You Should Always Address Bullying in The Early Stages. Here’s Why:

My grandmother once told me this: “Never. And I mean never let anyone get comfortable with abusing and mistreating you.”

She was right. By the time she gave me that little gold nugget of wisdom, it was already too late. I was in high school and had been a target of bullying since moving to *Oakley School District in the sixth grade. But right then, I understood what my very wise grandmother meant and why she gave me that advice.

Here’s what Uma (what I called my maternal grandmother) had already known by being a people-watcher and very good at people-reading:

Once the mistreatment of a person has gone on for so long, the people around them get comfortable with mistreating that person. They grow so accustomed to being cruel to the person that they don’t even think about, nor do they care about how they hurt that person. Even worse, they come to expect the target the take the abuse without question, without talking back, speaking about it, and without defending themselves.

Put another way, if a target firmly stands up to bad treatment in the early stages of being targeted, it’s more likely that others will respect his right to be treated well and either leave him alone or began treating him better.

Whereas, if the target lets the bullying go on for a long time, then begins to stand up for himself after getting fed up with being everyone’s doormat, others will more than likely be only angry and resentful of the person for daring to open his mouth about it. They will then double down in their abuse or eliminate him somehow.

Once a person gets comfortable in mistreating you, it’s much more difficult to fight. Therefore, always speak out the moment the bullying begins. Never let it go on for any length of time. The sooner you do, the easier it will be to assert your rights and avoid retaliation.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

5 Myths About Bullying We Need to Be Aware of

Myths are often mistaken for fact and obscure people’s judgment. They can also blind us to bullying behavior, even when it’s happening right in front of our faces. Myths can even make it hard for a person to know when someone is abusing them.

Here are a few myths to be aware of:

Myth 1. Targets are weak losers who deserve bullying. People suffering at the hands of bullies are not weak, nor are they losers. In the past decade or so, we have found that bullies target mostly those who are good people with hearts of gold. Bullies are evil people who perceive goodness, kindness, and generosity as weaknesses. Therefore, they target people who have these qualities.

Also, bullies go after those who are multi-talented and star achievers and performers. Understand that bullies perceive these people to be a threat to their power. Why? Because one-upmanship is a way that bullies can feel powerful.

When high-achieving targets outshine bullies, especially bullies who are narcissists, they unwittingly provoke jealousy and narcissistic rage in the bullies, and they will pull out all the stops to make them pay and set them up to fail. If nothing else, understand this! Bullies hate to be outshone, outdone, or beaten at anything!

Nobody deserves bullying. Ever! Bullying is harmful and can destroy someone’s life.

Myth 2. Bullies are brave, strong, cool, exciting, and in control. Ha! Bullies are the opposite of these things. Let me break it down for you:

Bullies are brave. Nope! Bullies are great, big cowards! They’re only good at hiding it. Bullies live by the motto that strength comes in numbers, so they run around in packs- hiding their cowardice behind groups of sycophants or flying monkeys.

You will never catch a bully alone because a bully doesn’t know how to stand alone. The followers of the bullies are there to back them up and do their dirty work. Bullies get their power from an entourage. Without their wing-men to cover them, they would be powerless.

Bullies are strong. ‘Taint so! Bullies are weak, they only high it by aggression, loudness, and false bravado. They instill unnecessary fear into their targets. Understand that bullies draw their power from the fear they instill in others. Bullies are notorious bluffs, blowhards, and windbags. The tough act they put on is a way they hide their weakness.

Bullies are cool. Au contraire! Bullies are pathetic. They bluff, they posture, and they’re notorious one-uppers. They always have to be king of the hill and better than anyone else. All of this is a sign of insecurity and self-loathing. Because if they were secure in themselves, they wouldn’t resort to that buffoonery.

 Bullies are exciting. They may seem exciting at first, but they get boring pretty quick. Because they’ll talk incessantly about themselves, brag, and showboat until you’ll want to chew off your own arm just to get away from them. Also, they won’t be so exciting when they turn on you.

 Bullies are in control: Really? Is that what you want to call it? Um…not! Bullies can’t even control themselves and their own pathetic lives. So, they seek to control others in order to feel powerful. And in doing that, they not only create targets, but they also create enemies who hate them with a passion.

