Unexpected Lessons: What I Learned from Being Bullied
Yes, I know, hard to believe that this social butterfly that is myself was for a large portion of her adolescent life on the receiving end of bullying. All jokes and sarcasm aside, however, I have chosen to write about this for two reasons.
Firstly, I do not think there is enough literature coming out of the Middle Eastern region targeting the serious issue of bullying.
Secondly, when such literature exists, it is skewed much more towards the physical kinds of bullying; getting beat up, having someone take your lunch money, being shoved down a few stairs, etc.
I think there is a general consensus that those physical types of bullying deserve to be treated with the utmost sincere will because the bruises are likely going to be present, and there is a strong material incident to recount.
The kind of bullying that tends to slide under the radar is the much more common, much less physical, and equally –if not much more- harmful type of bullying, namely psychological/emotional bullying.
I always believe that when bringing light to an issue it is important to begin from a story or anecdote that helps frame the issue, personalize it and contextualize it.
I think I was probably around 15, when it all began, I was leaving my close school friends –whom I had known since fifth grade- for a new school in a new country because my dad’s job had relocated.
I was initially devastated. I only had two years of high school left. I did not understand how life could just force one to get up and move. There was really nothing more I had wanted than to graduate with my schoolmates here in Egypt, and go to university in proximity to them. I can recall when I initially moved being upset, and angry.
I felt like I had truly left my best friends, forever. This anger and frustration, however, found itself a novel cause when I started receiving word from my two best friends that I was getting slandered in my old school.
I was being called a slut and a whore, without any actual or material cause. Soon enough, every time I would update my status on Facebook, I would get attacked, slut-shamed, and body-shamed.
I even found my display picture, saved from my what was then BBM account, posted on a Facebook account belonging to one of my bullies. The comments were insufferable, and the picture still exists.
The harassment continued when I created a Twitter account, during my first year of university. My bullies would take the time to have their friends tag them in tweets and posts from which they were blocked, only to have them return and continue their slut-shaming.
I ended up deactivating my Twitter account, and deleting my Facebook account. I really did not have the thick skin I have now to such things; thinking about it now, it was actually this experience that truly helped me develop thick skin.
I still see these people now, and when I do, it is tragic, because only a handful of them have grown up. They still give the same dirty looks, and they likely still call me the same things behind my back.
I realize now, however, that these people will likely forever be stuck; stuck in their judgmental personalities, stuck within a limited circle of knowledge and exposure, stuck by the kind of people they have chosen to become and surround themselves with.
My self-esteem is likely permanently effected. I still do have a fear of being picked on, even at work. I still do shy away sometimes from people that look like they were the fun and popular kids back in high school.
The truth be told, I can work on my self-esteem. I have my highs and my lows, like every other person, but the choice to remain stuck in a toxic and sheltered bubble of judgement that’s the real tragedy.