I had no bruises, but I was certainly bleeding.
Even as I write this, I still feel nervous talking about the topic. I had to find the definition of “bullying” to again reassure myself that, yes, I was a victim, and yes, I have a right to talk about this. Here’s the definition from StopBullying.gov:
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Bullying takes a few different forms, but what I experienced (what many kids experience), was known as social bullying:
“Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public”
I experienced social bullying for much of my young life. As a girl with a severe disability, I naturally blamed my struggles on my differences. But I wonder if perhaps my isolation was more about me feeling I didn’t deserve friends than my peers excluding me. Maybe they excluded me because I was bitter and angry and sometimes quite hostile.
I quickly learned not to have an opinion at school, or it would be ridiculed into oblivion. I learned not to play in groups of three, because the other two neighborhood girls thought it was funny to ditch me and leave me bike riding alone. Enough of this sort of thing, and you grow into a person who feels unworthy of friends, but can’t pinpoint why. You grow into the kind of person who is terrified to pursue friendships or even reciprocate them. You grow into the kind of person who doesn’t trust a smiling face… not really.
Growing up small
I am now 30 years old. I’ve continued to endure social bullying from grown adults (I use the term “adults” loosely here) on occasion, because in this internet age, it is so flipping easy. And difficult to track. You don’t have to be bigger, stronger or even more popular. People are always looking for a juicy story to freak out over. It’s no fun when you’re headline news. Or when you might as well not exist.
If you push someone’s emotions hard enough, you can get them to hurt themselves and save you from getting your hands dirty. It’s as lazy as it is cowardly.
The bullied individual isn’t limping. She doesn’t have bruises. She doesn’t complain because she has been told no one wants to hear her. She’s been brainwashed into believing no one cares. She believes she is too small, too insignificant.
But sometimes, she grows up and learns to write. Sometimes she doesn’t need to have a voice, because she has a keyboard. Sometimes she can acknowledge her pain, and acknowledge that she did not — she did NOT — deserve to be treated like she was nothing.
Let me stop hiding in the third person. My name is Sarah Kovac. As a child and as an adult, I have been the victim of social bullying. I might have a smile on my face, but my insecurity keeps me lonely. I am afraid to build relationships… with anyone. I feel emotionally crippled. Sometimes I wonder if my husband and family only love me because they’re required to. Not always, but sometimes is quite enough. My hesitance to be open to friendship has cost me many, many relationships. I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am always watching for the truth to come out: They never liked me. They felt sorry for me. They are nice to everyone, so I’m not special.
I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am always watching for the truth to come out: They never liked me. They felt sorry for me. They are nice to everyone, so I’m not special.
I know most of us have participated in bullying, as a victim or aggressor, though it’s easy to see how a victim might feel the need to become an aggressor. (Watch yourself closely if you’ve been bullied — your subconscious is angry.) There is healing in public confession. And there is awareness for those who hear it. Please, talk about your experiences. Especially if it’s difficult to do so.
This article was written through hot tears and cold sweats, but my pain deserves a voice — so does yours. Consider the comment box a confessional box. Tell us about your wounds. If that’s a little too public, shoot, send me an email and I’ll be your witness. You need this. We need this. Start healing now.