Three Life Lessons I Learned From Being A Victim Of Bullying
Rather than wallow in self-pity, let us learn these personal growth tips instead!
It is reasonable to say that many of us have had the nasty experiences of being bullied (as a kid, in high school, or even as an adult). Perhaps we might have plotted thoughts of revenge, or even lashed out at our bullies. Or maybe we simply wallowed in self-pity and expected the entire world to sympathize with us and loathe our said bully or bullies.
In the immediate aftermath of getting bullied, few of us actually reflect on the various areas of personal growth that could spiral our own development and mental resilience because most of us are oftentimes reeling from the hurt and anger of being bully targets.
I was no exception. When I was in primary school (elementary school equivalent), I was often the target of bullying on the school bus. This was because I was very timid and self-conscious of wanting to be liked by others, therefore doing things just to earn the accolades of approval from my peers.
However, rather than give me a pat on the back, some of the classmates whom I tried to please actually made fun of me and treated me callously, passing hurtful remarks either unintentionally or intentionally.
My immediate reaction? I was burning with hurt and dismay at my failed plan to get into the “in-crowd”. Upon returning home, I bawled in front of my bewildered mother who then tried frantically to calm me down.
I felt like a loser. I played the victim card. I felt the whole world owed me at that point in time.
And the bullying did not cease as the years went by. I was constantly made fun of, talked about behind my back and sometimes even to my face, excluded from social circles in my cliquey high school.
Loneliness was my constant friend back in my student days as I based my confidence on what others were saying or thinking about me. I was so shy to speak up in class for fear of mumbling or messing up my sentences because my classmates were attentively scrutinizing my every word (or so I thought).
It was only after years of painful self-pity and brooding over what could have been instead of what had actually happened that it dawned upon me that I should not be wasting away my youth gazing at the seemingly cool lives of those in the “in-crowd” but rather figure out my life instead.
Also, my labyrinthian journeys of being victimized, demanding attention and approval as well as spending way too much money on myself in order to be “accepted by others” culminated in a grand pause when I slowly over the course of my undergraduate and graduate studies, discovered and read more about the meaning of life and the Catholic religion.
Throughout my research in school and outside of school, I found the long-awaited answers (to my hitherto thankless existence) in the teachings and moral theology of the Catholic Church.
Moreover, what triggered my reflection about the meaning and value of human life was how one of my friends in college committed suicide in the dormitory.
The trauma of having to deal with a friend’s suicide while grappling with my own questions about my life’s value led me seriously to read up on and discuss with a few well-meaning people about the purpose of life and even about the afterlife.
Upon retrospect, I must say with candor that I regret those years wallowing in self-pity and self-loathing, especially when I was bullied a great deal. When I learned about how students in Japan actually committed suicide after they were bullied in school, and saw how their parents were desolate and inconsolable, something in me prompted me to re-think how I was managing my own bullies.
In fact, I derived great benefits from being bullied, however counterintuitive this statement might seem to some.
Lesson One: No Fear, No Qualms, No Sweat
Because I was constantly the target of criticisms and cruel teasing, I learned to realize that I could not expect anything worse than these unkind remarks.
I came across the saying that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but your words never will” and realized that it was up to me to decide if I wanted to be broken by these bullies or ignore them and move on with life, only more hardened than before because of the torrential bullying.
I learned gradually to speak up in front of others without fearing rebukes or teasing because I realized I had experienced many of the worst kinds of rebukes and verbal torments.
Therefore, I learned to develop “thicker skin” and plucked up the courage (thanks be to God) to ask difficult questions, disregard human respect as well as develop genuine humility in not being over-confidence and arrogant to compensate for my previous lack of confidence.
Lesson Two: Empathy For The Underdogs
In addition, my experiences of being bullied enabled me to sympathize with and compassionate others who were being bullied themselves, or were simply being a target of jokes (much to their ignorance).
My experiences and the hurt bullying caused me over the years lent insight as to the malice of gossip and backbiting, as well as the importance of standing up for the downtrodden, be it in school, at work, or in society.
I witnessed how arrogance and hidden envy in others led to their bullying of innocent victims. Importantly, my Catholic religion was definitely adding a lot of positive value to my life, for Scripture even said that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Lesson Three: Forgiveness And Letting Go
My years of pent-up grudges and resentment against the rest of the world had taken a toll on my physical, mental and spiritual health. Therefore, one other key life lesson I had to learn (the hard way) was the importance of forgiveness (of my bullies and those who had betrayed me in the past) as well as letting these grudges go.
I had to really pray, think through these terrible and traumatic events as well as speak to trusted people about my wounds and had to let these knots go.
Over a period of time, after praying a lot (to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary — I found a novena to Her as the Undoer of Knots), talking openly about my wounds to my family and trusted friends, as well as learning to view life from a different perspective (instead of taking revenge on my bullies). I eventually learned to let go, and instead, let God.