Have I ever been bullied? The thought went across my mind yesterday as I listened to our Sunday morning sermon. My initial answer was no. Then I thought about it some more.
Last year, while teaching an audition workshop, one of my acting students wanted to do a monologue where she portrayed a bully. She was a beautiful, tiny, soft spoken girl who had been very thoughtful in her remarks when we had group discussions. She didn’t hit me as a bully at all, so it was intriguing why she wanted to portray a bully.
She told me she wanted to know how it felt to be on the other side, but she didn’t want to actually hurt anyone or become a real bully. Acting was her way to see what a bully might do.
We worked on her feeling larger in the space and feeling powerful. We worked on her inflection and how she could sound menacing. We discussed how she might feel saying the words written for this character. She would come across stronger than she normally felt and we discussed how feeling powerful didn’t mean that you had to be a bully with that power. She would grow during class, but by the next week’s class she would seem to lose that feeling of strength and power. I felt that maybe she was being bullied somewhere else and the couple of hours a week that I spent with her didn’t offset the weakness and fear she felt the rest of the week.
When my son was a child he got bullied, but never could see it that way. The kid was smaller than Jon so Jon just didn’t fight back. He was afraid if he did, he might hurt the smaller kid, so he just let the kid push him around and talk trash to him. My son is a very calm, kind person and although he never saw it as bullying or seemed to have any adverse reactions to the situation, I considered the smaller kid a bully nonetheless.
The woman married to the current White House resident has an anti-cyber bullying campaign going. It is hard for most people to take it seriously when her husband is the world’s most visible cyber bully. But it does get the subject of bullying, especially cyber bullying, out in the public eye.
Cyber bullying is a whole other issue. Bullies always tend to be scared at their core and being able to hide behind a computer seems to give the modern day bully extra courage they might not have face to face.
My son and his radio co-host love to tell how the very people who send them Twitter comments that are insulting and infuriating are the very ones who will come up to them at a remote and tell them how much they love the show. The anonymity of Twitter gives the listener the courage to be a bully that being face to face with two guys over 6’4″ suddenly takes away!
I am grateful that cyber bullying was not a thing when I was growing up.
So, have I been bullied?
Like I said at the beginning, my initial answer was no. That might sound odd since I have written on this very blog that I was physically abused in college and treated rather poorly by others in high school. I can remember back to being made fun of for living in the zoo and being ridiculed when my skin broke out as a teenager. So how could my answer be no, I was not bullied?
And then it hit me. I never thought those people who did all of those things to me were in the wrong. I always felt that I was the one in the wrong. After all, I was the one who had bad skin, and I did live in the zoo. I was the one who had wacky ideas, was outspoken fighting for the causes I believed in and dressed differently from everyone else. I was the weirdo in most situations, so I deserved what I got.
I was told at home that I wasn’t good enough, so why would I expect anyone to think differently in the outside world. I never thought of any of the things that happened to me as being bullied. It was just the way it was and my job was to keep pushing forward. My responsibility was to do better in class, be stronger in gym, push harder in competitions and be my best self plus some. My response to not being good enough was to work so that maybe I would someday be good enough. What I now know was bullying, not only in school but at home, was what I saw as incentive to prove everyone wrong.
Now that has its bad and good sides. It made me work hard and be successful. But it also made me a perfectionist (again- good side and bad side to that!!) and I still think that most things in life are my fault.
When you get right down to it, bullying changes the person being bullied and the bully as well. It depends on what you do with the situation and how you respond to the adversity. Am I happy that I got bullied? Not at all. Would I be a different person if I hadn’t been bullied? Probably. Will we ever be able to put a stop to bullying? I doubt it.
Tim tells me that I think too much about the “what ifs” of life. What if this had been different, what if this hadn’t happened, what if this could be changed. I guess it is the storyteller in me that wonders how the story could be better, more dramatic, happier, sadder.
Was I ever bullied? Yes, I guess I was. It is eye opening to think that and to realize how I handled it and how it makes me who I am. Were you ever bullied? Did it change you for the better or the worse when you really think about it? I would imagine that at some point we all have been pushed around. Did you see it as bullying at the time?
Life throws a lot at us. It isn’t always pleasant. How we all handle things is what makes us who we are. As usual I have no answers, only questions.