If you’re a bully, you may only control someone to a certain degree by putting the fear of God in them, but you’ll never control what they think of you and how they feel about you. Because the mind and thoughts are free. And if you run across a person who has a strong sense of self and doesn’t fall for your guff, what are you going to do then?

Myth 3. “Bullying is a normal rite of passage that all kids endure.” Not so. There’s nothing normal about bullying. It’s perverse, twisted, and sick. Bullying only speaks volumes of the mental imbalance and lack of character of the bully and is never a reflection of the target. Bullying is always a reflection of the bully’s arrogance, cowardice, insecurity, jealousy, and hidden rage. And the more we learn about the issue of bullying, the more evidence we seem to get that supports this.

Myth 4. Bullying builds character. No, it doesn’t. It tears it down or suppresses it, rendering targets afraid to relax, be themselves, and feel safe.

Myth 5. Bullying is only Darwinism, Natural Selection, or Survival of the Fittest. It may be a dark part of human nature, but a reason doesn’t equal an excuse. Bullies and their enablers often use this little line as an excuse to normalize their despicable and pathetic behavior.

It’s important to dispel and not to fall for these myths. Never blame yourself for other people’s crappy behavior. Hold on to your truth. And if anyone rattles off any of the above lines to you when you speak out against bullying, counter them and do it with conviction.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

Personal Story of How I Turned One of My Fiercest of Bullies into The Greatest of Friends

Shelly (not her real name) had been one of my most vicious of bullies during school. Every time we passed one another in the halls, at a ballgame, anywhere and we would not hesitate to exchange nasty sentiments as we passed, “Bitch!”, “Whore!” “Skank!”. Thinking up ways to degrade and slut-shame each other was always a top priority during these little meetings.

Fast-forward twenty years, in late 2007, I went to a karaoke show, which was held in the Moose Lodge club on the outskirts of town to celebrate my recently having the courage to break off what had been a 2 1/2 year-long abusive relationship. I hadn’t known my own strength until this point, and I was ready for a fun girl’s night out.

When I arrived at the Moose Lodge with a few friends in tow, the first word I heard was, “Oh my God! Not that bitch!” Honestly, I thought the verbal assault was directed at someone else until I looked up and saw her. There Shelly stood, pool cue in one hand, the other hand resting on her boyfriend’s back as her eyes and brows narrowed into little slits in her face and bore into me like a sharp object.

I had not seen her in so many years and wondered how it was that she’d managed to drag around so much hate for so many years when I had completely forgotten about her amid juggling bills, a job and family, and other adult priorities. But I also discovered that maybe I too had some unresolved hate as well only it was a case of out of sight, out of mind.

I’d soon learn that that night, Shelly was going through the lowest point in her life. Life hadn’t been kind to her.

It seemed that on her part, even twenty years, marriages and children hadn’t been enough to erase the teenage animosity she still held. We lived in a small Southern town, and in small Southern towns, very few people ever forget the past, and it’s very easy for the reputation you once had in your teens to follow you for the rest of your life. Sadly, this is how it is in a small town.

Having always loved music and had vocal talent, I got up and sang one of my favorite songs, and everyone cheered once I was finished. After I sat down, Shelly sat down beside me and was very impressed with my performance. She told me that she admired my voice and that she’d always known I could sing but didn’t know I was that good. At first, I was flabbergasted. This was the first positive remark I’d heard from her, but nevertheless, I was grateful.

I smiled and gave her a gracious “Thank you. It’s good to see you again after all these years.”

We continued to talk, and she took some pictures out of her purse to show me. Pictures of what was her talent- woodwork and paintings, the most beautiful work I’d ever seen. This lady was very talented, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t deny it. I truly loved her work and could not stop looking at those pictures and complimenting her. She truly was an expert at woodworking and oil painting.

It was at that point that the dynamics of our relationship changed for the better. We exchanged phone numbers and soon began calling each other and texting cute little funnies back and forth. Then we began to invite each other to family outings, cookouts, and meetings in town for lunch.

We soon became the greatest of friends, and I grew to truly love this lady. We often talked about how we missed out on what could have been a wonderful friendship years ago.

