We all have some things we aren’t proud of in our past. I’m sad to admit that one of mine is bullying. Unfortunately, through my years of growing up I was on both sides of the issue – tagged as both the bully and the victim. And, I can tell you, that neither side feels very good.
My days of being a bully started very young. I remember back as early as Grade 2 or 3, where I had no problem forming a tight group of friends and omitting anyone who wasn’t ‘fortunate’ enough to get inside this group. Having private snow forts at recess and not sharing my seat on the bus right from school are a few of the incidents that stick out clearly in my mind.
It’s known that those who bully others are looking to gain a feeling of power, purpose and control over you, often something they can’t find otherwise in their life. This could be brought on by stress or trauma, aggressive behaviour tendencies, the fact that they too have been bullied, a difficult home life or even personal relationships, among other reasons.
Sadly, children who bully others can be victims of their own behaviour and are more likely to: abuse alcohol and other drugs: get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school; engage in early sexual activity; have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults; and be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults.
To this day I can’t really place exactly why I became a bully. Perhaps that would require a little more self reflection than I’m comfortable with or it was just that long ago that my memory is unclear. Either way, I’ve made my peace with both myself and those individuals that I targeted many years ago.
But, as I grew out of my early years and into my pre-teen and teen years the tables started to shift. Everyone goes through that awkward phase but some do it more gracefully than others... I was not one of those. Braces, an unfortunate decision to have very short, multi-coloured hair and being gangly tall did not help my case either.
While I can’t say that my experience was fun, it was a far from the horrifying experiences that many of our youth are facing, causing physical, school, and mental health issues.
We know that children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. They often have health complaints, decreased academic achievement and are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
Bullying is everywhere and can happen to anyone. It’s not just an issue with children and youth but with adults as well. Let’s remember to be considerate of others and of the differences that make each ones of us unique. Bullying will only continue if we let it, so, let’s break the cycle.