I decided one day that I was no longer going to allow my peers to treat me like a virus that needed to be eradicated.
By ninth grade (age fifteen), bullying was all I had known, but I had never called it bullying. I had thought that kids were simply responding to me and who I was. For years I had believed that their taunts, jeers, shunning, and even assaults were understandable reactions to my social ineptitude and nonconformity. How could I not have thought that when peers, teachers, and even my parents told me that I brought my problems on myself?
But one day, I had an epiphany. I realized that I did not deserve the abuse that I had endured for the past seven years. The next time a kid decided to pick on me, I would stand up for myself. The opportunity came one day during ceramics class.
Other students in my ceramics class had constantly thrown clay at me for several months. My teacher offered me the option of working in the room across the hall so that the other kids wouldn’t bother me. But of course that never stopped them. Nearly every day without fail, a few kids sneaked into the room to verbally harass me and even throw clay. On the day that I had had my epiphany, I decided that I was ready to face down my enemies.
Sure enough, that day two boys came into the room. As usual, they started calling me names, stealing my clay tools, and trying to throw balls of clay at me. I reminded myself that I had made a commitment to show some self-respect, and I would follow through with it. If I had to fight, I would fight. If I broke both of my hands while hitting back, then so be it. Whatever the case, I could not back down.
That day, I had been listening to the soundtrack from the film Annie on a tape deck while I worked. One of the boys asked me “what the fuck I was listening to?” There had been a time where I would have said, “Nothing” and hoped that the boys wouldn’t press me. Instead, I said, “The soundtrack from Annie. Do you have a problem with that?” Of course the boys made fun of my choice of music. Then they called me a circus freak and said that the reason my teacher had sent me to work in another room was because she didn’t want me in the class. I refused to let my guard down. Maintaining eye contact, I told them it was none of their business. I finally said, “All right, guys, I’ve really had enough fun for one day. Why don’t you leave?” When they refused, I told them again to leave. I said, “I am supposed to be in here, and you’re not. Now I am asking you to get out of here now!”
The boys grabbed my tools and ran back to the ceramics room—not before turning up the volume on the tape deck of course. Surely everyone in nearby classrooms could hear the music. I would never hear the end of this. But then I decided, “So what?” I just went back to the room where I was working and returned the volume to a normal level. The boys didn’t come into the room for the rest of the class. And after that they rarely bothered me again. In fact, for the final month of the school year, the bullying was far less frequent. Was it a coincidence? Or was it because I finally mustered the dignity to stand up for myself? I think the latter. I did something that my tormentors did not expect me to do: show self-respect. And I had won.
How did I gain this new self-confidence? Long story short, at my mother’s urging I had joined the school’s track team just a month earlier, mostly because she wanted me to get involved in an after-school activity. But the running had an interesting and unintended effect: it boosted my self-confidence. Research has shown that regular intense exercise releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that act as anti-depressants and also enhance self-esteem. And these anti-depressants became a regular part of my brain chemistry after just one month of running. This new mindset made me realize that I could stand up for myself, and that I could win.
We all know that reporting bullying incidents to teachers only does so much. If you are being bullied, continue to report it, but also give yourself the confidence to stand up to the bullies. Join either the track team or the swim team. These are rigorous sports that place more emphasis on individual achievement than a group effort, which is good if you, like me, are terrible at sports. More importantly, these sports will get endorphins pumping and enhance your self-esteem.
After all, as my story illustrates, the best weapon against bullies is self-esteem.
See more from Julie the Aspie @ http://eccentricsunited.blogspot.com