I wasn’t bullied as a child but I was teased every now and then. I draw the distinction because bullying involves an individual or a group of people with more power, repeatedly and intentionally cause hurt or harm to another person or group. It’s not the odd comment here and there, a random (albeit it nasty) attack or a mutual argument. As a teacher over they years, I had umpteen parents inform me that their child was being bullied and when investigated it transpired that it had been either an isolated incident or one child’s half of a story which they were equally to blame in. I’m not saying bullying doesn’t happen or that it isn’t incredibly serious and damaging but I think that grouping the individual occurrences with the pre-meditated, intentional harm inflicted by someone else is counterproductive to the identification, reporting and dealings with bullying.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, back to my tale of teasing. You see, although my teeth are perfectly straight and healthy, my upper jaw is quite pronounced and sits quite a way over my lower jaw. One boy in my class loved to call me goofy from time to time. I hated it but I shrugged him off. When I was given the choice of having braces or having my jaw broken, a part cut away and reset I cried when my mum decided that braces were the only option. I wanted that operation not because I hated the way I looked but because I hated the way people (generalisation based on just one dick heads opinion) saw me.
Even now, I am massively conscious of my teeth and I am the first person to make a joke about them. A kind of, strike before you’re struck mentality. If I am joking about it then it stops others from trying to get the first laugh. I do hate my teeth but I like who I am and I’m at an age now where I truly accept that the kind of person you are is so much more important than the way you look. But I am almost 40 now. I’m not sure my 12-year-old self would agree.
Today, I wanted to give other people the chance to share their experiences of bullying by writing a note entitled ‘to the people who bullied me’. There are sad stories of persecution and humiliation but there is also a defiance and strength in these notes that may not have existed without the awful experiences that shaped them. These are their notes…
Jade To the people who bullied me 15 years ago. To the boy who poured tinned peach juice in my hair every lunchtime even though we were ‘friends’. To the girl I shared a locker with who stopped me from using it, which led to telling off over and over by teachers because I couldn’t carry all my books. To the kids that laughed at me and called me names because YOU decided I was different. I hope your children never feel the same as I did. As I escaped abuse from adults out of school, I ran into abuse from you, I hope you understand now, just how I felt, but not because I want you to feel pain, because I want you to help and empower others, your children, your friends children, I want bullying to STOP.
Suzy To the people who bullied me at Secondary school. You used to think it was funny to taunt me every time you saw me. You mostly picked on me about my hairstyle and that you basically thought it looked like a man’s haircut. Your words hurt so much and made me feel so embarrassed to be myself. There was nothing I could have done to change my hair at the time and I used to feel so humiliated. I used to cry myself to sleep at night and dread school because of you. It made me feel like I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me, especially if you taunted me in front of my friends. I hope you feel bad now you are older but you probably don’t even remember or even consider the hurt you caused me.
Cherry To my ex boyfriend who, 10 years ago now, thought it was OK to undermine my confidence. Who thought it was his right to demand that I didn’t contact my family. Who couldn’t see why I wouldn’t do exactly what he wanted. He left me because I wouldn’t listen to him – he cheated on me because I was determined to follow my dreams and he thought it would make me do things his way. To the man that stole my childhood home from me with no compassion – to that man, I say you were a mean, petty human being and I proved that I was stronger, more determined and more resilient than you ever believed possible. 10 years later I have a wonderful family, have had an incredible career and am beyond thankful that you believed bullying me was the way to go – because that was what made me leave!
Louise To the person that bullied me, teased me at 11 for not shaving my legs among many other things, wow, you were a pathetic idiot to equate someone’s self worth with something so trivial. I feel sorry for you and I want you to know that I’m just fine thank you, you may have made me leave school with your relentless taunting but I went on to love my life and a new school was the best thing that ever happened to me. So there. ?
Emma To the boss who told me that nobody liked me, that people were complaining about me yet you couldn’t tell me who or what they were saying. That is bullying! Making me feel small in that office, telling me to change the way I walk down the corridor, telling me I’m not a nice person is not being constructive it is being mean. I felt targeted, I came away anxious, I spent the rest of my time working there trying to guess who ‘hated’ me and I wonder if it was you all along? I could sense you didn’t want me around and leaving was the best thing I could do but still all these years on I think about it all because I never got the answers I needed. Having said that I do now believe that it was YOUR issue and not actually mine.
Candace You tried your hardest but you didn’t win. I’ve far too much respect for myself to be bothered by your silly little games!
