How to Tell Your Parents When you are Being Bullied

Let me start off by saying…….you should tell your parents every time and any time you feel you are the victim of bullying. Just because you can “handle” the bullying, doesn’t mean you should.  I know it may seem scary, but tell an adult. If not a parent, then a teacher or adult relative you trust.

So….How do you bring it up? Sometimes that can be the hardest part. Find a time when you have your parents’ full attention. Maybe this is while you are driving alone in the car with them, eating dinner, or taking a long walk with your mom or dad. Think about what to say beforehand so when you tell them you won’t get too nervous and forget everything. If you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, say, “I need to tell you something that I’m nervous about.” I guarantee your parents will pay complete attention. It’s OK if you get upset while telling them. If you want to tell a teacher instead, that’s OK too. Maybe after school when the rest of your class is gone you can ask to speak with them. Again, practice what you want to say.  If it helps to bring a friend along for support, that’s OK too.

I can’t stress this enough. Not wanting to worry or burden your parents by keeping something like this inside doesn’t make you stronger or resilient. Being resilient isn’t about avoiding an issue and adapting to it. Resilience is standing up for yourself, protecting yourself, and demanding that the bullying stops. Don’t built a defense mechanism around the issue to avoid it or pretend that it isn’t actually happening.  Say something early on. If you wait, you may just get used to the bullying and “accept” it. That’s not a healthy way to cope!

 

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One Teen’s Struggle with Perfectionism and Bulimia (Narrative)

I am a six or seven out of 10 on the scale of self-esteem.

I am not some teenage girl on the Disney Channel who writes in a diary and cries about a boy who doesn’t like her. No, that’s not deep enough. That downgrades my issues.

I don’t have a diary.

I don’t write, “Dear diary, so-and-so doesn’t like me back.”

No – when I have a bad day, I scream, punch pillows, and listen to angry music at the highest volume until everything else fades away.

Or I smoke weed.

Or, I used to throw up until I passed out.

Have you ever seen that on the Disney Channel?

I am a six or seven, but this wasn’t always the case. There is one thing I need you to clearly understand about me before you walk away: I HATE who I was a year ago. Who I am today, right now, is not who I was even a couple months ago.

I have struggled with bulimia since the fourth grade.

I’ve always kind of had people make fun of me for my weight. I’m not fat but I’m not thin. Boys especially like to point this out every chance they get. Like recently a guy told my friend that I was a chunky girl. He said that only black guys would ever like me because they’re the only ones who could handle my “thickness.”

What? Excuse me? 

I would usually take a comment like that to heart, but this time I didn’t let it affect me. This time, I confronted him… well, yelled at him actually. I’ve come a long way.

But the main source of my bulimia doesn’t stem from cruel comments about my weight.

It all started in the third grade when my dad moved away. My mom was kind of unstable. Sometimes she was more than kind of unstable; she was CRAZY. Other times she would just come home from work, go to her bedroom, and shut her door for the night. About a year ago, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But at the time I had no idea. No idea at all what was going on with her.

So I raised my sister and me. Even though she is older, I helped her with her homework and did her laundry. She’s kind of a princess. I was always the one making meals, doing the chores… all that stuff. It got to be too much. A fourth grader shouldn’t be cooking dinner every night and making lunches every morning, you know?

I felt like I was losing control of my life. I had to put myself and my energy into something.

So I put them into throwing up.

Later I discovered that one of my friends had anorexia. I didn’t know at first because I was too trapped in my own head to focus on other people’s problems. When I found out, our relationship changed. We were both obsessed with our eating disorders and would root each other on.

She’d call and say, “Did you eat lunch today?”

I’d say no.

She’d say, “Good. Don’t. And here’s why you shouldn’t eat dinner either.”

It was not a healthy friendship at all, and I can see that. Now, anyway.

My relationship with boys wasn’t healthy either. In middle school, I got a bad reputation for being a slut. I craved attention. The feeling of having someone who “wanted” me took over. When a guy noticed me, I would think, Oh my God! A guy actually WANTS me? I would do anything then, you know? And guys turned into huge assholes, using me all the time.

Between boys and bulimia, I was a mess. When I started coughing up blood and passing out, my mom and dad decided to take action. They sent me to a hospital and from there I went into residential treatment.

My anorexic “friend” would call me while I was in rehab. She’d be like, “Oh my God. Are they making you fat? I bet they’re making you SO fat.”

But they weren’t making me fat; they were making me myself again. An amazing thing happened there: I found tools. Things I liked. I got back into horseback riding and played volleyball. I quit cheerleading. THANK GOD. Cheerleading was so incredibly negative.

