I want to write about bullies. This has been on my mind all week for various reasons- it came up for me a lot this past week and it's been heavily in the media.
From the outset of this post, I'm going to say that I don't have the answers. I'd like to tie this post up with some sort of deep and meaningful insight into bullying and how to stop it, but I don’t know the answers.
I've been bullied, I think most people have. Varying degrees, varying ways, at varying ages.
But how do we define bullying? And why, as adults do we still 'allow' ourselves be bullied?
I had a flashback this week of when I was about 5 years old. Some older neighbourhood kids tied rope around my neck - two of them pulled the rope on either side of me, strangling me. I recall my mum rescuing me but I remember just standing there frozen, I don't remember standing up to them. And this was a regular thing. But was that bullying, or just kids being naughty? Does physical bullying have to have taunting / bad intentions behind it?
In primary school I was hit and chased and stomped on a lot. One incident I was thrown to the ground and my face was pushed into the ice and snow (I went to school overseas) so that I couldn't breathe. So while I was struggling to breathe, two bigger boys jumped on me, on my back, and kicked me.
Soon after that, I had an ongoing incident with a boy called Thomas. I was 9 or 10, he was 12. He was a very strong and big boy - full of muscle and STRENGTH.
He used to chase me and pin me up against the corridors at school, and try to punch my face. All I remember is trying to dodge his fist as he'd have me pinned against the wall. I'd try to run away, once I made it to the girls bathroom, I thought I'd be safe in there. I was locked in a cubicle, but he came in, and put his hand under each cubicle door, trying to find (and reach) me. I'd often run out of the school and run home to escape him.
Unfortunately, as much as my mum would be wild and tried to help, there was zero discipline in this school. You'd be lucky to be thrust a tissue from a teacher if you got a blood nose from being kicked. I was also shy, 9 years old, in a foreign country speaking a foreign language. I didn't have much power. So I had to put up with it.
Fast forward to my working life, and I've been bullied on several occasions from work colleagues. At least no punches have been thrown in the office (!) but the behaviour is just as, if not more, intimidating.
One man I worked with would talk down to me. He'd talk over me and embarrass me in meetings. He'd make me do menial tasks such as put a piece of paper down on the table FOR HIM. He'd question me constantly about my lifestyle. He'd ask me if I was exercising. He'd leave gym brochures on my desk. He told me that his family discussed my lifestyle at their dinner table! He looked me up and down and talked about my weight every time we spoke.
This was just part of what went on, but it broke me apart. I remember one day breaking down in tears and shaking uncontrollably in the lunch room because I *thought* he walked in. It wasn't even him, just the thought of him sent me into a spin. Wow. Again, for different reasons to when I was a kid, I was trapped. The situation I was in meant that I could not complain without putting my job at risk. Apart from him, I adored my job. So I put up and shut up. Again, my power was lost.
I've had other work bullies too but this one stands out to me. And it has come up a lot for me this week. Because, even though this situation is very much in my past, this week I found out that this man’s daughter is attending one of the events that I’m attending this week. I know it’s not him, it’s his daughter – two separate people there – but it’s still really bothering me. Maybe because with him, he had an issue with my lifestyle, and from what he told me, his opinions on me were such a family affair. >:
It’s kind of a case of when two world’s collide. This event and my whole transformation is amidst a world of support and is kind of like a sanctuary for me. So I’m finding it hard to have someone come in who is connected to someone who caused so many tears. And the fact that both the issues with him and this event are both to do with my lifestyle, it’s messing with my head :)
I’m sure it will be fine, and I have to keep remembering that it was him, not her. But in my mind I’m thinking what if he drives her in or picks her up? Which is likely to happen. It frustrates me that as an adult, I am letting myself be affected by this. Intimidation, harassment and bullying can affect anyone at any age. As an adult, I should be old enough to deal with it effectively shouldn’t I? Surely I should have all of the knowledge and self assurance by now to successfully manage such situations?
Because if we can’t as adults, what hope do our kids who are being bullied have?
Food for thought.