Bullying and First Impressions

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I cannot tell you how important first impressions are. Down through the ages, many have said that first impressions last forever and that you never get a second chance at it. They were right!

When I moved to *Oakley, Tennessee, after having been an Army brat and lived in many different places, I began attending school there during the sixth grade. During that first year, I made a terrible first impression on my classmates, and I did it without even realizing it. Unfortunately, I paid for it for six long years.

In no way am I doing what so many young victims do, blaming myself for all the pain and humiliation they put me through. I’m well aware that regardless of the impression I made, I was just an innocent twelve-year-old child who never deserved to be bullied.

However, looking back, I now realize what I could’ve done differently to keep the target off my back. Oh, the things we realize when we’re older.

My first mistake was that I didn’t stand up for myself when my classmates began bullying me. Being new at the time, I was afraid of getting in trouble with school staff and was taught that “decent young ladies didn’t fight.” Instead, I tried talking my way out of confrontations or lying my way out. ‘Bet you can guess where that got me.

Another mistake was that I was also overly friendly, which was easily mistaken for being a fool, being weak and approval-seeking. My third mistake was that during the sixth grade, I cried easily, which my hardened and sadistic classmates took for weakness or manipulation. It didn’t take me long to change these behaviors. By the seventh grade, I had toughened up considerably, but by then, the dynamic was already firmly in place.

First impressions are everything! They set a precedent- a pattern for the future. If bullies get away with bad behavior once, you can be sure they will repeat it again and again. When they get a particular reaction, they will come back for more of the same later. Without realizing it, we teach people how to treat us.

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Understand that it doesn’t take long for impressions to take root and became expected. And when they do, it’s tough to change. That isn’t to say that it’s impossible, but it won’t be easy. It takes a truckload of patience and consistency. It also requires pointing out your good qualities, hard work, and successes to others, which can backfire if you aren’t careful because people will only naturally take you for bragging and being pompous.

You have no control over people’s perceptions and opinions of you, nor their behavior and actions toward you, which is why it’s so essential to get it right the first time around. I had to learn this the hard way and by the time I realized it, it was too late.

However, during my last year of high school, I got the opportunity to change schools and make a new start at *Roseburg School. I put my best foot forward at my new school and the results were amazing! I made many friends and was well accepted and liked by both students and staff. I saw a complete 180! But sadly, many kids don’t get that opportunity.

Even now, the classmates from *Oakley still, to this day, hold a lot of unnecessary anger, resentment and bitterness and it’s been thirty years. I can tell you that had I known what I know now- had I made a better impression early on, things would have been much different.

Not that what they think matters because I’m older and with age comes wisdom, and priorities change, but I would’ve saved myself six years of pain and a lot of wasted time. Also, I’d feel better about joining them at the thirty year reunion.

I can only pity them because you’d think people would be over that stuff by now. I forgive them because forgiveness sets me free. However, I could never trust them because I will never feel safe around them. And the sad part is, a lot of this was avoidable in the early stages.

This is why first impressions are of the utmost importance, because they can last a lifetime. Many of you are still young and you still have a chance to forge good connections and friendships with the kids you’re growing up with. That’s why I’m writing this now. This post is for you!

Today, I make giving a great first impression a goal each and every time I meet new people. The next time you meet someone new, be sure to make the best impact possible.

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If a Bully Puts Hands on You, Should You Hit Back?

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It seems to be the question on everyone’s mind these days, especially in the notoriously politically correct climate in which we live. The media and politicians vehemently discourage fighting violence with violence. You’ll hear statements from others, such as:

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“Don’t stoop to the bully’s level.”
And the all-time favorite,
“Be the bigger person and walk away.”

I’ve heard them all.

Yes, you should try more peaceful ways first, like walking away from the bully or reporting it to someone in power. However, what if the more peaceful solutions don’t work?

If you don’t stand up for yourself, the bully will only continue to come after you and hurt you. You’ll be a punching bag for everyone who knows you at school or elsewhere. Because when word gets around that one person can hit you and get away with it, everyone else will think they can too and you’ll be the school or the community whipping boy. That’s no way to live.

In the middle of a physical attack, the last resort is the only option you have.

So, here it is:

When a bully physically attacks you, you have a God-given, primal, animal right to defend yourself from being harmed. I state this with full conviction!

If a bully hits you first, haul off and knock his block off! And when you do, don’t just give him a love pat. Deck the creep with the strength of your entire body- hit so hard that the bully has difficulty getting back up. Then unleash a hail of hard licks so that he doesn’t get up. Because once the bully gets up, he will charge you!

Stop bullying

Yeah. I know it isn’t the “politically correct” thing to do. But when someone is harming you, all that jazz about political correctness and being the bigger person goes out the window, and the gloves are off.

