On Being Bullied

I was bullied in high school. I hear ya—who wasn’t? In my personal experience, I’ve learned that the tiny percentage of people who say they weren’t bullied in high school had either mastered the art of invisibly, were blessed by the divine hand of God or were such a big bully themselves that no one dared bully them back.

When I started high school, I tried to befriend the ‘cool’ girls and, as you can imagine, a Mean Girls style saga unfolded in which I was both bullied and a bully. I wrote in several versions of a ‘Burn Book.’ I threatened physical violence against girls who ganged against me. I tried my hardest to always be fighting back and I’d like to be ashamed of myself, and of all the girls who forced me to eat lunch alone or in a teacher’s office at recess because I was too afraid to be in the school yard alone, but it’s really hard to be ashamed of a thirteen-year-old girl. She’s a thirteen-year-old girl.

That doesn’t make the fact that I bullied girls and got bullied a good thing. It just makes it a thing. I stopped being a bully after only a few short years and started making new friends—girls I’d seen from afar who did drama after school or were in the debate team. And it crushed me to find out they were no different than the girls I desperately clung to. Their harmonious façade was just that, because backstage they were all clawing each other’s eyeballs out too.

Getting bullied didn’t stop for me through high school no matter what I did. The boys would call me “fat” and “hairy” and write “UGLY” on my locker. They’d put chewing gum in my hair on the school bus and throw eggs at me at the train station. I used to think “When I go to university, this will all be over,” and I’d put my head down, pull my hair over my face and cry quietly until the bus reached my stop.

But it didn’t stop. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about bullies, is that real bullies—awful, horrible people who are full of nothing but snails and fish guts and meanness—are a real thing. Yes, there are confused, hormonal teenagers that act out as a means of combating their own pubescent insecurities. But there are also just downright awful people. I continued to be bullied by old friends and new friends. By coworkers. By strangers in social settings or innocuous, everyday exchanges from the convenience store to the bakery. By people who were older than me and people who were younger than me.

And I learned that bullies will always exist. In a perfect world, bullying would be confined to high school, to that period where we’re not quite yet in tune with the world and recognize that everyone is perfectly entitled to live their lives in whatever way they please so long as they are not hurting anyone. Part of growing up, at least for me, is learning that you can’t control people. Sure, someone you know might have a habit you hate, or someone you see walking down the street might be wearing something you think is heinous—but none of this effects you, and as a young adult you being to realize WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO DOES NOT MATTER.

That’s when the magic hits you—when you realize that the actions of bullies towards you are completely irrelevant. You’re not in high school any more. You can simply stop seeing a toxic friend. You can choose to see a bully’s actions as an indictment on their poor character instead of taking it personally. You can walk out of an environment in which you feel threatened. You can, and you do, simply ignore the bad attitudes of others. You’ll still be bullied, probably until you’re old and everyone just gets too tired to rouse the energy to bully, but now it doesn’t have to hurt you any more. TC mark


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  • Anynamewilldo

    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  –Eleanor Roosevelt

    • Yes, But Will This Name Do?

      No power in society, no hardship in your condition can depress you, keep
      you down, in knowledge, power, virtue, influence, but by your own
      consent.  –William Ellery Channing

    • a.

      Tell that to the girl crying in the corner because boys are calling her fat and her “friends” are judging her to.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh


  • AB

    I have to share this, because it JUST happened on Saturday:

    I ran into my 8th grade bully, after not seeing her for 13 years, at a Meetup group for people new to my area.  I moved from the midwest to the east coast. Her and her friends tormented me, I had NO friends, and that shit stuck. She didnt recognize me. I blurted out, “You were my bully!” She felt like crap the entire night, I made awkward comments as I’m apt to do (I didn’t have friends til I was 17, social awkwardness happens), and instead of me running away from her, she avoided me.

  • Puddles

    this is good. well written opening and a nice conclusion. i was bullied in middle school, but not to this extent. it hurts my soul that people can be so cruel to each other, even if i don’t take it personally. why can’t we just respect each other? not even respect each other’s accomplishments or “success” or anything like that, just respect people as human beings.. just respect their right to live.

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    Seeing your bully driving a van full of old people, looking like she houses a nest of rats in her hair, yeah, that’s pretty cool. Even cooler is pointing right in her face and laughing as loud as you can as she drives by.

  • Michael O

    “The boys would call me “fat” and “hairy” and write “UGLY” on my locker.”
    I found that incredibly hard to believe. You are beautiful.

    I was bullied in school for many years.  I then started reading massive amounts of books, some exceeding college level comprehension when I was 12.  From them, I learned that nobody can me me feel anything.  I can choose what to feel, and I can choose my actions.  The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is my anthem.  I suggest everybody who has ever felt judged or never quite fit in to read that book.

    • Katgeorge

      Unfortunately I was a bit weird looking in high school. The woes of puberty! I don’t think I started resembling a normal human and not some gawky, awkward Greek until I was about 21 and the rest of my face finally grew into my nose!

      • Michael O

        I hope I can meet someone like you that is not already taken. <3

    • Katgeorge

      Although it didn’t really matter if I was good looking or not–they had chosen me to pick on and they would have said anything I think. Looks stuff seems to be the go-to when you’re a kid as well.

    • http://twitter.com/mung_beans 371747

      lol The Fountainhead

  • nodoubt

    I was also bullied and a bully in elementary school
    I would be bullied within the hierarchy of the popular – doing their chores, was forced to date boys I didn’t like – but I was a bully from the view of people outside looking in.

    I am thankful for my experience, though. If it weren’t for that experience, I wouldn’t have realized that all the chasing-popularity horse manure should not be the centre of my life, and I wouldn’t have met the greatest people I’ve known, whom I still keep in contact with since high school

  • http://www.facebook.com/jess.hurst1 Jess Hurst

    If my 21-year-old self could tell my 14-year-old self something, it would be “Fuck the haters.” I would probably also mention “Don’t tell boys you like them, at least not before your braces come off.”

  • http://twitter.com/mung_beans 371747

    sounds terrible, glad I was not bullied

  • spinflux

    I never bullied anybody, and I am so glad about it. I also never befriended bullies or mean people. I can immensely enjoy my guilt-free adulthood.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    i just remember in 7th grade when the mentally challenged kid made fun of me for working at the student store and i cried in the store room. he was really mean. but then they took him away in handcuffs when he went on a rampage around the school throwing trashcans at windows and people and such… so i won in the end.

  • Jasmine


  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    It’s always amazing to me just how much joy certain adults seem to take in bullying. The high school social pecking order just never ends.

  • Anonymous


  • Daily TC Reader

    Mastered the art of invisibility.

  • Anonymous

    I remember having been bullied too: for being not-so-alike, for prudence at study and just for not being able to respond to the aggressors.
    it did not go as far as for the other kids though. I had 2 mentally challenged boys in my class, and they were bullied beyond belief. the worst thing is that teachers didn’t give a fuck at all, they thought it was OK for teenagers to feel superior to each other and to prove that with all the harshness possible.
    for fuck’s sake, you’re not raising criminals or grunts, there’s no need to make those “inferior” kids condemned to the permanent humiliation.

  • mmmucla

    i was not bullied. and i wasn’t a bully, or a uber popular mean girl…i was just a nice person, and normal, and so no one gave me shit. i seriously do not understand how that is such an abnormality…this whole “IWAS BULLIED OMG MY LIFE WAS SO HARD THING”..? true for some, maybe, but i bet most people were treated just fine and need to suck it up a little and jump OFF of the bandwagon.

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