes to bullying we always question ourselves. No matter how 'textbook' or not the bullying situation may be - its always a case of 'why don't they like/accept me, what have I done to deserve this, why don't they just treat me like the next person cause I'm not so different from them' I cried a lot, I'll admit that. But then one day I realised that maybe its not about US. Maybe its about them. In fact, it definitely is about them! They are the one with the problem! This person had no reason to be jealous of me, and to take their shit out on me. But our uni bred a very competitive environment (one which I tried to steer clear of) So they still took their insecurities out on someone they knew they could. That person was me, and no one else in my year. They knew no one else would take their shit.

3. What would be your best advice to anyone in a similar situation?
I guess in time I got a bit better at standing up for myself, and letting someone know when they've said something out of line. I hate telling someone I'm annoyed at them, and really hate any sort of confrontation in general. Obviously the bully knows they are getting to us, but its not very often we let them know they are. As if showing it would be a sign of weakness - but I'm starting to think it can work as quite the opposite. Instead of never reacting, and having a cry to myself at night, I started snapping back (completely out of character for me) Walking away during one of their rants, leaving the room when they entered etc. Real playground stuff I know. I played them at their own game but I wouldn't say this advice is for everyone (and to be honest I was crapping myself because I had never fought fire with fire before) But in this case it worked. We graduated, hugging and drinking champagne together. I don't hold grudges, and although I'll never forget how horrible they were to me, I'll move on with my head held high and know that I will NEVER let anyone get under my skin like that again.

4. How would you handle a situation that had the potential to escalate to bullying now? 
I started to feel this horrible way again in a certain workplace a while after I had graduated. Because I am self employed, and working in the film and TV industry - it's a very bitchy and competitive environment. I always made sure I was a great worker, and a very friendly person to get along with. In this industry, you're only as good as your last job and your reputation is pretty much the only legs you have to stand on. Because I am young, I also wanted people to take me seriously. So I always tried really hard to be a nice, genuine person, to get on with folks and to work as best as I could. I encountered one person who I just couldn't win with. No matter how efficient, diligent, or likeable I tried to be - it wasn't enough. My confidence (which I didn't have much to begin with haha) started to get knocked. I just wanted to feel accepted, a part of the team (maybe clique is a better word!) and get a little bit of feedback that wasn't a grunt, a bitch or a very rude/patronising/obvious dig. I seriously began to doubt my career path - this person made me feel like I wasn't cut out for it at all. Which was insane, because I love what I do and even though I'm not the most talented person you'll ever meet, I'm a grafter and I get the job done to a brilliant standard! :( So I was mega upset and frustrated. But as soon as I saw the situation escalating, I lifted my head up and started to see that this bully was horrible to people twice their age - who had been doing the job a lot longer than this person had. They started to ruffle a lot of feathers, and knowing that this was just the persons (albeit horrible) personality trait, I was able to emotionally detach myself from the situation. It was still hard to not take things personally, but looking at the bigger picture helped me handle things better, and almost put an invisible barrier up between me and the bully.

5. How do you define bullying?
Bullying takes on so many shapes and forms, and for various reasons including race, to culture, to disability, to beliefs, to gender, to sexuality... and other kinds of discrimination. But I guess it's just any situation in which someone has been made to suffer for being themselves :( Thank you for reading my story, everyone's is different - just please don't let it happen to you.

Michelle

1. What are you experiences of bullying: what age were you, what form did it take, where did you experience it?
Awful as it sounds, I can recount being bullied as far back as my early days at primary school. I spoke very poor English when I started at primary school, at 5 years old and only remember constantly being pushed over by a group of girls in the year above me. I didn't recognise it as bullying until one of the teaching assistants noticed, and asked a group of girls (some of whom I am still good friends with now) to look after me and play with me.

I was also bullied consistently throughout secondary school. I was the only one in Year 7 who didn't know anyone else, the others all had friends from their primary schools. This time it was much more verbal, and more group-involved, in that the girls would enlist 'help' from their friends in the year above to belittle me. One time they threw snowballs with stones in the middle at me, smashing my glasses and which ended with me in the Medical Room. The teachers didn't help me at all, despite me confiding in my form tutor, and it never stopped, even in my final year, although by that time, I had a close knit group of friends who stopped me from caring too much.

The bullying stopped, thankfully, while I was in college, only to start up again while at University. It was quite subtle, but living with the bullies (they were my flatmates) meant I knew it was happening again. They would bitch about me and my friend - also a flatmate - with the doors open, so that I'd overhear, and all exit the kitchen whenever we went in there. They also often asked me questions to make me feel awkward and inadequate as well. I feel as if this was because I study Writing Fashion and Culture - they often made snide remarks about the fashion aspect of it all, assuming I was a 'bimbo' and never bothered to get to know me at all.

2. Did you find a resolution to the problem? If so, how? If it's ongoing, do you have a coping strategy?
I never found a way to stop the bullying. I think the difference came when I just stopped letting it get to me. I'm lucky to have found a close knit of friends at each school who helped me to grow in confidence and it slowly meant that the bullies just didn't bother, because they didn't get a reaction from anymore.

3. What would be your best advice to anyone in a similar situation?
Last year, I coped by realising I was the bigger person. To anyone in a similar situation, being patronised or bullied in an adult capacity, I would definitely advise you to tell someone, whether it be a friend, a parent or even a colleague. Sharing your worries and problem is another step to stopping them completely, and they are quite likely to have the confidence, if you don't, to take the steps on your behalf to having something done about it.

4. How would you handle a situation that had the potential to escalate to bullying now?
I think I would just bite the bullet and sit down and speak to them about it. I'm guessing you mean 'the potential' in that the bully has already started making comments or the like, but if you spoke to them and asked why they were acting like that, the problem can be stopped. I've always been told that bullies are insecure, and bullying gives them confidence, so find a way around that :) The worst that can happen is that they laugh in your face (hello, immaturity!) or they feel stupid about the situation.

5. How do you define bullying?
I define bullying as being made to feel inequal to a peer. Being threatened, patronised, pressured or made to feel inadequate is all classed as bullying from a personal view.

A little bit from me

I've given a lot of thought to how I define bullying over the last few weeks. I came to the conclusion that bullying is the act of deliberately making some unhappy or hurting them for your own pleasure or agenda.

Being bullied left me doubting my abilities, my character and it left me feeling like a weak person with nothing to contribute. Until I realised that it is wrong. It is just so wrong that those who think it's ok to make others unhappy should get what they want. And after that I realised that there are so many other people out there who've been through something similar. And if we can all be brave enough to share that, and to remind the world that it is not acceptable, maybe there will be those who think twice before they open their mouths or slam a door in future.

This is me saying that I am not afraid. That I will take a stand. This is also me saying thank you for all the kindness, support and loveliness that I have encountered.



My hope is that anybody reading this will think about how they are treated by others and how they treat them in return. I also want, as these wonderful ladies have shown, to prove that being bullied does not make you a lesser person. And even more than that, it's ok to talk about. Yes we're adults. No, it's not nice. But bullying happens to us too.

With HUGE thanks once again to Bee, Michelle and Ayden for joining me in taking a stand, and for their help. You are, all three of you, inspirations.
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