“Boy! We were stupid back then, weren’t we?” Shelly laughed.

I laughed and readily agreed. She was right. We were dumb kids with big mouths and bad attitudes.

Knowing the past couldn’t be changed, we were content to go from the present and make our friendship as fun and drama-free as possible.

This story’s moral is this: It is always possible to turn a bully or enemy into a friend. Nothing is impossible. All it takes is to break down that wall and show the other person genuine interest. Everybody loves it when you are interested in them, their likes, and how things are going in their lives—even the coldest and meanest of people.

As humans, we all have a certain degree of selfishness. We all want the same things- to be loved, appreciated, and respected. Everybody has a void waiting to be filled. If we can fill the void- whether it’s by making the person feel loved and respected or giving the person some sense of who they are and where they belong, it can be the difference between gaining a friend or keeping an enemy.

Through our many talks, I found out that this poor lady I thought was so cruel yet totally in control and didn’t need anyone was really a girl who didn’t feel loved by anyone. She was just as sad as I was but had put on a tough exterior. Also, she had suffered incidences of bullying herself; though not as severe as I did, it still hurt her immensely.

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Sadly, my beautiful friend Shelly passed away two years ago from cancer. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and think of her. I’ll never forget that night at the karaoke club, the night Shelly and I became close friends. And we remained like sisters until the day she died.

By showing her genuine interest, without fakery, I was able to turn one of my most resistant bullies into one of my best friends. And I’m so thankful that we became like sisters and finally found out that the other was really a great person who had been hiding a lot of past hurts and brokenness! I thoroughly enjoyed the time we got to spend together and I miss her…I miss her so much.

Fly high, Shelly! Until we meet again on those golden streets!

Passive-Aggressive Bullies and Their Cowardice

Being bullied by someone who’s passive-aggressive is the most demeaning and humiliating for a person. I say this because when these types of people insult you, they’re slick about it.

They catch you off guard, taunting you in such a way that it can be tricky to figure out who it’s aimed at. Sometimes, you don’t even know it’s directed at you until it’s way too late for you to deliver a good comeback.

Because the bully may not necessarily address it to you, and while you may be unaware, any bystanders and witnesses nearby will immediately know who the covert nastiness was meant for. It’s funny how we tend to see so much clearer from the outside.

What’s so terrible about this is that the stealthy insults are usually hurled at you in front of an audience and can quickly fly over your head. And you end up looking weak and like a clueless idiot for not catching it in time.

And even though the bully’s words are vague and unclear, they will still nibble at your self-esteem and take a chunk out of your pride whether you want them to or not. Because you usually figure it out sooner or later. It only goes to prove how vicious these covert attacks can be.

But understand that although the bully and a few others might think he (the bully) is witty or cute and that the creep slapped you with a good burn, there are reasons why these types are so slick with the mouth.

1. They’re great big cowards. Passive-aggressive bullies don’t have the guts to make a direct attack.

They hope the insults go over your head because they know that if they can confuse you and throw you off-balance, the least likely you are to jab back with a good counter-attack and make them look like a punk.

2. They think it makes them look cute. Passive-aggressiveness is also used to get attention and look intelligent in front of others. These bullies can only achieve this is to humiliate someone else and making them look (and feel) stupid.

3. To stun you and keep you silent. Often, the shock-value of the insults is such that it often leaves the recipient and bystanders speechless. Shock shuts down the ability to think clearly and causes the victim to pause for a second or two.

The target is often left stunned, standing there with their mouths hung open and unable to respond quickly and appropriately. As a result, the person looks slow and feeble-minded in bystanders’ eyes and makes the bully look smart and witty.

It can also strike fear into the target and keep them from speaking out, afraid that the bully will only verbally beat them down with more wisecracks.

4. Easy Deniability. If the insults are vague and indirect, there’s a higher chance the bully will escape accountability, should the target either catch it right off and either respond to it or report it.

The bully can then more easily misconstrue the message and defensively claim, “Oh, that’s not what I meant,” “No harm intended,” “I wasn’t referring to you,” or “You took that the wrong way.”