The only thing you should think of at this point is how to disable the bully so or give him such a bad memory that he’ll never even think about coming for you again. You aren’t a troublemaker or a brute for this, folks! It’s called self-defense!

This doesn’t mean bringing a gun or other deadly weapon. Lethal weapons will only get someone killed, and you put behind bars for the rest of your life. Never EVER carry a gun to school! It’s much better to put up your dukes and throw down when you must.

I’ll say again, punch the bully’s lights out! You may get suspended from school, fired from work, or even go to jail for a night or two. However, physical attacks are much more vicious nowadays and if you just let someone smack you around, they’ll only intensify the beatings until they hurt you bad enough to send you to the hospital or worse! And I’d much rather be suspended, lose a job, or spend a night in jail than to spend a month in the hospital or end up six feet under.

I don’t condone fighting. Although I fought many times in school, I hated it each time I had to. I was a 5’4″, 120 pound girl being jumped and most of the time by multiple assailants, a male attacker, or a female much bigger than me. There were times when I was also boxed in where I couldn’t go anywhere.

There was no other choice. It was either fight, or risk my bullies possibly maiming or killing me. Sometimes the last resort is the only way to protect yourself and let a bully know that you’re not the one to mess with and that you aren’t afraid to fight back if necessary.

There will be others who may disagree with this post, and that’s okay. I am very thick-skinned now and rarely do I get offended. I can agree to disagree. But I will do what I have to do to protect my well-being and my life if ever I’m in physical danger.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Space Invaders: Ways Bullies Violate Your Personal Space

Girl sitting on the ground and drawing personal space

Bullies are notorious for violating others’ personal space. They make it a point to get too close. I want you to understand that bullies do this deliberately to intimidate and challenge targets.

If you are a target of bullying, bullies will get in your face or stand too close behind you, sometimes so close their bodies are touching yours. Bullies purposefully crowd you to either intimidate you, challenge you or provoke you into a reaction. These violations are too blatant!

Different zone distances are practiced based on the relationship we have with the people in the room around us. They are as follows:

Intimate Zone – (6-18 inches) This distance between people is reserved for lovers, family, close friends, and pets. However, unwelcome bullies will move into your intimate zone when they’re feeling hostile toward you and are about to attack.
Anytime someone we don’t know, don’t trust or don’t like moves into this area, they are too close, and our minds and bodies automatically go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Some bullies may also invade the target’s intimate area only to toy with them and get them to react, then step back and laugh at the reaction. Do not ignore it! Call the bully out and let them know that they are in your personal space and that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable.

Personal Zone – (18-48 inches) We stand this far apart at parties and social gatherings. If bullies stand in the personal zone, they are still too close. Don’t be afraid to tell them in no uncertain terms to back the hell up!

Social Zone – (4-12 feet) These distances, we stand from strangers, clerks, and delivery people. Bullies will easily be able to get away with standing at these distances from their victims, so you might not want to react if you don’t want to look paranoid or unstable. But still, keep a close eye on your bully just in case they try to move closer!

Public Zone – (Over 12 feet) We stand at these distances when speaking publicly in front of an audience. Bullies can freely stand at these distances from their victims and not look conspicuous or threatening.
(Zone distances- “The Definitive Book of Body Language,” Allan and Barbara Pease – pp. 194-195; 2004

Male poodle dog pee on tree trunk to mark territory

Sitting in your chair, leaning on your car, etc. – Any chair we sit in or any object we lean on or touch, we nonverbally lay claim to. Just as a dog will mark his territory by peeing on the spot he claims as his, people mark theirs by sitting, leaning, or touching the place or object they claim as theirs.

Other ways bullies invade their victim’s territory are leaning on their car or in the doorway of their office, dorm room, or house. Bullies may also prop their feet on the target’s desk or table or even walk into the victim’s home without knocking or being invited inside!

However, here are some less-obvious ways of space violations:

Invasion of your privacy – Bullies will very carefully observe you. They will eavesdrop on your conversations and listen for intimate details so they can take the private info and spread it as juicy gossip and make you look bad. They may also read your diary to find out your deepest, darkest secrets so they can spread it around and damage your reputation. They will even follow you to see where you go and who you associate with.

If you are a victim of bullying, understand that bullies do this on purpose. They invade your territory to intimidate, challenge, or dominate you.

You must protect not only your physical and mental health from bullies but also your personal space and territory. Never be afraid to call the bully out if they violate either one!

The more you know, the better you can protect yourself against these personal space invaders.

When a Victim of Bullying Succumbs to Suicide, the Surviving Family Does Not Need Your Judgement!

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I get disgusted when people judge victims of bullying after they reach the breaking point and resort to suicide. I read heartbreaking stories of family members who hear all kinds of cruel remarks.

I’ve even heard a few myself when a local kid dies because of the cruelty of bullies and I wanted to slap the person pointing the finger. Here are a few sickening comments I’ve read or heard:

“That was so cowardly!” or “She was such a coward!”

