It's Bullying Awareness Week. So I wanted to take a moment to talk about my experiences with bullying and how I overcame it.
When I was younger I was bullied. Quite a bit. I never knew if it was because I am Jewish, or was small, or am smart, or was a goody-two-shoes or am a nerd or because of my last name or for any number of other reasons or just because. But I did know, even from a young age, that kids are cruel. Well, not just kids, people in general. Regardless, all of those things are a part of me, and I was bullied because I was trying to be myself. I won't go into too many specific details, but just so you have a small idea, I was called names, harassed in numerous forms on nearly a daily basis, and even physically bullied once or twice. I spent a decent chunk of my young life in tears, which only brought on more torture. And I know by no means was this the worst case of bullying ever in existence but that thought didn't and still doesn't make it feel better.
Boy meets World on Anne Frank and Antisemitism
The point is, anyone can be bullied for any number of reasons. When you say things that criticize who a person is or what they stand for then you are bullying. Just check out that video from one of my favorite shows growing up, Boy Meets World. It makes a great point about how something as seemingly harmless as a bad name can lead to something much much bigger.
Words hurt. Plain and simple. We can choose to ignore them, but let's be honest it doesn't make them hurt any less. But it's how we hear those words and whether or not we choose to let them affect us that really defines who we are as a person. And we don't always have to know exactly who that is, whether we are 10, 100 or somewhere in between. We are constantly in search of who we really are, and that's perfectly okay!
Today, I'm 30 years old, a Rocket Scientist (Aerospace Engineer), a writer, a giant nerd, and numerous other things. But it wasn't until recently that I really owned who I was and became comfortable with it. I was constantly worried about what people would think of me, constantly worried about the things I said (which isn't always a bad thing but would often cause me to clam up and shut down) and constantly just worried about everything. And you know what? That made me afraid of a lot of things including myself. I was afraid to be myself, and I was miserable. I let the words people said about me hold more weight than my own beliefs and views of myself. Their words stood as a wall between who I was and who I was really meant to be.
Once I stopped caring about what other people thought and started caring about what I thought of myself, I was able to open my eyes and find out who I really am as a person. And I discovered it is someone I truly love. Even better it was someone my family, friends, and those close to me really loved too. I was much happier and it showed. People noticed I had a smile on my face and it was because I was just being me.
Whether it's Anti Bullying month in October or National Bullying Awareness Week (Nov 12-17, 2012) or just any other day, time, or second, bullies don't rest and neither should we. If you are victim of bullying TELL SOMEONE, and keep on telling someone until you find someone who listens. I'm here today as a person who is comfortable in my own skin in large part because I constantly told people about what happened and I had a great support system. My parents and teachers listened and when they could, they did something, and that made all the difference. Especially just knowing that someone was listening and someone cared. So if you are a parent, teacher, friend, etc. of someone who is being bullied, PLEASE LISTEN, and stand up for that person. There's power in numbers.
Trust me, things get better. I moved passed all the hurt and realized I am a lot more than the nasty words people say and the horrible things they do. Those words can only hurt me and define me if I let them. And I don't! I am not afraid to show my true personality to the world. In doing so, I found myself - a confident successful woman, a rocket scientist, a writer, a reader, a Jew, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a dancer, a podcaster, a nerd, and on and on and on.
OWN WHO YOU ARE! Every single part of yourself. Don't leave anything out. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to just be you. You will be a much happier person for it because you aren't expending excess energy trying to mask a part of yourself. That kind of stress weighs a person down. And when you do finally own who you are, surround yourself with people who like that person, and don't worry about those that don't. As much as we like to think we can please everyone in the world it's just not possible. So don't be upset if everyone doesn't like who you are because their are plenty of people that do, you are not alone. If you are reading this consider yourself a friend of mine. I promise to embrace you with kindness. You won't find any judgement or criticism here.
I hope that one day I can repay the favor of all those people who stood up for me, whether in kindness to them or in helping others. Because if it wasn't for them, I never would have had the opportunity to find myself - my REAL self. For that, I am eternally grateful!
If you are looking for a way to make a difference and combat bullying check out the <3 Less Than Three Anti-Bullying Conference Facebook Group. If you can, make plans to attend the Anti-Bullying Conference Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the Spencer Road Branch Library in St. Peters, MO. I'll be there and I hope you can come too!