Bullying Is Not Cool

The news that my niece was being bullied in school compelled me to write about my own experience with bullying.

I only fully understood the seriousness and effects of bullying when I came to the UK. It was also then I only realised that in fact, I was bullied too- as a child and perhaps as an adult.

You see, I grew up in a country were teasing other children in school was and still is a norm. What a lot of people didn't and still don't realise is that teasing can actually be a form of bullying. Children often take advantage of other children's weaknesses. They laugh at other children's disabilities. They find joy in calling other children nasty names. They physically hurt other children to show them they have power over them. All of these seemed to have been accepted by the society that I grew up in. It is very shameful to admit that even grown ups did and said things that they didn't necessarily knew was bullying. In short, there was not enough (or none at all) awareness on bullying where I came from. Nowadays though, with the amount of people claiming to be social media "influencers" and some celebrities, at least more and more people are raising awareness on bullying by sharing their own experiences and/or of people they personally know. 

Bullying as defined by gov.uk is repeated behaviour intended to hurt someone either physically or emotionally. There are a few forms of bullying which include verbal (teasing, name calling), physical, relational and cyber-bullying.

My own experience on bullying started when I was in kindergarten. My classmates would call me, almost on a daily basis, "Farinas Banyas". Baniyas is a type of lizard in the Philippines. I remember getting annoyed with it and I would answer back but of course, I thought that was normal. The same group of children would call my other classmates names, too.

Then in second grade, one of my classmates leered at me constantly. I never found out why. Then one day, perhaps she could no longer contain her anger. She grabbed my hair from the back and pulled it so hard until she managed to get a handful of hair, then she stopped. I didn't fight back. I went home crying and told my mother about it. My mother comforted me but didn't do anything. However, she advised me to tell her if it happened again. She reassured me that kids who acted that way were jealous of me. I took her word and went back to school the next day like nothing has happened.

A group of classmates repeatedly emotionally "tortured" me in grade school. They would invite me to climb over a high fence and jump into a vacant bushy lot, then would hide from me. At times, they ran away too fast that I wasn't able catch up. I always felt like a loser and went home with a heavy heart, at times crying.

One of the boys was constantly name-calling me. I had a curly hair at one point and he would chant "kulot baboy" (curly pig) everytime he saw me. He scared me one time and my eyes went big because of fear. Since then, he called me "bungaok" (owl) because my eyes were so big. 

But I guess the worst act of bullying I experienced (if I may call it that), was when somebody deliberately pushed me while walking on a fence of an empty pond. I was in second grade and was lured into playing in an area where I wouldn't normally play. I was a coward as a child and wouldn't really do anything that I knew would hurt me, unless someone forced me to it. So, I fell down and my chin landed on a steel bar. I didn't feel any pain but I saw blood gushing through my pearly white dress. Until now, I still can't remember anyone helping me. Instead, I hysterically ran to my brother (who was in 6th grade at that time). My brother went into a panic, he brought me home straight away. The next thing I remember, I was having a few stitches under my chin. This experience sometimes crosses my mind so vividly that I still become emotional about it. I can still feel the scar under my chin, which to me now is a reminder that I was brave and strong as a child.

None of the experiences I shared above were taken seriously as far as I am concerned. It is because that's what children did during my time. They played, pushed each other, called each other nasty names and all was normal. "They're just kids", grown-ups would say.

Lucky for me, the bullying didn't affect me in any dangerous way nor did it hinder me from achieving success. During those times that I was being bullied, I was consistent in the honour roll (2nd honours) and I was academically inclined. I managed to make and keep a lot of friends from all grade levels and even from other schools- some of them I am proud to still call my friends.

Reflecting on the impact of bullying on my emotional well-being, perhaps it is fair to say that all those emotional battles at a very young age prepared me for what was to come. I grew up emotionally equipped to take on many challenges in my life- some of them were fairly painful experiences that required strength and resilience. From the death of my closest cousin, to family issues, to Keith's passing, to battle with infidelity that led to divorce, to being treated badly by my own community and at work,  and all the other emotional challenges in between.

I suppose one of the most important things I learned from being bullied at a young age is not letting it change the person that I was. I never sought revenge. I didn't use this experience to bully other children. The more that I actually treated other people with kindness and respect. At a young age, I learned how to put my feet in other people's shoes, hence  I reflect on my life and my actions far more than a lot of people I know. 

Bullying has to stop because of its negative effects on most people. People who have been bullied at a young age (or as adults) tend to develop anxiety and depression. It affects their confidence and self-esteem. They develop social anxiety which makes it difficult for them to relate to other people.

If you're a parent, a brother, a sister or a friend of someone being bullied, please be vigilant and don't judge your loved one. They need your support. If you see them quiet and not talking much, please don't assume that they are just having a "drama". If they don't like to go school or making excuses not to go to school, please don't call them lazy. If they are wetting their bed (which I did when I was being bullied because I was having nightmares), don't scold them or tease them because they might have had a bad dream. If they are being angry, suplada or suplado at home, talk to them instead of telling them off because they need your reassurance. Remember, communication is the key. Check up on them as often as you can. Make them feel that you are there for them. Be generous with your time and listen patiently. Make them feel that they are not alone.

To the bullies out there, bullying is not cool. Please remember that karma is real. What goes around comes around. 

To anyone reading this, please always be kind. Kindness is the only thing that the world needs from you right now. Don't judge. Every person you come in contact with is going through something. Be generous with your smile especially to strangers. Compliment them when you can. Your kindness may just save a life.

Be kind. That is all.



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