When you are bullied in your teenage years it never truly leaves you. You may one day forgive and forget who exactly said what, when and why, but the words stay with you.
They sink into your very core. You obsess over them so much they are no longer just words but facts. Facts you believe and elevate above any positive comment you’ve ever received or ever will. Yes. The negative moments, the name calling, the jabs at your physical appearance or behaviour stay with you. Long after your bully/bullies have moved on and so effortlessly discarded you, and the words, from their memory.
At least that’s what I’ve found. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of positive memories from my High School years. I had a great group of friends (most of whom are still in my life today) and some fantastic teachers who inspired and pushed me to look at things differently and try a little harder (special should out to my English teachers). But I also had bullies. Particularly in the first two years of High School.
I was shy, sensitive and socially awkward around people who intimidated me. Physically, I had an elongated neck which gained me nicknames like emu, emu neck, turtle and turtle neck (names worthy of an eye roll, right?) and I always went bright red when embarrassed or caught in the crossfires of someone’s immediate attention. I hunched and slouched trying to be invisible and always looked down at the ground when I walked as I was prone to clumsy moments. Add it all together and I was an easy target for the over confident, popular kids who found it easier to deflect their own insecurities by attacking mine. And of course I seldom stuck up for myself and only thought of sharp comebacks far too late. I endured being called a square, a loner, ugly and a dork. I’m sure there was more but you can only retain so much.
But then, I gained friendships outside of my classes and looked forward to recess and lunch. I had a group I was a part of. They accepted me and all my quirks. Soon things became bearable and I started not to care as much. By mid High School I had classes with a nicer mix of students. And the bullying slowed down and stopped. I became better at brushing things off as a joke and speaking up a little. I was still incredibly shy and self conscious around strangers but I no longer felt alienated or alone. Never overlook the power of positive friendships.
I could end this post here and say this was my happily ever after. I could say I grew into a confident and worldly adult with their life together and a bright future to look forward to. Life is not that simple. While I may stand my ground now as an adult and see things from more than one perspective I still have that voice inside of me, ever present and ever loud. The voice of my inner critic and inner bully. The voice which says: “You are not worthy, you are of no consequence and never will be. You will always be rejected and will never be special to anyone. Those you love will always leave one way or another. Get over it or give up.”
I have no answers on how to defeat this voice. Or if it’s even possible. It’s been with me too long, it’s a part of who I am and a strong part of my inner monologue. Instead I live with it and welcome the positive moments and thoughts which drown it out for a while.
If you are one of those readers who require a moral to the story then here it is: the bullied never forget. So choose your words wisely and think twice before picking an emotional fight, because someone will always lose in the long run. And every time you lose it gets harder and harder to get back up without a little help.