Right! A person running through the woods from a wild boar would look like a coward to someone sitting safely in a tree.

“Why didn’t he tell anyone? He always kept to himself!”

Of course! Just as an AIDS patient keeps his diagnosis to himself.

“But he was so quiet!”

Still waters run deep.

Defending their rights concept

Anytime someone is bullied, they are in the fight of their life. Unless you’ve endured it, you have no idea what if can do to you. You cannot even comprehend how it changes you or the intense fear it instills. You can’t fathom how it destroys any future prospects of friendships, relationships, even opportunities for jobs or a college education. Bullying can negatively alter your entire future. And a family who has lost a loved one to suicide is forever devastated.

They will search for answers to questions that will never be answered and long for justice they may never see. When a loved one commits suicide, there is never any closure, only day to day coping. And it’s a terrible way to live. These families do not need your judgement piled on top of everything else they must go through.

What they need is your compassion and a shoulder to lean on. They need the freedom to keep their loved one’s memory alive and to remember the person at their best.

The Downward Spiral of a Target of Bullying

School Girls Bullying Composition

As we all know, bullying has very negative consequences for the victim. Most targets of bullying do not start with low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Instead, they only develop those terrible characteristics over the course of the bullying.

Many times, targets go from being well-mannered, highly confident and good-hearted students who perform well and earn excellent grades, to becoming poor students with shattered self-esteem and bad attitudes who perform poorly. The excellent grades they once received take a nosedive, and before you know it, the straight A’s these kids started out making are now C’s, D’s, or worse! Understand that in children and teens, whose brains are still developing, these life-altering changes can happen in a very short time.

Bullies assert power and control through abusive measures- verbal abuse, such as name-calling, curse-outs and threats, smear campaigns to keep the target isolated and from making any new friends, brutal physical beatings, humiliation, baiting the victim to react and get into trouble with school staff, and much, much more. These tactics are all designed to keep the target down and instill fear into the target, and once the bullies reach these goals, the victim is trapped.

Target On Your Back

So often, bullies bully and harass these poor kids to the point of losing faith and confidence in themselves, and a condition known as Learned Helplessness takes hold. In short, the target gives up and stops trying. In essence, the victim becomes what the bullies want them to be. They become the villain instead of the victim.

Bullies are often popular and have connections in the school and the town. They are mostly academic high-achievers, jocks, cheerleaders, members of clubs and extra-curricular functions, and those who are favored by teachers and school staff. They target those who are different- kids who stand out, who are a threat to their positions in the social hierarchy, who are exceptionally talented (more talented then the bullies are), who are good kids with hearts of gold, and who are physically smaller and weaker.

And because of the popularity of these bullies, the target is least likely to be believed if they report the abuse and receive support. Popularity itself can be a weapon of against the victim and a shield against accountability for the bullies. It can also intimidate and silence targets.

“This person is so popular and well-liked. Who’s going to believe me if I talk about how she beats and torments me every day?”

Bullying damages kids in all areas of life, and we must learn to recognize the signs if we want to save these young people from a life of adversity and eventual suicide. Only then will we be able to help these children get back their confidence, change directions, and lead them back toward more rewarding and happy lives.

Christmas With The Grandmothers

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When I was a child and growing up, we were blessed! When I look back on past Christmases, I think of how my parents, baby brother and I used to travel home for Christmas from wherever Dad, a soldier in the Army, was stationed. We would all gather at Uma’s or Grandmas. Sometimes we would celebrate the holidays at one grandmother’s house and both sides of the family, Mom’s and Dad’s would celebrate! Those were the best!

I always loved those long trips. Although the car ride would be eight, sometimes twelves hours long (give or take), I looked forward to seeing the vast countrysides, mountains and woods as we would travel down the highway in that old red and white Volkswagen van! They were called microbuses but back then, they weren’t so micro. You could fit about a dozen people in those things and with the motor housed in the back in a compartment under a space on which maybe twenty bags of groceries could sit real easily, there was plenty of room between the hatchback and the backside of the second backseat.

Many times we traveled overnight and Mom would make my brother and me a nice, plush bed, complete with two pillows to sleep on in the space over the motor in the back of the van. And on those cold winter nights, that motor underneath us served as a source of heat to keep us warm while we slept. And between the warmth and the steady hum of the motor, my brother and I would get the best sleep ever!

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Christmas was a magical time when we grew up during the 70’s and 80’s and it was partly because we were allowed to be kids and believe in Santa Claus. We were a close-nit family and always gathered together during any holiday- New Years, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But Christmas and New Year’s were the best! Uma and Grandma would have their houses brightly decorated with an abundance of Christmas lights and candles!

I’m blessed to have the beautiful memories of the love and unity my family enjoyed during those times! Because they truly were what Christmas was all about! The love! The laughter! The joy in being together as Christmas classics, such as Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, Burl Ives, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” or Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing on the record player in the background.

