As promised earlier today here is my friend Lizzi with her bully post. Her story serves as a reminder of how important our jobs are as guardians and the village as a whole. We can’t protect our children from all the bad things that can and will happen but we can do our best to build self confidence and at the VERY least we can be their safe place to turn.
Please welcome Lizzi!
BEATING THE FINAL BULLY by Lizzi (Considerer)
In a reality where I was part of a repressed man’s effort to appear ‘normal’ by having a family and living up to the expectations placed upon him, I was very much starting from minus numbers when it came to social interaction. His behaviour was such that people didn’t want to visit our house, or if they did, the atmosphere rapidly grew thick with discomfort, and there was always the undercurrent of worry that he might start acting out.
I responded with a thick shell of oblivion; astonished, and on edge when visiting friend’s houses (well, my mum’s friends really – I didn’t have any of my own until later), that the Daddy was nice to everyone, and that they didn’t seem wary of him. Warm expressions of love towards the Mummy or the children were just alien, or so it seemed to me. I don’t remember equating that with my own existence at all.
So I was unsocialised and utterly ‘outsidered’. Awkward. Ungainly and ugly, without anyone to keep me on trend or in the loop. I vividly remember the time when a gang of kids on the school bus picked on one of their favourite scratching-posts – a blond, pudgy boy with earnest teeth and weak, blue eyes – and afterwards I went to offer him some words of comfort (knowing how he must be feeling), but even he spurned me. Then I knew I truly was at the bottom of the pecking order.
There were a few children who bore my presence – other losers, sometimes kids from church (though there, it was alright because of proximity, and we went to different schools, so they never had to acknowledge me outside of that context), there was one friend I made in girl guides who was stalwart, who seemed to really like me, until my oblivion-induced lack of empathy wore her down, and she could no longer stand me. Even my own sister hated me most of the time, but it was okay, because I hated her back, and if I’m honest, I hated me, too.
Who in the world would want to be friends with someone so repulsive? I wouldn’t…an attitude which has come to cause lasting damage.
And so it was that I ended up the obvious victim. Bullied and torn down at home, bullied and torn down at school, and at church (once families with kids my age had moved on), isolated through lack of anyone left in my proximity. Too young and uninteresting for the adults. Too old and too much of a laughing-stock for the kids.
I blundered on, growing angry. Not because I felt that life should be different – I didn’t have the imagination to conceive that it could be. But hatred festered; some turned inwards, and some towards the unfairness of why people didn’t like me. Not once did I take responsibility or consider my part in it. Even once I realised the ground-shifting horror that the pedestal I’d placed my parents on as a child (because that’s what you do) was a total sham, I was unable to process the idea that all I had picked up about my worth as a human being was likewise a sham.
I was a victim, both obvious and absolute. I passively accepted that I was largely unlovable, and destined to be an outcast. I remember ONE non-familial adult taking an interest – a babysitter who grew to be a family friend. She was isolated, too, and thinking back, perhaps she saw a kindred spirit in me. We became firm friends, though we’ve lost touch at the moment. She was my lifeline, even though she got on with my father and sometimes took his side – I did at least feel increasingly equal with her as friends, rather than humoured, as with the adult:child relationships of the rest of my life.
It wasn’t until the summer after school ended for good that I decided to take charge. It wasn’t even that I decided – I just knew I could not and would not continue life as that awful, bullied person. And it worked. I made friends. I met my Soulie, who has been the making of me, and who has known me half my life, at this point. I discovered that I could make people laugh. I slowly learned that I could make them like me, nay – I could be likeable.
Slowly, gradually, I realised the part I had to play in changing the way I had become. I began to face up to the attitudes and mannerisms I had picked up, and took responsibility for changing my behaviour from ‘victim’ to something intentionally, purposefully, positively engaging. I learned how to empathise. I have developed the ability to befriend others, using my former victim status to try to understand where they’re coming from. I have learned in the best of ways how truly, deeply wonderful it is to have friends, and to re-forge strong, warm familial bonds. I have discovered the power of forgiveness. I can be nice, and I know that I’m good in relationships with other people.
Most of my childhood and teen years were a daily hell and nothing would induce me to go back, yet more recently I’ve felt peace about those situations. They were all explainable (if not excusable). There I was; a ready-made scratching post for those insecure enough in the complex, hormone-fuelled hierarchy of the playground, to need it. How could I gripe? I had nothing better to contribute. In the end, their actions speak more of their characters than they ever did of mine, likewise the situation at home.
But in spite of the ready explanations I have to let my bullies off the hook, I still point the finger of blame at her – at the child I once was. I hold her responsible for being unappealing and unlikeable. She makes me shudder. Yet she is part of me, and that makes me feel worse. The impact of unfriending myself, all those years ago – the pitiful breaking apart of that relationship with the child-me – is where I need to take charge now:
I was told for too long that my opinions didn’t count, so why would I take time to form a positive opinion about myself? Just adopt the negatives others are so willing to bestow.
I am told not to form a sense of self based on the opinions of others, so where does that leave me? Surely they are more discerning than I am?
You see the catch-22.
I have washed up, adrift, on the shores of my own mind, and discovered that I’m stranded in a no-man’s land, where others think me a reasonably good and engaging person, and enjoy my friendship, whilst I quiver in terror at the thought that one day they’ll discover that I really am the awful girl I was back then. I haven’t yet found a way to forgive her for the hideous person she was, nor what being her has put me through.
It sounds terribly selfish and a bit surreal, but I feel as though if I could jettison her, I would be happier; if only I could start again, things would be better. It’s just not possible, and I’ve a feeling that what I need to do is make my peace with the spectre of my own history.
Because I can’t stand her. I can’t stand the way her existence haunts me and taints me with shame and clouds my view. But as an adult, I feel I must take responsibility for trying to broker peace with the vile thing I once was. I must hold up my hands to a complete lack of compassion for that child, and find a way to send some in her direction, for it seems that the final bully she has to deal with…is me!
It’s important to me to achieve this somehow, because as adults, it is vital for us to show children that we are serious about holding an anti-bullying stance, or they will grow up insecure and untrusting. It is fundamental that we protect the younger generations from abusive relationships, whether these be with peers or with adults; it is our role and responsibility to them. It is imperative that we show even the most unappealing children that they are worthwhile, because otherwise they might grow up believing they are worthless.
We have a responsibility to demonstrate compassion and care for everyone. Perhaps we need to focus most on the kids who are already at a disadvantage – the losers; the socially ugly; the victims; the self-obsessed, pompous, lonely ones. Perhaps our input can help them. Perhaps their lives will get back on track sooner.
Perhaps they won’t turn out as messy as we did.
Lizzi is a Deep Thinker, Truth-Teller and seeker of Good Things. She’s also silly, irreverent and tries to write as beautifully as possible. She sends glitterbombs and gathers people around her – building community wherever she can.
She’s living Life in Silver Linings and *twinklysparklygoodness* because two miscarriages and a subsequent diagnosis of spousal infertility will rather upset anyone’s applecart. She borrows other people’s children to love while she learns to accept a future she never expected.
Lizzi is a founder member of Sisterwives and #1000Speak, and hosts the Ten Things of Thankful bloghop each weekend.