Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I Learned from Bullies

by Karen D. Swim


I am firmly convinced that the little boy who took my milk money in first grade is either a CEO or a convicted felon. Hopefully, he channeled his alpha tendencies in a positive manner and is a CEO, but the latter choice would not surprise me!

We all knew bullies growing up. Heck, some of you may have even been that bully. Not all bullies asserted their authority physically, some were geniuses at mental torture. Others reigned their kingdom with superior skills and an authoritative tone. Yet, looking back I learned valuable lessons from each and I believe became a better person as a result of my encounters with them. So, without further ado, my bully hall of fame and the lessons they taught me.

Joaquin (First Grade Bully)

Joaquin was a tough little kid who ruled the school yard with an iron fist. He took my milk money for weeks before I gained the courage to tell my parents. When my mom came to school and personally advised him to leave me alone, he suddenly became just another first grader. Lesson learned: Bullies are tough, but moms are tougher!

Leticia (Grades 1-6)

Leticia came from a big family and she was loud and bossy. She ruled the tether ball court and we all patiently awaited our turn each day allowing us to kick our butts. Leticia was not unstoppable but her confident attitude led us all to believe that she could not be beaten.She was allowed to wear her hair and clothing styles that my mom forbid for me, which added to her standoffish cool. We went on to become great friends. Lesson learned: The right attitude will make people sit up and take notice, that and a cool hairstyle.

Alexis (Middle school)

Alexis was the quintessential teenage mean girl! She hated me and found new ways to torment me almost daily. She befriended another mean girl and together they were Evil and Evil personified. What incited their hatred? A boy of course. I have a permanent bump on the back of my head courtesy of Alexis. I later learned that the torturous duo each came from less than ideal homes. Lesson learned: Bullies are often acting out their own internal pain. Be empathetic, don't take it personally and when they come near you run like the wind!

All of these bullies and the ones I later encountered in Corporate America taught me strength. I learned to stand up for myself and not allow others to walk over me. I learned that fear was my true bully not people. Leticia also taught me to aim beyond my comfort zone. Because of her, I practiced tether ball at home every day preparing myself to beat her. I may not have become a world class tether baller but I did stretch myself to new limits.

What about you? Did you encounter bullies on the schoolyard (or in the workplace)? What lessons did you learn? The comment box is open and all are welcome!


vimoh said...

"All of these bullies and the ones I later encountered in Corporate America taught me strength."

You could have learnt fear. But you chose to learn strength. That says something about you. :)

As for me, it was painful. The attacks came in short bursts. Occasional physical damage and all that.

I detested their crass and aggressive attitude towards teachers, girls, and the whole world generally.

I got preachy on them sometimes and got pummeled. :)

I went back to my hometown a some time ago and tried to track some classmates down. One, I heard has become a pimp.


Words For Hire said...

Vimoh, you exhibited true strength of character in how you handled it and how you turned out. In the short time I've known you, you have exhibited nothing but compassion and grace and that says a lot about you! Today, bullying is more severe than when I was growing up. The sad part is that bullying can leave irreparable scars. It is my hope that we can be a light to the next generation to not be crass, vindictive and judgmental of others. Thank you for sharing Vimoh and I am so glad you made it through that awful experience.

Suzette West, RECS, EBA said...

Thanks for posting this. It surely shows how perspective can change an unpleasant situation into positive learning experiences. :)

Words For Hire said...

Suzette, you're right. I could have potentially been permanently scarred by some of those challenges. I'm really blessed to have taken away the greater lesson and used it to become a better person. I wonder what those bullies are up to today? :-)

Anonymous said...


From the fall of 7th grade til the valentine's dance, I was pushed into lockers, ( in-with the door closed on me; perils of being short) slammed into people in the lunch room and pushed into mud by a vicious 8th grade girl.
At the Valentine's dance I wore a pretty white blouce and she tripped me in to a puddle and I was soaked, smeared in mud and subjected to taunting and laughing from her friends as they stood around laughing. I snapped. I walked over, grabbed her by her hair, through her on the the ground and started beating the living tar out of her. She was too shocked to even fight back and by the time she tried it was too late, she was mushed. No more school bully ever more and I had a reputation for being mean as crap. People were scared of me from then on. Here I was shy, and they thought I was mean.

I never wanted that reputation though, I avoided it as long as I could.

Anonymous said...

I was the smallest guy in the class, in Grade 7, and I got the best grades. Which naturally made me the prime target for getting picked on.

But soon after, I learned to become the class clown. Better to have the bullies laugh with you, than to have them punch you around.

With a couple of years, the same guys how picked on me now thought I was cool.

To this day, I'm still a major shit disturber (can you tell from my Blog?) :-)

You could almost say those bullies helped forge my personality.

- Friar

Words For Hire said...

@Anonymous, I know fighting is wrong but WTG! The mean girl got a taste of her own medicine! Kids can be so horrible to one another and they don't realize how damaging that behavior can be.

@Friar, Yay for the bullies! I'm quite fond of you and if the bullies helped shaped your style, hooray! Actually your creative genius was at work even then, how many kids could mastermind such a plan. :-)

Abby Clubb said...

A great post! I especially like the part about moms being tougher. I am a mom now and I totally agree.

My biggest bully was my older sister - 6 years older. Apparently, I ruined her life by being born. When I was in college (I know, took a long time) I finally figured out that the things she teased me about and pointed out in me were her own insecurities.

She taught me that bullies are really just insecure.

Words For Hire said...

@Abby, thank you so much for reading and commenting! I have heard this so often from sisters. I am so glad you realized it and hope that your sister does too! Moms are tougher than anyone in the planet hands down! Get between a mom and her loved ones and you are asking for trouble! LOL! By the way I love that your company. I wish every company would tap into green meetings!

jamiegrove said...

Some bullies are quiet too. They push their agendas with a silent determination that only goes away when drag them screaming into the light of day. Lots of bullies like this in the corporate world.

Anonymous said...

First of all, welcome to High Calling Blogs! I'm excited to read more of your posts.

I love the meta-lesson here: that you can learn from all circumstances in life, especially the difficult ones. How you learn from them shapes who you become. Thanks for sharing!

Words For Hire said...

Hi Spaghettipie! Thanks for the welcome! I am so glad to have found High Calling and looking forward to getting to know everyone and reading lots of great posts. I appreciate your comments. There is always a lesson, isn't there? We only have to open ourselves to it. ;-)

Words For Hire said...

Jamie, somehow my comment back to you was lost, oy vey, lately the internet is out to get me! Corporate bullies are worthy of a whole new post, don't you think? I remember them well and don't miss them at all. Hmmm, this could be a good topic for a series. Thanks! :-)

Sara said...

Way to make lemonade from well, butt kickings. :) Bullies have taught me that it's my own approval that counts most. After a confrontation with a less than friendly student, I would be upset for a long time--not because of what they said, but because I was disappointed in myself for not standing up better. After all, no one can hold your head up high for you.

Words For Hire said...

Sara, I was nodding "yes, yes!" as I read your comment! I can remember times even as an adult that I was mad at myself for not standing up for myself. My mom always told me to hold my head up, never did she instruct me to ask someone to do it for me. Great, great comment! Thanks Sara!

sexy said...