I have been where you are and I remember how much it hurts to be disliked, to be bullied. I will never forget the first run-in I had with cyber-bullying as a seventh grader. It felt so undeserved and unmerited. I had always tried to be nice to others, what had I done to bring this on?
I remember my mother rushing to my aid. I had hesitated to tell her about the hateful email I had received from an anonymous address. I was embarrassed someone would say such mean things about me and I didn’t want anyone else to read them. The words really cut me to the core and I was hurting. And on top of that, I did not know how to respond to the situation. When I finally came to my mom and told her about the email she was quick to act. She calmly read the ugly words that had been sent to me and reassured me it was a load of baloney. She told me someone would have to feel pretty insecure and unsatisfied with themselves to go to these lengths — creating an anonymous email address for the sole purpose of spewing hate mail at me. And she assured me the ridiculous and unkind things they had said were simply not true.
If you have experienced cyber bullying, or bullying of any kind, tell an adult you trust.
A trusted adult will be able to help you deal with the situation appropriately. Also, they can help you pick up the pieces of your self-esteem that may have been scattered so you can start feeling better about things. That day my mother sat down at the computer and typed up a response to the mean email. She let the person know who she was and what she thought of the behavior. The bully responded, a day later, with a tail-between-her-legs apology and never sent me hate mail again. Looking back, I am so glad I turned to an adult for help. If I had not come to my mom for help in that situation, I may have continued to receive hate mail for months. Who knows how much this could have damaged my self-esteem – I may have actually started to believe the untrue things the bully was saying.
Bullies will say what they need to say to intimidate others and make them feel small, whether the words are true, half-true or not true at all.
This incident, along with some other experiences with mean girls, led me to choose my close friends carefully in middle school and high school. I grew close to friends whom I felt comfortable and safe around, girls and guys who were confident enough with themselves that they did not need to put others down to feel big. In making friends with others who were comfortable with themselves, I began to see what my mother had told me the day of the email incident.
The bullying is not actually about you. It is a sign the bully is hurting or insecure. It is her best attempt to feel good about herself, by putting somebody else down.
You may ask why the bully chose you as a target. Who knows? She may see in you something positive or strong she does not see in herself and she feels jealous. That might make her want to put you down. Or she may want to pick on you because of a weakness she sees and picking on your weakness distracts her from her own. We all have strengths and weaknesses, we are human. As personal-to-you as it feels to be bullied, please know the situation is an indication of the bully’s personal struggles and not your own.
Learn to accept others’ power to choose whether to be your friend or not. Let go of the hurt so it doesn’t continue to drag you down.
This does not mean you accept bullying or let it go on. You need to address the situation with the help of an adult. What I am suggesting is choosing to let go of the hurt the bullying has caused. It can only continue to hurt your feelings if you let it. So, maybe not everyone will want to be your friend. Let it go. Maybe girls will talk about you behind your back. Let it go. Maybe you will feel excluded from a group you used to be a part of. Set out to make new friends and let it go. As you choose to “let go” and not allow others’ negative actions to damage your self-esteem, you will become more and more confident. As your self-confidence grows, you will not be as easily hurt by the words or actions of others.
I wish I could tell you girls will outgrow meanness and smallness but, sadly, some do not. There will always be those who prefer to gossip rather than uplift, to compete rather than befriend, to judge rather than understand and to intimidate rather than inspire. Learn to accept other people’s choices of how they see and interact with the world. It is not something you have the power to change. But you do have the power to be kind always. To choose to see the good and assume the best about others. To treat others with respect even when they do not reciprocate. You never know who you may inspire to live up to their potential just by believing in the best parts of them. And you never know whose wounds you may help heal with your kindness.