Dear Bullied Kids: It Gets Better Because You Get Stronger
I remember the feeling. I would stand, my back up against the fence, my legs weak. I’d stand there and wonder which way I would run this time and if they’d chase me, or if I’d get away with just having rocks thrown at me. I’d watch them close in, chanting their stupid name they made up about my nose, which was upturned “like a pig’s”. And I’d wonder when this hell would be over. When it would be my turn to watch them squirm? But more than that, when would I just be accepted like they all seemed to be? Why did I have to be the one everyone made fun of?It’s not a new feeling. Kids all over the world feel this way. No matter how many times we’re told, “Kids just tease,” or “Kids are just mean,” or “Suck it up, because it gets better,” when you’re in it, it doesn’t feel like it ever does get better. Yes, the teasing may eventually fade. You might move away, like another girl I know did, to another school. It might follow you there, like it followed her. You might have something about you that just tells the other children you’re a target. You might be too shy, or too different; read strange books or listen to odd music. You might be gay, or trans, or just not like the rest of the kids. And so it doesn’t matter – it doesn’t matter how long you wait. You don’t care if it might get better someday. When will it get better now?
Living in that hell is horrible. Some teachers often refuse to do anything about it, bound by school rules or just the hardened point of view of “I’ve seen this before; I have enough problems.” Some principals, like mine at the time, may not care because there are just too many kids like me – kids that are teased in every grade. Kids that are stolen from, that are pushed in the mud. They can’t protect them all, so they stop trying. Or maybe they do try to do something, but they’re met with resistance from the bullies’ parents. Or they’re met with resistance from the school board, urging them not to get involved. It’s a catch-22, often, for everyone involved. There seems to be no way to stop bullying, and it’s the children that suffer.
And there are messages of hope from the grown-up bullied: it gets better. But how does it get better? And how do you stand it when you’re constantly tormented?
I was bullied from age 11 to age 16. Every time I walked by the group of bullies that plagued me from grade 6 through to grade 11, I cringed, wondering if today would be the day they’d finally decide to beat me up. And what helped me get through it was knowing that in my heart, I was a stronger person than any one of them. That, and a lot of support – from the few friends I had, from the family that worked so hard to protect me, even offering me a chance to transfer to another school to get away from it. And I stopped cowering away from them and just walked past them, my head held high. It worked out for me. They left me alone.
But it doesn’t work out for everyone. There are kids killing themselves because they can’t stand one more day of being beaten up. There are kids that turn to drugs and alcohol, to behaviour that is destructive. How do we tell these kids that it gets better when it might not ever? Adults get bullied. I have been called names and taunted. I’ve had my character maligned, things I’ve said thrown in my face, stories I’ve told used against me, both in the workplace and online.
So does it get better? In my opinion, it does. It does because you get stronger. You develop a hardened skin. You stop caring about what others think as much. You are able to see past the bullying to people who are insecure and hurting, who might not have the support you do. And sometimes it’s hard to see that. Sometimes it doesn’t help at all to even imagine it. But it helps. You start to change your demeanour – and sometimes, they start leaving you alone, because their bullying just doesn’t work anymore.