Verbal Bullying: The Damage It Causes And Three Things I Did To Gain Self-Confidence

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Remember when you were a kid your classmate would call you a mean name, and then others would chime in? In my case, it was Buck Tooth Beaver because I had a humongous overbite. In an attempt to soften the blow, I’d say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me.”

But guess what?

Their name calling did harm me and crippled me inside. Behind the closed door of my bedroom, I’d fall to my knees in tears as their taunting words circled inside my head like a group of eager vultures picking at their prey.

I learned at an early age that words were a powerful weapon that could either help build a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem or it could erode it. In my case, it was the latter.

The name calling started in second grade but got worse each year, up to sixth grade, even when my older sister Angel and I were placed in three different schools during those years. I’d discovered then, kids were the same no matter where we went. There was no escaping the derogatory names being thrown at me by my classmates or their laughter at my expense or them spitting loogies on top of my head.

In fifth grade, I fought the verbal bullies and gained the name Rocky because of the numerous fights I got into, and I hated it. If someone looked at me the wrong way, I’d pick a fight and made sure my peers were around to watch the whole show.

It was just that . . . a show.

I wanted them to know I wouldn’t put up with any more of their crap, and I wasn’t afraid to duke it out with them if I had to. This new persona I took on wasn’t me. At all. I didn’t want to hurt anyone but felt I had no choice.

Slowly, I continued to die inside where depression had already set camp in the dark corners of my spirit and was spreading like a virus. I became withdrawn and would cry myself to sleep. I used to pray every night to wake up in the morning and look like someone else—someone pretty and without an overbite.

I dreaded going to school. I had no self-esteem or confidence. It didn’t help that I had a mother who would call me a dingbat, say how pretty my sister was, but I was pretty on the—finger quotes—inside, and she couldn’t wait until I was eighteen and out of the house.

“What’s wrong with me?” I’d ask myself through endless tears as I curled tighter into a fetal position on my bedroom floor.

The criticism, the ridicule, and rejection remained a constant throughout my childhood.

I stopped fighting with my peers when their jeering eventually subsided. However, their hurtful comments continued in low whispers behind my back and sometimes to my face.

In seventh grade, my friend Heather . . . well, at the time I thought she was my friend, looked at Angel and said to me, “Your sister is really pretty.” Her gaze then swept me from head to toe. She wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something foul. “What happened to you?”

Yeah, that was over thirty years ago, and that memory is still fresh in my mind, so are the feelings associated with it.

I was cast in a role by my peers and mother that they manufactured themselves. My sense of self was poisoned by them before I even had the chance to know who Rebekkah was. Instead, I believed their criticism: I was ugly, stupid, klutzy, and insignificant.

I attempted suicide several times in my life—even after I got my braces in eighth grade. It didn’t matter my overbite no longer existed, and I looked “normal” for the first time in my life. The damage of being verbally abused had been done.

Words are a powerful weapon that when used in a harmful manner can scar a person for life.

The victim now lacks self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, is insecure, has anxiety problems, and forced to learn to shut down inside. Fortunately, with a lot of hard work on myself, I was able to overcome a lot of those things, however, the damage had been done. The scars are there. Sometimes they throb, reminding me the virus still lurks within the shadows of myself, and though I’m much older and wiser now, I’m not immune to it.

Gaining Self-Confidence

Here are the three things I did to overcome the lack of self-confidence I had that you can do as well.

1. I read a lot of books on philosophy, self-help, and real-life inspirational stories and applied what I learned to my life. I used deliberate practice.

An example is every time a negative thought or feeling about myself came up, I replaced it with a positive one—something I’d done in the past that created a joyous feeling within myself, like the time in seventh grade when I read my horror story in front of my classmates. They were totally into it, and I realized then, I had the potential to entertain people and touch them through my writing. It was one of the best feelings I’d ever experienced in my life.

-So when a negative thought about yourself pops up in your mind, replace it with a feel-good memory. Not only will you be manifesting the happy feelings associated with it, you’re also reprogramming your brain and will eventually get rid of the toxic software that was placed there by your abuser(s).

2. I got support.

I went to support groups, and I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive husband to help me through my dark times.

-So get support from a friend or family member.

If you’re totally alone in this, I suggest going to a support group. They do help. Honestly, I loved going to group because it made me realize I wasn’t alone—other people were going through the same struggles as me or worse.

3. I wrote and published a book.

When I wrote my first book in my Beyond the Eyes trilogy, an agent wanted to represent it. I had to make a serious decision: take the traditional route, knowing I lacked self-confidence . . . or self-publish. I knew nothing about publishing a book, and it would be a huge undertaking.

I could take the easy way out and have an agent represent me. However, if I were to take the path of least residence, I’d rob myself of the opportunity to gain self-confidence on my own. On the other hand, what if I failed? At that point, fear and doubt were toying with me.

What to do?

I decided to ignore the negative committee in my head and learned to self-publish a book on my own. It proved to be a lot of hard work, but you know what? I did it, and I gained the self-confidence that I’d been lacking my whole life. No one else can ever take that away from me. I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone, not giving into the fear I had, or taking the easy way out.

-So step out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve always wanted to do on your own.

. . . If I can gain self-confidence by doing those three things, so can you.

Wrapping It Up

Today, bullying in schools has become a national epidemic. It’s imperative we address this issue and attack it from all different angles. Save others from the anguish me and people like myself had to endure throughout our childhood because words can harm us all.

Those of us who have been abused in some form or another can gain the self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem that was never given to us. Though we can reclaim Self and live a happy and healthy life, the damage has been done. There are scars. But let’s refer to them as battle wounds instead. They’re a subtle reminder that we can overcome adversity.

It made us stronger.

It made us wiser.

It helped build who we are today.

We’re warriors in disguise.

Did you know that?

Own it.

And though, you may not feel like one and might still be struggling with issues, you’ve taken the first step(s) to conquering them and that in the very least deserves a fist bump.

You got this. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Rebekkah Ford is an award-winning author.

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