Take a stand against bullying!

International Stand Up to Bullying DayToday I would normally do a post on impaired driving (please don’t drink and drive) but I am going to switch it up for another very important cause that needs our attention.

My beautiful and talented writer friend, Patricia Sands brought it to my attention that today, November 18, 2011, is international Stand Up to Bullying Day.

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!

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Comments

  1. Oh, Natalie! I simply can’t imagine this gorgeous, fun lady that I’ve come to know and love over the past few months as a bully! I applaud you your honesty and realism. Bullying is a hard symptom to cure, but your strength and tenacity paid off and I’m so happy for you that you were able to free yourself of the demons that haunted you.

    The schools in our district have a zero tolerance policy and it works. Bullying isn’t as bad as it used to be (it won’t ever truly go away, which is a shame). Still, I just heard of a beautiful little girl that committed suicide last month ~ she was 12 years old ~ and bullying is suspected as the root of her depression. She never spoke out, so the parents aren’t sure if it was bully, but why would she end her life? No one knows. It hurts my heart that this sweet girl didn’t think she could trust anyone enough to speak out.

    Thank you for such a poignant post. I’m glad you got help and worked through your angst, because you are super uber fabululicious!

    • Thank you so much Tameri. Yes, it was a hard road but all of my experiences have played a role in helping shape who I am today.
      I am devastated for those who are forced to deal with bullies and I am thrilled to hear your school district doesn’t tolerate it. I honestly believe it’s the only way. There can be no room for negotiation on this one because with the advent of cyberbully, it can be even worse than it was in my day.
      In my small town, it was very much the norm. There aren’t many people I know that weren’t touched in one way or another by bullying. It’s sad because our school years should be some of our best but alas, they aren’t for everyone.
      Thanks for reading and for not casting me aside for my past indescritions. :-) MWUAH!

  2. Have a great weekend! I so wish you were in Vegas with us this weekend, but hanging out with hubby is awesome too. ; )

  3. Such a brave, touching and important post, Natalie! We can’t fix the problem if we fail to look at all sides of the problem. I imagine many bullies are as pained as their victims and victims of other insecurities or other dark forces themselves. (It reminds me of the cycle of child abuse, from parent to child to others….)Thank you for bringing light to this topic. Eager to pass it on.

  4. Natalie, Natalie … *blowing nose … wiping eyes” What a deeply honest post. Like Tameri, I simply cannot imagine the compassionate, caring, woman who can also be crazy and consistently make us laugh out loud was once as you describe. But then, everyone has a story. You are such a good role model to be involved with this issue of bullying and would be a perfect person to speak to local schools. Think about it. I know you are busy but, wow, would you be effective!
    When I was teaching elementary school I had the most-feared student in my class – the grade 3 bully with a capital B. His former teacher had sent him to the principal’s office practically every day. I never sent him out. In fact, I kept him in. I talked to him or just sat with him and had a snack with him and waited for him to talk. I gave him tasks that helped others. G R A D U A L L Y, we started getting somewhere. As you can no doubt relate, most kids who bully have poor self-esteem no matter how confident they may appear. This problem can be beaten but it will take time and effort and we all do need to speak up.
    Thanks so much for adding your AWE-mazing voice! Onward!

    • Awwww thank you Patricia.
      It’s sad sometimes for me to think back at what a mean and terrifying person I could be. Sad because it’s so far from who I wanted to be, even back then but who I felt trapped to be. I didn’t know any other way. I thank the Lord every day for my mother stepping in and really guiding me to someone who could help me – who helped me find myself and grow into the person I am today. I am so thankful and I wish everyone had a guardian angel like that because the world would be a much better place.
      I agree, it is a problem that can be beat with time and effort. And I agree that a large majority of bullies are using it as a defence mechanism to hide their own deep insecurities or because they’ve learned to be bullies (either from being bullied at school themselves or at home). It’s a cycle and it’s one that everyone involved has to commit to fixing much like you did with your Grade 3 bully.
      YOU are the inspiration Patricia – wow!
      I’d never turn down an opportunity to reach out and share my story if it would help others!
      Thank you so much for your acceptance and support. :-)

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this Natalie. It was such a moving and honest post. This is such an important message and I applaud you for putting it out there. Thank you!

  6. Wow, thanks for sharing and for your honesty. I hope it impacts others to join in this cause which is out of control. Just this morning the Today Show aired a story about, I believe a 10 year old, who killed herself because of being bullied. We need more champions in the schools, Warriors against Bullies, so that it’s cooler to be protect than to bully. Your honestly was humbling. Thank you.