Our family would meet at either Grandma’s or Uma’s house on Christmas Eve day. We’d snack on the fruits and veggies from the fruit and veg plates, eat cheese and sausage balls, chocolates, mints, and have a slice of pecan, pumpkin, Chocolate, Lemon or Coconut pie. With it, we’d drink Egg Nog or Boiled Custard. And there were enough soft drinks to go around.

On Christmas Eve night, we would all gather in the living room around the Christmas tree and open presents. Then it was off to bed with me, my brother and cousins. Christmas Eve night was the hardest night of the year for a kid to get to sleep! On Christmas morning, we’d all wake up to a hoard of our favorite toys under the tree- Barbie dolls and baby dolls complete with different outfits for me, Hot Wheels cars and trucks, or Star Wars action figures and vehicles for my brother and my cousins, who were also boys. Even a brand new bike or pair of roller skates!

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But isn’t presents the thing that’s on every kid’s mind? And getting to see Grandma? Now that I’m older, presents aren’t nearly as important to me as they were when I was a kid. In my opinion, society over-commercializes Christmas these days.

When I look back now, I think about the love and the togetherness my family shared during the Christmas holidays! I reminisce of the festivities and good times we all shared together. I recall all of us eating or playing cards and board games together! I reflect on the memories of holiday music playing and my mom and grandmother preparing our holiday meal. I think of excited kids running through the house squealing with delight and with their little eyes lit up like Christmas stars! We made so many magical memories together and they are memories I will carry with me to my grave. This, to me, is the true meaning of Christmas.

This post is dedicated to Dad, Grandma and Uma

Rex White Jr.
(1952-2005)
Frances Bain White Times
(1931-2013)
Mary Lucille Lawrence Queen
(1931-2005)

Being Bullied in School Prompted Me to Learn More about Bullying and the Power Dynamic

Antique books with magnifying glass.

I began researching bullying in the early to mid-nineties. I wanted to know everything there was to know about it- why people bully, what drove bullies to single out only certain people, what bullies look for in victims, how bullying affected different people, and what characteristics determined victimhood.

Instead of being traumatized from it, I wanted to learn from it. During the nineties, I poured through countless library books, magazine articles, news columns, anything relating to the subject of bullying. I read about the different personalities of bullies, bystanders, and victims. I also poured through books and articles about politics, social infrastructures, and the power dynamic.

During the late 90’s and 2000s, I took to my PC and poured through countless online articles and essays on the subject, beginning with Tim Field and bullyonline.org based in the UK. I remember emailing Tim Field with many questions on bullying and he always replied curiously and promptly. I learned so much from Tim Field. I was surprised to find that so many others had suffered bullying as well- celebrities, musicians, writers, doctors, attorneys, teachers, homemakers, people from all walks of life. I am saddened that he is no longer with us. I will be forever grateful to him for sharing his expertise and being the encouragement I needed to learn more on the subject.

In my years of research, I’ve attained a vast wealth of knowledge on bullying- knowledge which has served me well both professionally and socially. In my in-depth study of bullies, I have gained so much insight into the minds and personalities of my former classmates and all bullies. In reading countless testimonies of victims and survivors, I realize that none of it was all in my head and that I wasn’t overreacting or bringing it all on myself as my classmates and a few of my teachers had cruelly forced me to believe.

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Bullying and the tactics used, from whisper campaigns to witch hunts to threats to bodily harm, have gone on since the beginning of time. It’s nothing new. During the years I was bullied in school, I had tried reporting it, tried speaking out only to be ignored, shamed, retaliated against and blamed for it. That is also nothing new.

Because no one would listen, I grabbed a pen and began writing in a daily journal about the daily bullying I suffered at school to keep as a record in case the bullies at school hurt me so bad I’d need hospitalization or worse, murdered me. I even had one of my journals taken from me by a teacher in the eighth grade and never saw it again. Luckily, I kept a backup hidden at home, and I never lost anything.

By the time I switched schools during my senior year, I had filled several journals with countless horror stories of social aggression, psycho/emotional torment, and brutal beatings dished out by my classmates. I kept those journals put away in a storage bin for decades because I knew that one day, I would write a book about my experiences. That book, “From Victim to Victor: A Survivor’s True Story of Her Experiences with School Bullying.” is now published and available.

With knowledge comes power. If you’ve had something terrible happen in your life- something so awful that it deeply affected your life, learn about it instead of agonizing over it. Instead of being angry over something that happened in the past that you can’t do absolutely anything about, learn as much as you can about it and from every angle possible. Then use it to help others who are going through the same, and I guarantee that doing this will bring healing, unlike anything you can imagine!

Nothing heals you like taking any adversity, learning from it, and using it to help others! Try it! You’ll be glad you did!