It’s wasn’t easy for me growing up with what many considered a girl’s name. A boy named ‘Kelly” was often a regular target for bullies. I wouldn’t change my name for the world though. It’s not only my identity, it has helped me become the person I am today. My name forced me to stand up to the mean-spirited and helped forge a much-needed self-confidence at an early age.
While I’m what many consider a ‘big guy’ today, that wasn’t always the case. I was one of the smallest boys in my class until my eighth grade year. I was shy too. My first interests weren’t sports but rather art and writing. The combination of all of these qualities that made me, well ‘me’ often made me different, out of place, and teased. I was not, however, a victim. I guess somewhere deep within my genetic code, my Irish DNA stepped up and helped me confront what I knew was wrong. When I found out that my name ‘Kelly’ was Irish for ‘warrior’ that sealed the deal. When others were being teased I would get involved.
I drank my milk, worked out with the football team, and graduated a ‘big guy’ with big plans. I was always on the lookout for people unable to speak up to bullies themselves. I understand where they’re coming from, because it isn’t easy. As a teacher there is nothing that I enjoy more than correcting a bully, and helping the recipient of the abuse feel more confident and loved. Even out in public, far from home, I walk into situations where someone is being victimized. It’s just my nature. I’m still the Eagle Scout trying to be helpful, trying to make a difference.
Oddly, the bullying never ended. It didn’t matter how old I was, where I was, how big I became, or what accomplishments I had achieved. There has been a bully at each stage in my life. Perhaps others don’t call them that, but I do. Anyone that finds enjoyment at the suffering of another is a bully. (Here is a great webpage that highlights warning signs and characteristics of the typical bully.) It may be a coworker, a neighbor, or even that mean clerk in the checkout line. Regardless, there is no shortage to negative thinking, mean-spiritited bullies. I have even read about cyber-bullying that uses texting, blogs, and social networks to harass and victimize. (Many states are considering more laws about bullying and greater punishments.)
So what do you do with a bully? How do get on with your life when a bully steps into it?
Here’s what I want you to know about bullying:
1) It’s wrong and it isn’t just a part of growing up. While I have encountered bullying at each place in my life that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Bullying is wrong. Don’t accept it as a part of life. It needs to be dealt with immediately.
2) Confront a bully. I researched this and didn’t like what I read. Nearly every article said ignore the bully, change your lifestyle to avoid attention from the bully. Well, I’m no psychologist, so you might want a second opinion here, but confronting the bully always worked for me. Involve your family, teachers, friends, coaches, and everyone you can, but confront the bully right away. Always stand up for what is right.
3) Don’t encourage a bully. If you are laughing along with a bully making fun of someone else, you’re a bully too. If you see bullying going on, and you do nothing to stop it, you’re part of the problem. You have a responsibility as a bystander. The bully wants your attention and thinks you approve if you do nothing. Repeat these words, “What you’re doing is wrong! Stop it! Don’t do it again or I will report it to someone who will do something about it.” Your behavior will be repeated by others. (Both the good, bad, and the indifferent.) We have all, at times, been guilty of taking a joke too far, and perhaps bullied someone. If so, we need to correct that mistake and make it right.
4) Invite everyone in on it. Don’t keep the bullying to yourself. Tell everyone you know what is going on. Kids! I’m talking to you now. You must let your parents know. Don’t keep it to yourself! It’s nothing to be ashamed about. The bully should be ashamed. If you tell someone and they do nothing about it, keep talking until someone does. Heck, email me, I’ll get involved.
5) Use the buddy system. Navy SEALS are the toughest warriors on the planet, but they don’t go into the water or anywhere without a buddy. Why? Because it’s dangerous. If you are being bullied take a friend. What if you don’t have a buddy? Make one. I knew a teacher that was being bullied by a parent. She went some places by herself and wanted the verbal abuse to stop. She carried a digital recorder with her. Once she played it back the bullying stopped. Surround yourself with positive people.
6) Bullying ends when confidence begins. If you really want bullying to end you must work on confidence. I don’t mean work on it a little bit; I mean work on it a lot! You can’t be bullied if you have confidence. Confidence doesn’t allow you to second guess yourself. Confidence will encourage you to inform others about the problem. Confidence will give you the courage as a bystander to get involved. Confidence will help you in so many ways.
To conclude, I want to emphasize that there are clearly more good people in this world than bad, despite how the media portrays it. Ninety-nine percent of our interactions are good and wholesome, and our focus should be there. If you have been bullied then you also know how powerful that one percent can be, and how it can alter a life. Don’t let it. Be heard. Find a buddy. Confront it. The greatest gift we can give in life is a second chance; in time please try to extend that gift to the person you once considered a bully.