Understand that although the garbage that comes out of their mouths may be vile and directed at you, it will often have several different interpretations. And because of those multiple meanings, the bully can very innocently explain away the put-down and make you look overly-sensitive, paranoid, or mentally unstable.

But here’s the good news! There are ways to read between the lines and stonewall these lowlife cowards anytime they get slick-mouthed with you.

1. Listen to your gut. If that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach sounds off and you feel weird or that something is off, don’t ignore it. Your gut feeling is always right, so go with it!

2. Quickly observe any surrounding bystanders. Make a split-second micro-glance of the witnesses and note their reactions and who they’re looking at. Notice their facial expressions and gestures. If you see any of these expressions below, and you’re likely to notice many of them together, you are the target of the insult.

a. If the witnesses’ eyes suddenly widen and they immediately look at you funny after the bully opens his mouth

b. If they alternate uncomfortable glances from the bully to you, then back to the bully.

c. If you hear light gasps and grunts of shock from the “audience.”

d. If you see their whole faces change suddenly and mouths slightly gape open.

e. If you hear soft but derisive giggles, chuckles, or laughter

f. If you see or hear snickering

Any number of these will give you a yes, and you can address the problem accordingly.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

The Difference Between Curiosity and Nosiness

Antique books with magnifying glass. Old leather bound vintage books in a row

Just last month, my husband and I discussed how people often confuse curiosity for nosiness and we both agreed that the two were different after I told him what I’m about to tell you. And this convo had already given me an idea for a future blog post but I soon forgot about it amid doctors’ appointments, household duties, yard work, and working on several projects and unpublished books.

Then, a fellow blogger and wonderful friend, Kym Gordon Moore, posted about the difference between the two on her own blog. You can find her lovely and insightful post here.

So, what is the difference between curiosity and nosiness?

Simple. Curiosity doesn’t violate anyone’s boundaries, nosiness does (this was my response during the above-mentioned conversation with my husband and I didn’t have to elaborate on it because my husband instantly knew what I was saying.).

In other words, or in the words of Kym Gordon Moore, “Being nosy is prying into other people’s business, meddling, being intrusive, and snooping, oftentimes gossiping about what they find out,”

“…curiosity is more of a desire to learn something new that enhances one’s intellect and not about poking your nose in other people’s business for annoying reasons.”

Her statements were spot on, and I couldn’t agree more!

A nosy person will pry into your personal and private business, trying to get some dirt on you, so they could later spread it to everyone who will listen and ultimately, make you look like a scandalous person. A nosy person will snoop through your mail, your computer- heck! If they can get access to all your social media passwords, don’t think they won’t go there too.

Understand that bullies are such people, and they will be the nosiest of the nosy. Why? Because they’re always and forever on the hunt for anything incriminating and damaging, they can weaponize against you.

Nosiness is invasive. If someone asks you a personal question and you choose not to answer, a nosy person will accuse you of “having something to hide.”

Sadly, this is how bullies trip their targets up and force them to answer. Bullies will use the “having something to hide” line to coerce their targets into giving up the deets even when the target knows that it’s better to keep it private!

When bullies make this accusation, many targets will mistakenly cave in, go against their better judgement, and answer the bullies’ questions, just to prove that they don’t have anything to hide. This is where targets get themselves into trouble.

If you ever find yourself in this predicament, I want you to understand that your refusal to answer isn’t about having anything to hide, it’s about some things just not being anyone else’s business. Realize that you have just as much right to privacy as the next person.

Another thing I want to mention is that bullies will also accuse you of being nosy when you’re clearly trying to learn something new. This has happened to me and, being a young teenager, I fell for the lie and let it have a negative impact on my learning.

Close up of examining of test sample of microchip transistor under the microscope in laboratory.

That’s why it’s so important to learn the difference between curiosity and nosiness. Because, when you know this difference, you’ll know when someone is being nosy and intruding into your private business and you’ll be able to counter them with confidence. Also, you’ll be able to confidently defend yourself any time some snake accuses you of being nosy when you’re only trying to learn and educate yourself.

So, in closing, I’ll again give you the short and easily digestible explanations of curiosity and nosiness.

Curiosity- a desire to learn something new that enhances one’s intellect and broaden one’s education. It includes reading, researching, studying, observing, and listening for information that can make you more intelligent and help you grow. Curiosity is non-invasive and non-intrusive. It does not seek to violate personal boundaries or to cause harm.