    • Thanks Ginger!! I appreciate your support and your kind words. It is devastating every time we see in the news another child taking his/her life because of bullying. It’s a tragedy. I absolutely agree that we need more champions in our schools to ward against bullying (because often, they are the ones that know what’s going on while the parents and school officials are often left in the dark). We need kids to learn that it’s cool to stand up for the little person and that it’s cool to be different. That would rock!
      I’ve always said that we should implement self-esteem classes in our schools at the elementary level. We assume that kids learn how to feel good about themselves and build self-confidence at home but that’s not always the case and I think low self-esteem and helplessness feeds the bully cycle.
      Thank you for your kind words – really appreciate them!

      • Yep, agree 100%. This idea of it being cool to stand up for the little person is the main theme of my new book/series that I’m writing. Basically that in high school, when all a teen wants to do is blend in and fit it to be accepted, sometimes you have to step up and stand out to do what is right. Hope to do the theme justice! Your blog and the links have given me some fire and determination to do it right. :)

  7. Oh Natalie, I want to give you (and your teenage self) a big hug. I echo everyone’s sentiment on your bravery and honesty.

    Patricia, I love how you handled your situation with the 3rd grade bully. Ginger, did you come up with that wording: Warriors against Bullies? It’s perfect. Tameri, an 11 year old from my son’s middle school just committed suicide…lot’s of long talks about that. And yesterday, my daughter told me she had to call the elementary school because, my granddaughter is being bullied on the bus — she’s in Kindergarten!

    • Thank you Amy!
      It’s sad isn’t it. My godson has Asperger syndrom and has been bullied since he started into the school system. In the school system, they’ve been pretty good about trying to minimize it but it still happens. The worse happened last year when at 11 years old, another child in the after school program started in on him and would not stop. The after school program was at a highly recognized organizations that’s very family/children related that also has a zero tolerance policy. The mother complained and complained and was told by the organization’s officials that the parents of the bully had been informed and that was all that could be done. In the end, the bully actually threw my Godson to the ground so hard that he ended up with a concussion. The Mom had to pull him out of the after school program and make other arrangements to save him from this non-stop physical threat.
      That to me was unacceptable. Our kids needs to be protected, no matter what venue! And zero tolerance must mean zero tolerance.

  8. Oh, Natalie, thank you SO much for sharing this about yourself. This is such a heartfelt admission, and it makes me want to give you a huge hug. We hear from the bullied quite often, but never from those who were the bullies and the mean girls. Those stories are equally as important, because they expose something really crucial about why kids decide to bully others.

    I’ll never forget the class camping trip that I took in 8th grade. Our parents were supposed to write us all letters, and there was 1 boy who didn’t get one. He was the one who had made my life a living hell for three years, who called me all sorts of horrible names and was just a smug, arrogant jerk. And there he was, the only kid without a letter, and the next thing I know he’s crying, and I’m hugging him, and he’s telling me about how terrible his home life is, how his parents don’t care about him, how badly he hurts. And it hit me then that the only way he could unleash all that hurt was to make fun of me and my friends. While it didn’t necessarily absolve him of what had happened, it helped me understand him a little more.

    Many, many hugs to you, my friend. Hope you have a wonderful weekend at camp!

    • Awwww – thank you so much for your incredible support and amazing words Lena! Your story I am sure resonates with so many and it’s sad but true – bullies aren’t born that way, they are made. And it’s often a sad story that causes them to lash out at others. It hurts to think of all the children out there who are hurting and who then take their pain out on their peers because that’s the only way they know to cope. Sad! Our children and our world deserves so much better.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story!!!!
      HUGS back and have a wonderful weekend as well!

  9. Like others, I can’t reconcile the teenager you described with the glitzy, glamorous cyber-socialite we all love. :)

    I like how you describe it in your comment to Patricia – trapped. I think we all felt trapped in the roles we played. I know that describes how I felt – and I could NOT wait to leave.

    Although it wasn’t my primary motivation but avoiding girl-bullies was one reason we chose to homeschool our girls. Although I wasn’t a victim or a mean girl, I was pulled into the drama of the mean girl cycle because I wanted to be popular and understood that the cost was giving up “being nice”. I could never be a full-fledged mean girl (although I did test the waters a few times) and ended up being the girl trying to rescue the victims -which meant I was well-liked, but never popular, and also not picked on.

