Overcoming Bullying: One Teen’s Story of Bullying and Survival

I believe being comfortable with myself will make me happy regardless of my situation.

This belief could come from the fact that I was bullied during the fifth and sixth grade. I had been friends with a girl for maybe two or three years, but then I decided to hang out with my other friend more than her. She felt betrayed, but I didn’t really notice what I was doing to her and she never brought it up. Then the bullying started. I figured that eventually she’d get over it or she’d get tired and stop. But she didn’t.

My former friend would pull my hair, punch me, and kick me…she even stabbed me with a pen once and broke my skin. I think my other friends tried to intervene as much as they could without getting anyone in trouble. It just wasn’t enough. I try to analyze why I never said anything and I guess it’s because I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble either. Even though she clearly was not acting like a friend anymore, I still felt loyalty to her from our past history. I also thought that if I didn’t acknowledge the situation, then it wouldn’t actually be real. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. The situation got to a point where it was really unsafe. I don’t know what would have happened if my mom hadn’t finally found out.

I guess she had noticed these marks on my body, but I’ve always kind of been prone to bruising so she didn’t think anything of them. Then one day she was walking me to school – which she rarely did – and she saw my friend pull my hair. She forced me to tell her about the bullying, and I broke down crying. She told me to talk to my teacher – which I did – and then the principal got involved too.

It was really awkward for me because we were a small class of about 30 and my former friend and I ran in the same clique of only five girls. I was nervous about what would happen to the friends I did like. Would they get angry at me for snitching on someone or would they stand by me? Surprisingly, the whole clique continued to hang out even though it was really awkward. My former friend and I just avoided each other completely. I’m not sure how we did that considering our group was so small…I guess that’s what made it so awkward.

On the positive side, I finished that year with a better sense of who I was. I learned from the experience.  I’m not going to ever let it happen to me – or anyone else – again. I swore that to myself. Since I was able to beat my problem and grow from it, now I know that I can handle anything.

Is it Self-doubt or Low Self-esteem?

Everyone has those moments.  Moments in which you’re not certain if you’re doing the right thing or making the right choice.  Moments in which you think back to that thing you said at the party and wish you could take it back, but you can’t.  There are times when you question whether or not you used good judgment or acted too impulsively due to anger or fear or something else.   All of this questioning is a sign of self-doubt.

Self-doubt is present in every person’s life and it can mean a moment’s hesitation before making a decision or it can be a paralyzing force that keeps you from taking action.  For teenage girls, who may feel particularly susceptible to what others are thinking about them, self-doubt can be a daily intruder into their thoughts or a shadow that whisks certainty away from almost every decision.  Sometimes girls express their self-doubt as a way of bonding with friends, either by not appearing to be too arrogant, i.e. masculine, and forthright with their decisions, or, by using self-doubt to consult with a BFF at all times.  But what might seem to be second-guessing can have deeper consequences in terms of a girl’s self-esteem.

Having low self-esteem can be a serious result of too much self-doubt.  If you don’t hold yourself in high regard, or keep a strong base of emotional resilience stored against how things might turn out, you’re likely to question your decision-making skills and if your instincts are right about things.  Fundamentally, self-doubt is a contributor to low self-esteem, rather than the same thing.  Doubting yourself constantly, whether by engaging in comparison with others, or holding yourself to an idealized and impossible goal, is a recipe for lowering your self-esteem, because you aren’t staying true to the conviction that you know what’s best for you.  Building up a stronger reservoir of self-esteem will help battle those self-doubt demons when they go on the attack.

But, how do you do this?  Or help a teenage daughter or friend to do this?  Encourage girls to be in touch with what they really want, not what they think they should want.  Do this by (as much as possible) shutting out the media’s messages to girls and going inward to think through what your inner voice most calls out for.  Meditate, create a vision board, or trace out the paths of other strong women and think through what decisions got them to the place you admire.  Imagine the stresses they endured, but overcame, and think about how it’s possible to do that as well.

Draw on supportive friends who will affirm your decisions, and back you up if you feel you’ve made a wrong one and need to make a change.  Practice telling yourself you know best for yourself and shutting out negative voices that tell you otherwise.  Learn to be confident that you’re acting with your own best intentions as your top priority and can be ready to face whatever consequences might come.  This will help bolster your self-esteem and work to erase the voices that can question every decision you make.

Prevent Child Sexual Assault—be part of the solution

I learned this past weekend that a victim of child sexual assault has to tell at least 7 adults before he/she is believed. Why?  Because people can’t process the message and don’t want to believe.  A healthy brain isn’t wired to think in these terms especially in relation to a child.   An adult will attempt to reinterpret what the child is saying in a way that makes it less damaging/threatening for them to process. The child very quickly sees that the adult just doesn’t get it and moves on until he/she encounters another adult they feel safe enough with to tell.  This was both shocking and terrifying for me to learn.  As adults, please don’t be the problem, be part of the solution.  If a child tries to engage you in a conversation that you can tell they are both physically and emotionally struggling through, please stop and listen.

It seems that predators target kids with lower-self esteem the most and prey on those who lack strong identity and/or have a weaker social network.  Most disturbing for me was to learn that these predators can actually walk into a chat room, play ground, mall, etc., and can target these kids instantly, almost like radar.  We must protect.

Teach your kids to be aware of adult strangers that seem too interested in them too soon.

Dr. Michele Borba’s Reality Check is a great blog that provides tips, warning signs and workshops for parents and kids.