Nosiness- prying in other people’s personal business. It includes meddling, snooping, asking personal questions, and eavesdropping on other people. Nosiness is invasive and intrusive. It seeks to violate another’s personal boundaries and to cause harm to them.

Learn these differences by heart and you will be better able to counter bullies in any of the above-mentioned scenarios.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

Bullies with Napoleon Complexes

Many bullies in school were insecure because they were short, skinny, or both. To compensate for it, they would try to intimidate others by walking around with a scowl on their faces, or they’d scream, yell, and talk real tough. I had one particular classmate, Tammy, who was a weak little pipsqueak with a big, strong, mighty mouth. It’s hilarious when I look back now.

But I’ve found that many of these squirts do this, and there’s a name for it. It’s called either the “Napoleon Complex” or “little man syndrome.”

Think “Maddy Webber” on the new MacGyver reboot.

Understand that their bark is worse than their bite, and they bully as a defense mechanism. Maybe the little ankle-biters at my school gave me a hard time because bigger kids were bullying them. But they would never admit it. So, they took the coward’s way out and searched for someone they thought was weaker.

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They’d come at you with their spitfire tempers and want to try you, then wonder why they got a good whack in the nose. Next, they’d either run, crying to a teacher, or they’d go bark up someone else’s tree.

I was small myself, weighing about 115-120 lbs and only 5’3″-5’4″, but some of these kids were even smaller than I was. Such kids are in every school, and you even have tiny adults who behave the same way at work.

We even had a few short and skinny teachers, and they’d scream and yell at the students when they’d get too noisy. I knew of one male English teacher who’d go nuts- slamming his fists down on his desk, shaking his fists in the air, throwing erasers at students, and screaming like a banshee. We just knew this little guy was a future resident at the state mental hospital.

Even as an adult, I’ve seen different people (especially men) at work who were short and squirrely but would bark loudly, and I couldn’t help but think that these men only felt they had to compensate somehow for their stature. Their screaming, cursing, posturing, and jockeying seemed to give them some sense of power.

I’m not posting this to make fun of little people. Not all of them are like this. As I mentioned earlier, I’m only 5’4″.

We all come in different sizes and varieties, and we should celebrate those differences. But when you feel you have to bully others to make up for what you perceive in yourself to be a weakness or shortcoming, you only show what a scared little coward you are, and people like me see right through you and only laugh.

Try a little kindness instead. Then when a bigger bully comes for you, we just might come to your defense instead of laughing at you.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

It’s Always Better to Keep Your Plans Secret!

This is for everyone, but especially if you’re a target of bullying. Many people trumpet their goals and dreams. They announce their plans without realizing what ramifications it can bring. And, if you’re a target of bullying, all the more reason why you should keep your plans, goals, and dreams to yourself. Because you have more of a reason to work quietly.

Understand that any time you let your objectives and agendas be known, you place yourself at risk of being sabotaged and of having your plans derailed by a bully who is just waiting, with bated breath, to destroy you.

You must realize that not everyone wants you to succeed. Why? Because your success would force them to reflect on their own person failures and shortcomings. And, if you’re a target of bullying, your bullies will be damned before they allow someone they see as inferior- you-  to reach success and overshadow them.

Bullies consider any success you enjoy as a personal affront. Any time you achieve a goal, you score a win, and when you score a win, you force your bullies into a place of lesser power.

Why, because it’s you who gets the recognition, praise, and glory- not your bullies and they know it! You force them into the shadows while you get to shine and be recognized for your accomplishments. This infuriates your bullies because they aren’t the ones in the spotlight!

Understand that the one thing bullies crave most is attention and adoration and when they find that you’re getting more of those things than they are, it’s Katie bar the door!

Naturally, they will launch all sorts of attacks against you, make all sorts of accusations, even bring up the mistakes of your past to drive you back in the shade. But see through it and stay above it. They only do it because their power has been threatened and when a bully is threatened with losing their power and being driven into obscurity, they reveal their true colors.

Therefore, you force them to expose themselves and their evil personalities. So, how do you handle this?