    The girls from my class are STILL known as the meanest group of girls to have come through my small-town school system. (Yes, and it has been decades.) The one who was truly hateful was also the one who was most skillful at hiding her power and manipulation. Her sidekick was the mouthpiece who is (still) hated by others even though she was as much a victim of the “charming” one. (The sidekick got dumped mid-way through high school. I even rescued her although she scared the poop out of me. Go figure.)

    (As a writer, I’m fascinated with how the “charmer” got away with it. Even know, people who were really hurt by the main girl just “love” her. That type of charisma is truly fascinating, and scary.)

    So. . . when it came time for my own girls to start school I couldn’t imagine offering them up for their own version of Social Hell.

    Not that bullying/mean girls don’t exist in homeschooling circles – because they do – but they can remain on the outer edges of it and don’t have to deal with it every stickin’ day for 6 hours.

    Sorry to ramble. . . your post has touched a nerve with me.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story Bridgette. I really appreciate it and I know others reading do as well.
      Ramble anytime. I love long comments.
      Your story is so touching because I think it’s closer to the middle ground brush most people have with bullying where they are just trying to get by. I commend you that at that age you had the strength, courage, and guts to try to protect others to your own demise. Wow! Every school could use a few like you!!!
      The charmer who is the real bully pulling the strings behind the scenes. You are right. Those are the nastiest ones and never seem to be held accountable for their actions.
      I don’t blame you for not wanting to put your girls in public school. Although I am sure there are those who have a great experience (and that home schooling has challenges of its own), public school is a big risk. I don’t know how I would have handles it if the choice had been presented to me. As a parent, all you can do is the best you know how for your kids and you are – kudos!
      Thanks again for sharing Bridgette. I really appreciate it and your comment was so touching…hugs!!

    • Bridgette,

      I’ve always believed that evil hides in plain sight because normal decent people don’t have a concept that someone could be that dark and jagged inside. I’ll bet that ringleader still pulls the wings off flies in her spare time. I’m just sayin…

      Pray to God she never had kids.

  10. You are such a beautiful person Natalie!

    It take great humility to peer into ourselves and make changes.

    You have no idea how much your post touches my heart. You see, I was raise by a bully. My mother was and still is one of the biggest bullies I know. Wow, I can’t believe I just said that out loud. It was tough living with her and she has ruined almost every relationship she’s ever had. In fact she has nothing to do with her children.

    Thanks be to God and my husband who rescued me so many years ago. He is my knight and shining armor and my best friend in all the world. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Anniversary Natalie and Hubby!

    • Karen, I’m so sorry to hear you were raised with a terror like that. You deserved a better mother, and I’m glad God sent you your hubby to tell you so.

      • Thank you Jenny. I can’t believe I actually said that. Please forgive. I don’t make a practice of spilling my guts out like that. I’m a peaceable person, but when someone is a bully, there is nothing in this world that you can do to make them happy.

        Your mother is right. “If you respect your children, they will respect you.” And that’s how my husband and I have raised our two sons. And we are very close. :)

    • Oh Karen, I am so sorry to hear about how you grew up. That’s rough and you deserved so much better. I am so happy that your hubby came along to show you the life you’ve always deserved!
      My Mom was a bully as well but lucky for me, she got her stuff together before it was too late and we were able to heal and salvage a wonderful relationship but it took years of effort and commitment on both our parts.
      Thank you for the anniversary wishes – really appreciate it! :-)

  11. Natalie,

    Good on you for standing up and being so honest and uncompromising with it. I’ve always respected you but this post has increased that even more.

    I think that something that gets lost in the cycle of parenting was something that my (fabulous) mother always said to me: “If you respect your children, they will respect you.”

    I’m not saying that there aren’t bad moments, hormonal hell and even the occasional bad seed but I see parents all the time who are not respectful of their children’s feelings, personal space or interpersonal boundaries. Those children then lash out elsewhere. This is just my observation but I believe it’s at the root of a lot of problems.

    I went through extreme bullying early in my school experience being the only blonde in the ENTIRE school. I’d never in my previous life imagined having to fight over the color of my hair or skin and it changed the way I see everything. I feel so bad for kids these days because as much as I love social media, it allows bullying to follow children home, where they should feel safe.

    Kids will always be brutally honest…it’s just the way they’re made, but it’s a damn shame that so many in our society, from parents to media, have stopped rewarding kindness, compassion and generosity toward others.

    Enough ranting from me…great post!!

