I am not sure how many of you read Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s article, I Was a Mean Girl, on the I Survived the Mean Girls blog. It’s a powerful post from a reformed “mean girl”. It’s her story on why she made the choices she did and how she tried to make amends when she learned better. If you haven’t read it, please go read it now. It’s very touching.
The story moved me. It brought tears to my eyes. And there’s no better day than today to confess to you all why it resonated with me so deeply. Because I was a mean girl! Well, let’s call a spade, a spade; I was a bully!
Through junior high and most of high school, I was a mouthy, angry, and sometimes violent teenager. I walked around school with a chip on my shoulder looking for any excuse to mouth off. I was a brat with something to prove. Principals would talk to me. Guidance counselors would plead with me. Parents would call my mother and beg her to do something with me. I didn’t care. I laughed. I was addicted to bullying because it filled me up and spared my soul from being swallowed up by the emptiness. It was do or die for me.
What people don’t always realize is that for as much as I was dishing out, I was taking. For as many people who I bullied, there was always bigger and badder bullying me. I went through many fights and confrontations that saw me on the ground with more than one person taken their turn. It wasn’t pretty. It created a vicious cycle of anger and the need for retaliation.
Inside I was a shattered, insecure, withering girl. I wanted so badly to be liked and loved. I was terrified of being hurt. I had no idea who I was. I was a hot, red mess. The bullying I received fed those insecurities and my lack of self-esteem. In my helplessness, I’d cope by paying the nastiness forward. People feared me and I liked it because it filled those insecurities and dark places with power and kept my demons at bay. I thrived on their fear. I counted on it.
I am not proud of who I was or many of the choices I made but I understand how I came to be that way. I was a product of my childhood and the environment in which we lived at that time. Trust me, bullying was rampant! For me personally, I know that deep down I didn’t know any better. I was coping as best as I could with what I knew. And when I knew better, I did better!
How did I learn better? How can my experience to help others?
I don’t know. Quite frankly, my father’s death at 16 played a huge role in my “coming” around. As well, my mother put me in counseling around that same time with a psychologist that I really clicked with. I credit her decision to force me to go and his approach and dedication to me (the man took calls from me, at home, on weekends) to be instrumental in my healing. It didn’t happen over night. I would say that it was around 2 years of almost weekly counseling before the fruits of that labor started to pay off. When I learned better, I choose to do better.
I do believe schools (and children’s organizations) need to implement and stand accountable to a zero tolerance policy! I am not sure how it is now, but back in my day if you reported someone bullying you, you were told not to walk the halls alone. The person got a “talking to” which usually made the situation 10 times worse (cause you ratted)! Principals called parents and left it to them to discipline the child and that was never effective because once at school, who was there to control the situation. No one. Victims were left unprotected and were taught the hard way to keep their mouths shut.
Had they booted me out of school, I might have learned my lesson long before. But even if I hadn’t, at least they would have saved a few people from my rath! Bullies need to know that their behavior will not be tolerated, period. And victims need to know that they will be kept safe if they speak out. Zero tolerance has to mean ZERO tolerance. That’s the bottom line!
Bullying hurts. It’s unacceptable. It should not be tolerated, ever – period! Not at school, not in the workplace, not in the senior’s complex, not anywhere.
Take a Stand
Like Patricia said in her post, writers are in a unique position to use words in a strong, positive way to get the message out around the planet. She provided a few fab links that I’ll include here (with a few of my own):
Like Patricia said, we can all work together to help obliterate bullying from our communities. Share your stories. Reach out. Take a stand. Together we are a powerful force!
To close, I would just like to say to all those who ever felt bullied by me, you have my deepest and most heartfelt apology!
P.S. Hubby and I are off to the camp for the weekend where we have no Internet access. We won’t be back until Monday so please be patient. I’ll get to your comments when I get back. Have a great weekend everyone!