Sarah To the people who bullied me for my ‘bad skin’ when I was 11, greeting me as ‘leopard’ when I walked in the room and keeping their distance, saying I was contagious: a well known beauty brand filmed me for their skincare range aged 30. To the nursery manager who bullied me at work when I told her I wanted to do the same qualification as her, saying I’d never be good enough to compete: I qualified as a teacher instead, with distinctions in my dissertation. To the other mums who ostracised me from my so called friendship group when I’d just given birth to my second child and struggled with PND: I’m getting better and I’ve made new friends. You will always be that person. I had a lucky escape.
Thank you to all of you for teaching me the reasons you should treat others with kindness and empathy. I may be more fragile for it, but I’m definitely a better person.
Victoria To the people who bullied me for trying hard, I want you to know I understand. I was different, in many ways I still am. You didn’t understand me. Just like I didn’t understand you. What neither you – or I – knew back then was I had Dyslexia. There was a reason my work took so long. A reason I always had my head in my book. I hope life brought you peace, that maybe as an adult you understand why I strived so hard to be the best I could be, even though that wasn’t cool. My school days were lonely, whilst you all sat around and whispered, but they taught me resilience and determination. And for that I thank you, you see you didn’t break me, instead you made me stronger.
Miriam Gwynne To the person who bullied me, pushed me down the stairs at high school and set my clothes alight. I forgive you. Thank you for teaching me resilience because I have needed it. Forgive yourself because I have long forgiven you.
Cheryl Dodd To the person who bullied me I actually want to thank you, if you hadn’t have made my life so hard whilst I was going through school life then I wouldn’t be as strong-minded and determined to succeed as I am now, you made me feel worthless like I was nothing. You made me dread entering the school doors and be scared to walk home. I want to thank you for making me become a grown lady who knows how to respect people, how to be kind, how to teach my children how they should act towards people by using you as an example of somebody who is unkind and nasty. I hope you’re proud of yourself and happy now. I will never forget how you made me feel and what you did to me, I just hope one day you don’t ever have to feel like that or watch your children go through it because only then would you truly know the impact your actions have had.
I’m not gonna lie at one point I really hoped I’d bump into you away from your “gang” and away from the school ground so I could show you what I was really made of … but now? Now I forgive you because I’m a nice person and I will be everything you people told me I wouldn’t be and more and we will see who the one smiling in the end is
Clare To the bullies who made me miserable in primary – who stuck my clothes in the toilets at swimming and beat me up at the playground gates, to the girls who made me feel suicidal at secondary school and the deputy headteacher who laughed at me and danced me around school proms saying I would never have a boyfriend. You were all wrong. I’m happy in my skin. I have a wonderful family and have had great success in my careers. I don’t wish I’ll to any of you. I’m a better person than you will ever be. In fact I hope you go home to people who you love so much your heart hurts and then you can teach a new generation not to be the person you once were.
Sarah To the person who bullied me at work (actually, both of you) I have often daydreamed of sending you a dog poo parcel, but apart from that I never think of you anymore because you are not, and never were, worth my worry or upset despite how well you caused both.
Vicki To my high school art teacher who said I would never amount to anything in life, who told me I was terrible at art and design, who used to put me in isolation for weeks on end because I saw art differently to you! Here’s a big F-U! I got a btec first in photography and a diploma in commercial art practice too! Look who’s laughing now!
Katie To the best friend who spent 14 years bullying me. Making me think I was sad, uncool, not good enough for anyone else, that my character was so flawed I’d be single, childless and worth nothing for the rest of my life, that I was fat, that I needed you and that I could make no decision without you. You were wrong. Wrong about everything and the relief of living without you is immense.
As much as reading these notes made me sad, I also felt proud (I hope that doesn’t sound patronizing) and inspired by the resilience and wisdom of the people who wrote them. I think it’s important that people know that however hard things may feel now, it won’t always be this bad and actually in many ways, the pain you’re feeling now will shape the best version of yourself in time. Many of the people who wrote these notes said that it felt good, cathartic, to express their feelings. If you have experienced bullying in the past I would love to read the note you would write to them now. And if you have never experienced bullying them I am glad, and I hope that you remain vigilant for signs (both at school and in the workplace!) that people are being treated unfairly. Whether you are the person who stands up for yourself or for others one thing is sure, we need to stand together and raise our own children, tell our own nieces, nephews, and grandchildren and set the example ourselves that bullying is never acceptable and that we are all as worthy as each other.
Mr Ed 😉 xxx