    • Thank you so much Jenny! I agree with you whole heartedly. It is essential for parents to teach their children respect from day 1…primarily by showing them respect. Above bad moments, which everyone has. :-)
      I am sorry you had to endure such bullying. When you wrote about some of your school experience, I had wondered if you had been bullied. I don’t understand why kids seem drawn to pick on anything different.
      I agree, I love social media but it saddens me how kids can use it as a weapon to hurt each other.
      Rant away anytime!

  12. I agree, Zero tolerance. In my role as a HS school teacher, I have discovered that a lot of kids don’t know theyre bullying because they simply haven’t labelled their behaviour as such. Once you point out that what they’re doing is in fact bullying (“but Miss, I was just mucking around”, is the usual cry), they usually make an effiort to stop because they don’t want to be labelled a bully. ( we have at least come that far)

    The thing that is needed is to jump on the smallest tendancy to harass. In a class yesterday, as soon as I walked in, some kids were saying stuff to another kid that was on the edge. I said to the class, “I warn you that I have zero tolerance to any form of harrasment, no matter how small you may think it is.” They shut up immediately, so it’s a message that needs to be reinforced by everyone in all situations to even the most minor instances of harassment in any form. Only then will we root it out.

    • Fantastic comment Tahlia and it sounds like you have exactly the right handle on the situation. I agree, if at every single turn there was zero tolerance, bullies might start to learn that there’s no place for them – because there isn’t.
      Love it and keep fighting the good fight! I hope all teachers start to follow your lead.

  13. You’re a beautiful, strong woman to share this information Natalie. Bless you. Growing up I often felt that bullies harbored their own inner demons. I can imagine, based on some of the discussion we had the other day that you had all kinds of inner turmoil that chose to manifest in the form of a hard outer shell – the mean girl. I just wish I could give you a big ‘ol hug!

    Of course, as a mother it is sometimes hard to remember when your own kid falls victim to the bullying that the bully is probably hurting inside too. And my eldest kid is a great big target for bullies. It’s something I need to continue to work on.

    Thank you Natalie for bringing up this important topic and sharing all this great sites. ❤

    • Thanks so much Debra. Yes, unfortunately I did have a lot of turmoil in my life that manifested itself in a negative way. I am sad that there were those that I took it out on. Your virtual hug is definitely felt!! :-)
      I can’t imagine a mother feeling empathy towards a bully who is tormenting her child. But I do think sometimes it might help when if the kid being attacked understand that it often isn’t personal even though it feels that way. That the bully is a small, unhappy, angry, likely bullied child who has no idea how to act any other way. Maybe? Maybe not?
      I wish I had some amazing advice for your eldest on how to avoid the unwanted attention of a bully but I don’t know that there is. Once targetted, it can be nearly impossible to avoid the attention. I guess all I can say is that the best defence is a great offence through a strong and empowered sense of self. If she/he’s strong on the inside with healthy self-esteem and strong self-confidence, she/he’ll be able to handle anything with tact and assurance. Qualities I am sure she/he’s learning and gaining from you!
      And honestly, ignoring them (which can be near impossible) is often the best approach. Without a reaction to feed on, bullies can sometimes move onto someone else.
      HUGS!

  14. I wish there were no mean children or mean adults, but since there are the best we can do for now is to try to get bystanders to help protect our children. It is important for us parents to support our children, but try not to rescue them from difficult situations. Instead, teach them how to manage problems on their own, for it will develop them confidence. Respect and kindness are the most important things we can teach to our children. For further knowledge on how you can protect your children. You can visit this link: http://safekidzone.com/

    • So beautifully put Shaira. Thank you so much for sharing the resource with my readers. :-)

    • I’m totally with you on this Shaira. If we can empower the bystanders, so they feel strong enough not to stand by and let it happen, then we have a very good chance to stamp it out. The problem is those who really don’t care. I find it hard to believe, but I have kids actually say to me – I really don’t care. Sigh!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Take a Stand Against Bullying! by Natalie Hartford: Did you know today was International Stand Up To Bullying Day? Neither did I until I read Natalie’s post. She shares a very honest, moving story about how she was a bully when she was younger and how she changed. She is now trying to spread the message that this kind of stuff needs to stop. [...]

  2. [...] with bullying in a very subtle way. Last week was Stand UP To Bullying Day and Patricia Sands and Natalie Hartford both had inspiring posts on the subject. I was thrilled to realize my interview with Sheri would [...]

  3. [...] Take a Stand against Bullying! by Natalie Hartford: did you know today was International Stand up To Bullying Day? Neither did I until I read Natalie’s post. she shares a very honest, moving story about how she was a bully when she was younger and how she changed. she is now trying to spread the message that this kind of stuff needs to stop. [...]

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