Dealing with Bullies

If you're the target of bullying, how you deal with it can make all the difference. Read one girl's story of how she keeps her cool—and her self-confidence—even when she is bullied.

There I was, sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face.

“Why do you laugh when I fall?” I scribbled. “You fall too, just when nobody can see you.” What I really wanted to do was punch a wall, or better yet, hurl a bucket of insults right back at the bullies who made my life miserable. Day after day, I was harassed—about my weight, my clothing, my hair…the list went on and on. I couldn’t even walk home from school without being called “fat,” “pathetic,” or “disgusting.” And until that day, I had been pretty good at brushing everything off. I’d just ignored the taunts and gone on, maintaining my self-confidence in spite of it all.

But the teasing was finally getting to me. I didn’t think this could ever happen—not in a million years—but I was beginning to believe all the insults. “Ugly…fat...you’ll never get a boyfriend.” The words echoed in my ears, stealing my self-esteem. When I looked in the mirror, I no longer saw the girl—me— who seemed happy with herself. Instead, I saw what the bullies saw: a fat reject that nobody wanted.

Fighting Back!

What I would like to tell you about is how I got my self-confidence back. It wasn’t easy, and believe me, I tried everything—even getting back at the bullies.

One time I was at a local pool when two girls I didn’t even know started taunting me. They said I could hardly fit through a doorway, and that my appetite was so big I bought out entire grocery stores.

At first I was just hurt and confused, but then I got mad. Enough was enough, I thought, and I decided to make fun of the girl who’d made the doorway comment. “You’re a shrimpy, flat-chested, airhead, bubble-brain cretin—a pampered, spoiled, lousy, good-for-nothing little girl!” I shouted, wishing that everyone who had ever insulted me could hear me now. Finally I was getting back at the bullies—getting even. And for a moment, I felt good—really good, as if I’d beaten back the bullies forever.

But then the girl’s lips quivered—and she started to cry! Before I could even say “sorry,” she was weeping uncontrollably, and my newfound pride turned to horror. Sure, she had called me names, but was it right for me to take my anger out on her? Did I need to punish her for all the mean things that had ever been said to me? At that moment, I was sure of only one thing: I felt terrible! Being the bully felt just as bad as being the victim.

Other Options?

But what was worse? Speaking up, even if I was just throwing back insults, or feeling utterly powerless and running away? Believe me, I’ve done both.

Last Valentine’s Day, I made a card for my third grade “reading buddy.” It was an origami cup decorated with bumblebees and yellow chicks, and it said, “Happy Valentine’s Day to One Hip Chick.” I was proud of my creation, and wanted to show it to a friend. As I carried it over to her desk, another classmate, Chris, grabbed the card and took off. I couldn’t believe it! What had I ever done to Chris? After following him around the classroom, desperately trying to retrieve the card, he finally tripped me and I fell—well, “crashed” is more like it—into the teacher’s desk. As the class roared with laughter, he tore the card to shreds.

Did I want to scream, “How could you do this to me?” Of course! I wanted him to know how bad he was making me feel—that I was humiliated! But when you’re on the floor—or on top of your teacher’s desk—it’s hard to do much of anything. And bullies don’t listen, anyway. If they did, people like me wouldn’t get hurt as much. So instead, I picked myself up, signed out for the ladies’ room, and cried for about 30 minutes. Nonstop.

Realizations and Relief

That was over a year ago, and since then, I’ve discovered a few things that have helped me deal with the past. Some of these realizations have come from my experiences, some from just growing up, and some from talking to people l trust.

Talking is one thing that really helps. I love my mom—she’s the best lady in the whole world, and we can discuss anything! Then there’s my best friend, Cat. We have slumber parties and talk about things like boys and makeup and laugh all night long.

And then there’s poetry. When I write, I feel good, and it’s like an escape from everything that’s been getting me down. It also helps to get my feelings out on paper. That way, I get some perspective. I’ve even started a poetry workshop at my local library. I was actually afraid to do it at first—I thought maybe no one would show up, or that someone who’d been mean to me before would come just to ruin it, but it’s been great! The kids who attend really love poetry, and it’s so cool to share our writing with each other. It’s also allowed me to see that I can be a leader, and to start believing in myself again.

The End—Well, Sort of

I’ve also come to accept that I’ll probably always be teased. I’m outspoken and opinionated, and I like to wear bright, colorful clothes—even scarves. Maybe that makes me an easy target. Or maybe not. One thing I’ve realized is that bullies pick on me because of who they are, not because of who I am. Maybe they’re afraid to be different, so they pick on someone who is. Or maybe, deep down, they just don’t feel good enough, and putting someone else down makes them feel better. Whatever the reason, it will probably always hurt me to get teased, but I won’t ever let it get to me the way it used to.