I had to just kind of get to know myself again, you know? Find out what I liked because I had NO idea. After trying to please my parents and boys for so long, I didn’t know how to make myself happy.

I was completely absorbed with attaining perfection.

I forgot who I was.

Now I know: I love volleyball and horseback riding. I like feeling completely out of mind, not consumed by any thoughts. I like having something to put my energy into other than throwing up, something to strive for, something to focus on. I like having healthy and reasonable goals.

Before rehab, my goal would be something like: Okay, if only I can lose five pounds and get down to 110. Then it would change to: Okay, now if only I can lose five more, you know? Not good. Now I can set goals like moving up to the next level in horseback riding or achieving first place in my next volleyball competition. Much better.

I’ve found myself in a lot of ways, but I still feel that nagging pressure to please people. Like my parents. I’m always afraid of letting them down. When I’m really depressed, I won’t go to my mom and say, “Hey, I’ve been feeling really down lately.” I don’t want her to worry, you know? I’ll tell her almost anything, but not the emotional stuff. I don’t want to disappoint, scare, or upset her.

I want both of my parents to be proud. Proud to call me their daughter. I want them to tell their friends, “Yeah, my daughter, she gets straight As.” As opposed to like, “Oh… my daughter? She likes to drink and she is failing all her classes.”

Pressure to please my parents keeps me on track. To a point. I want them to help me control the things I can’t on my own. Like homework. I don’t do it or turn it in unless someone is breathing down my neck. I’ve just never been motivated.

But other times my parents are too controlling. They can’t tell me to clean my room. I get really pissed off. That’s MY area. They definitely can’t take away anything in my bathroom. Especially my makeup. One time they took it as punishment and their plan backfired.

I kicked a hole in the wall.

Other times they tell me what to do or who to hang out with. That’s when I act rebellious and go out drinking on Friday night, things like that. I mean, it’s understandable they don’t want me to drink and do drugs. I don’t take it to heart, but I do understand.

Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t want to fuck up my future, you know? I want good grades. I want to go to college. I just want to have fun along the way. Party on the weekend, study on the weekdays.

Then there’s that other group I aim to please: BOYS.

Basically, if I know I’m going to see a guy during or after school or whatever, I either straighten my hair and put on makeup or hide my face. I feel so much pressure. Even if we’re just friends, even if I’m not into him or he’s not cute, I want to impress him.

I just get so nervous. I get nervous they talk about me the way they talk about other girls to me. They are SO brutal. Like when this guy was getting with this really, REALLY pretty girl. She was so beautiful and he was sitting there like, “Oh my God. She is such a troll. She’s so disgusting. Her face is disgusting.”

What? Well you’re the one hooking up with her. 

It makes me wonder what they say that I don’t know about. I would never have the heart to tell another girl, “Well so-and-so said this about you,” you know? I don’t think people would want to tell me either. The whole idea just makes me uncomfortable.

Regardless, I have had an on-and-off boyfriend for five months or so. He is really, really incredible and treats me well. For the first time ever a boy treats me well! But no matter how sweet he is or how much he tells me I’m beautiful, he can’t see me with curly hair or frumpy clothes. I feel like I have to look perfect. I know he doesn’t care, but I’m uncomfortable still and won’t change soon.

He is a guy after all.

I don’t trust guys.

I’ve been fucked over too many times.

Thankfully, I do have two people in my life I trust completely. I can tell my big sister – the princess – anything. 100%. She’s my best friend. My older cousin too. She’s been through a lot of the things I have and she’s on the other side now. She always has a solution for me.

While you’re not my sister or my cousin, I will still trust you with one embarrassing fact: I watch reality TV. Maybe Disney doesn’t go deep enough, but reality TV takes it too far. It teaches you everything that can possibly ruin you and glorifies everything that should not be held high.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Bridalplasty? It’s a reality show where all these women compete for plastic surgery before their weddings – bigger boobs, nose jobs, stuff like that. But the thing is, these women are already beautiful. So beautiful just the way they are.

It is the worst show self-esteem-wise but my favorite to watch. I think because watching it makes me feel like I’m not alone. Everyone, even these perfectly beautiful women, find things wrong with them. So I started thinking, Maybe I’m in their position. Maybe I’m beautiful but just can’t see it because I find all these things wrong with myself.  This crazy show made me realize everyone has their issues and no one is completely happy with who they are.

I’m not, but I’m getting closer. Today I am in the best place I’ve been in a long time.  I’m a six or seven out of 10. I am upper middleclass. I am Caucasian. I am 14. I am a freshman.

