Yes, I’m talking to you. This week the Australian media has been all up in arms about online bullying, particularly after local television celebrity Charlotte Dawson was attacked on twitter by 100’s of internet trolls and ended up hospitalised. I had a brief look at her twitter page on Thursday night. It was horrendous. The photographs sent to her made me nauseous and quite frankly I can only hope they were photoshopped images. If they were real there are some very sick trolls out in the interweb.
All this talk of bullying in the media recently has had me considering bullying. I thought about writing a post about the bullying I endured as a child. I thought about talking about the long term affects it has had on my life. The insecurity, lack of self esteem, confidence of a head of lettuce. But I decided I wasn’t going to dredge all that up again. Not here. Not anywhere.
I don’t understand bullies, nor what they get out of it. Are they victims hiding behind a computer screen wishing they could be stronger in real life. Or are they simply ass-hats who enjoy knowing they are causing other people pain and hurt.
I was bullied pre-internet – I know I’m old – when I got home, I was safe. The world outside my front door might have been a nasty, dark place that I was afraid of, but home I was safe. It was my sanctuary. It was my haven. I walked through those brown painted wooden doors and for however long I was there I was safe.
In today’s social media/internet age no one is safe. Facebook, Twitter, all those sites bring the bullies right in your front door, to the sanctuary and privacy of your home, your bedroom. I don’t know if I would have coped or survived if I didn’t have the respite of home. The safety of my room, where I could close the doors and be whoever I wanted to be without fear. Honestly, the internet can be a cold, heartless bitch of a place.
I’ve never understood the need for others to belittle people, to hurt and emotionally strangle them because of the colour of the skin, their religious beliefs, their sexuality or weight. I don’t understand. I believe most bullies are immature. I believe that most bullies are themselves victims of abuse and bullying, lashing out at others to make themselves feel strong. Stronger then the person giving them trouble.
I don’t understand how people can do what they do without remorse. It’s not a case of having to toughen up. It’s not a case of the victim having to do anything to justify the abuse of the bully. It’s a case of the bully having to realise and recognise how much damage they can do to someone else.
When I was a kid, there was a saying “Bricks and stones can hurt my bones but names can never harm me”. I was taught that as a little kid. A mantra I guess my parents thought would help me to get through what I was dealing with.
I’m here to say that’s bullshit. Names can harm. Names can wound. Names, when said often enough and with enough hatred can kill.
One of the people I read on Twitter the night said “if it’s bothering her that much why not turn off twitter or deactivate her account.”
Why should she, or anyone else have to deactivate an account? And quite frankly, that is an uninformed and stupid comment to make. It’s not about turning off the internet or deactivating an account, any more than it was about going home and closing the door when I was younger.
The words stay. Whether they are said or written they stay. I’ve been 23 years out of school and the words still stay. When I’m tired or lost or feeling down I can still “hear” the bullies from my childhood. I can still the see the pack of little bastards who taunted and tortured me for years.
It’s not as easy as turning off the computer. When it’s said often enough, with enough venom, from enough people, it haunts and stays.
Bullying is ridiculous. I’m not delusional enough to believe that bullying will ever be wiped out. It’s ingrained. My hope, however, is that those who would bully take a moment to think of the long-term affects of their choice of activity. Perhaps it is the bullies who need to deactivate their accounts, turn off their internets and crawl out of their parents basements and see the real world.
Life in the real world can be beautiful. It is an amazing place. Laughter and light, joy and happiness aren’t just for those you feel are better than you and need to be destroyed. It is our birth right. We are all entitled to a life well lived. As long as you believe you are not worthy of respect, of love, you will continue to be nothing. You will continue to bully and hurt those you think of as weaker or more “something” than you are.
It is your choice. If you choose to bully, to hate and to hurt, you bring only more of that into your life. Life, the one you live is all about choices. When I was a teenager I stood in the dark one night and made a choice. I was empty. I had nothing left. I believed the words and believed I could give nothing to anyone. I believed I was a failure. I stood in the night and I made a choice. I made a choice to live. I made a choice to release as much of the hurt as I could and to make my life all it could be. It’s an ongoing process.
There have been hiccups along the way. Choices made I’m not happy with. Decisions executed I’m not proud of. But for the most part I am a pleased of the choice I made. I talk to you not as a bully but as your victim. Did the people I went to school with realise how close I came to making a different choice? Did they realise that all those years of taunts and torments left me in a position where one choice, the choice to live was harder to make? Possibly. I doubt it though. To them it was words. To me, it was my life.
To those who read this who are the victims of bullying I tell you this. There is nothing you did to deserve the names, the violence, the torment. You are perfect just the way you are. You are on an amazing journey, and while I understand the darkness of the path you have found yourself on, and I understand how easy it is to let go, to embrace the pain and make it a blanket you wear with fear, I also understand that time does heal.
Time gives us not only perspective – and frankly I’ve never understood the why – but it also gives us strength. Over the past couple of years the Trevor Project in the US has been releasing videos under it’s “It Gets Better” campaign. The campaign is aimed at GLBT youth, but whether you are the gay, lesbian or heterosexual victim of bullying life does get better.
It gets better if you allow it too. It gets better if you chose to make it so. Let no one put you under a cloud of doubt. Stand tall, regardless of the words and know in your heart that while the pain is there now, one day you will be able to stand, you will laugh, you will love. You will make amazing friends who have your back and want nothing from you but your love.
And to the bullies I say this. Life is about choices. You choose what you get in this world. Make fresh choices. Choose to be a better person. Choose to give of yourself to support others, not tear them down. Choose to understand the consequences of your actions. You are not bullet proof. It takes just one person to turn the bully into the victim. Don’t bring that down on your head.
I believe in the inherent goodness in people. Bully or not you are loved by someone. You are worth all you can achieve in life. Dedicate your mind, your talents and your energy into being a light in a world that is at times darker than night. Stand up for those who are not as strong as you yet, and make your choices, not from fear, but from love.
The choices we make, can rock our world.
What a FANTASTIC post Michael! And so true, about feeling safe when you get home as a kid – it’s something I really worry about for students these days, the bullying continues online and via phones, it’s non-stop. How do you create that “safe” refuge these days?? I have no idea what the answers are, but having these conversations is a good start 🙂
Hi Sarah, thanks for leaving a comment, I really appreciate it. Funnily enough I started reading a book on the train today – a murder mystery – that is set in an exclusive girls school where cyber bullying has gotten out of control. I thought it was strange given this post and the media coverage last week. I have absolutely no idea how people create a “safe” refuge these days. Glad you liked the post btw.
Thank you Mike! I think this is one of the most poignant articles I’ve ever read. Mostly because I agree that Turnbull offered integrity then delivered the usual tired party politics. Thank you for this article and your capacity to share such an important story. I work with children and young people and I’m tired of seeing this reality! We need people like you to share the truth and hold those who are in positions of power to account.
Thank you Loz, that’s really nice of you to say. It’s a shame really that Turnbull turned out to be all puff and no blow. I really thought he was a cut above the usual politician.