How could I also be 10 out of 10 on the scale of self-esteem? I would have to drop every unreasonable expectation for myself.  Perfect skin. Perfect hair. Cute outfits all the time.

If you ask me if I think I can reach 10 out of 10 someday, I will answer softly that I think I can. And if you ask me if I want to reach 10 out of 10, I will answer even more softly that I do.

Maybe someday I will want it enough to speak in more than just a whisper.

Easy Steps to RAISE Your Self-Esteem

  • R – Resilience
  • A – Attitude/Adaptability
  • I – Independence
  • S – Self-respect
  • E – Empowerment

For many of us, we have daily struggles at home, at work, as well as in our social lives. For adults, managing many of these relationships can be difficult. Now imagine yourself as a 15-year-old girl trying to maneuver the landscape of her everyday life.  Without tools, strategies, or resources this is nearly impossible.  Having counseled and interviewed hundreds of teen girls, I designed  a system to help them combat these challenges. I created my system to RAISE  their self-esteem. RAISE stands for: Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment. Being more conscious of these terms, their meanings and their connection as a whole is critical for forming positive relationships as well as a healthy sense of self.  I see RAISE as a toolkit for self-esteem. Once young women can differentiate among these tools and know how to use them, I truly believe they will be on their way to healthier living.

Resilience (Or self perseverance) is a great defense against peer pressure.

It’s probably no surprise that teens rate their friend’s and classmates disapproval as most difficult to take; however, it may surprise you that behind friends, a far second would be their teachers and in last place are mom and dad. Disapproval by their friends and classmates will be avoided at any cost.  This is where peer pressure can come into play if they do not have a strong sense of self (healthy self-esteem).  To combat those pressures, resilience must be built up and nurtured by family and friends early on. Support systems must also be in place to continually foster their self-esteem as they grow.

Attitude- Having a positive attitude will always enhance your self-esteem.

Developmentally, the teen years are extremely complex.  Dynamics among friendships start to shift, extreme self-awareness takes hold, not to mention identity development mixed with puberty.  Throne together this is a concoction waiting for disaster.  Teen girls deal with these changes in many ways.  Some become moody, some find themselves crying over big and small issues, some begin to challenge their parents, and many express feeling sad or depressed for no reason.  That can be a very scary experience which causes extreme confusion.  Staying mentally fit with a positive attitude is key.  My technique offer suggestions and guidance on ways to build and keep up a positive attitude.

Independence- Physical activity, sports, hard work and encouragement can foster independence.

Teens must be encouraged to take on challenges big or small and need praise for their successes and understanding for their defeats.  Sports or other forms of physical activity are perfect for pushing them forward in their independence.  However, this is also where their self-esteem will be tested.  Encourage them to keep going and ultimately they will grow strong, trust in themselves and look inward for approval.  This is the pinnacle of independence.  There is something very powerful in pushing oneself further that you expect you can go to really make you realize what you are made of.  Also, trying a new physical challenge can be a huge confidence builder.  Through RAISE, I will share the benefits of these activities and how they relate to a sense of independence and ultimately positive self-esteem.

Self-Respect- Knowing and approving of yourself is key to healthy self-esteem.

Another term we could use here would be pride. Teens sometimes have difficulty with this concept because they tie it to closely to acceptance by their peers.  Sometimes teens confuse authentic friendships as well as intimate relationships with those that can actually be quite damaging.  If you ask a teen to define self-respect, most of them can. However, they have a difficult time turning those words into action. They don’t understand what self-respect looks like in practice.   My technique can show them what self-respect looks like in action. By talking to teens, I understand their views on self-respect and where they think they or other teens go wrong.  I give concrete examples of authentic relationships and self-respect.

Empowerment (or Encouragement)

Family can be another factor which may contribute to the rise or fall of positive self-esteem.  A family can be the typical structure we see on television with 2 parents, siblings, as well as extended family. However, not everyone comes from that structure, so I define family as that group of people who authentically love, protect, and care about your well-being.  Now, when looking at the typical family unit, messaging by parents is often a powerful tool for building self-esteem.  Children who feel heard by their parents and empowered perceive themselves as important to the make up of the family and tend to have more positive self-esteem.  In addition, adolescents who feel well liked by their parents, also tend to have higher self-esteem.  Children who hear positive affirmations that they are pretty, smart, or good athletes tend to have higher self-esteem as well.  Language in the home can have a direct impact on the formation of healthy adolescent self-esteem. Friends, teachers, coaches and supervisors can also be part of the family unit and play critical roles in fostering  teen empowerment.