You handle it by simply staying above it- by not reacting to the bullies’ foolishness. You deal with their abuse by continuing to enjoy your wins and successes and letting them stew in their own juices. Put simpler, just let them talk. Let them launch all the personal attacks they desire as they seethe themselves into a ball of madness!

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Because when they act out and spew nonsense against you, they only dig their own graves.

But, again, in the meantime, work quietly and stealthily until you reach your goals and successes. The more quietly you work, the less interference you’ll have from bullies and a few other toxic life-suckers and the less roadblocks you will run into along the way. And once you reach your goals, then you can bask in it, and with it, give your bullies the surprise of their lives.

“Your journey is silent, but your destination will be loud.”

With knowledge comes empowerment!

Empowerment!

Now, I know what I want

They can go ahead and taunt

I know who I am

I see through their sham

No one can define me

They belong behind me

I love me just the way I am

Their facade is just a scam

I don’t need their approval

Their words are only drivel

I’m just as good without it

And I’ll never again doubt it

The only approval I need

The only words I heed

Are God’s and my own

They can all go just go home

I’m not angry nor offended

Bullies aren’t getting the results they intended

To be mad and offended by their petty chatter

Would mean that their opinions would have to matter

I’m no longer held captive

Bullies aren’t so attractive

Their hasty judgements are only projections

Of their own diseases and afflictions

The key to freedom was always in my hand

So I drew a line in the sand

The day I turned that key

Was the beginning of freedom for me

Targets Never Become Targets Overnight

Be very careful. Any time bullies select a potential target, they start out subtle and sweet with their bullying. They test the waters first- always. If the target overlooks their behavior, they move on to more obvious verbal abuse.

Here’s what verbal abuse does. It conditions the target to put up with abuse without them even knowing it. And bullies do it in tiny bites.

The target is unaware of the incremental, bit-by-tiny-bit eroding of their self-esteem. Because the process is so slow, it’s barely noticeable until it’s gone so far that it’s out of control. And by then, it’s too late.

Before long, the target is then blamed for the bullies’ bad behavior and is now a victim. Understand that the motto of bullies is, “might makes right.”

The best way to empower yourself is by paying attention to the vibes others put out,  how you feel, maintaining a sense of your own worth, and by seeing verbal bullying for what it is.

I learned about Power Over and Personal Power when I read the book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” by Patricia Evans about ten years ago.

In short, power over is what abusers use to lord over their targets and bullies are no exception here. And most bullies are desperate to keep that power because it’s the only power they can have. If there’s no target to have power over, one is created.

In her book, Patricia describes power over as the type of power that has clear winners and losers.

“Power over shows up as control and dominance. Personal power shows up as mutuality and co-creation.” (2010, Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” p. 27)

Here’s Patricia’s explanation of personal power:

“Personal power is another way of experiencing power, one which doesn’t need winners and losers., dominant people and subordinates, and which doesn’t require power over an ‘other.’ Personal power works by mutuality and co-creation and may be considered a new way of being in and perceiving the world.” (2010, Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” p. 29 para 4)

Understand that bullying is bullying whether it comes in the form of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, workplace and school abuse, or abuse of power and government tyranny. It all comes from the desire to have power over. It’s all abuse, it’s all bullying and every type of it starts out subtle- so subtle that you won’t even recognize what’s happening if you aren’t paying attention.

When we learn to recognize the subtleties, we will better be able to protect ourselves. And how we recognize subtleties is by observing and listening. We must observe body language, listen for the subtext, listen to our gut instinct, and pay close attention to how the actions of others make us feel.

And once we do, we’ll be better able to call out the behavior and spare our self-esteem from being slowly chipped away. In that, we’ll be better able to hold on to our personal power and live happier and more peaceful lives.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

How I Compensated for Being a Target of Bullying

So many targets today can easily relate to my story. With that said, I want to tell you that if you are or have been a target of school bullies, you are not alone and, with a little inner work, you will eventually overcome your tormentors just like I did.

I was one of those targets who rebelled against the bullies and fought back. To keep my self-esteem from completely tanking, I dressed my absolute best, but still it was not good enough for me. I wanted to dress like a million bucks for school. Clothes from Walmart weren’t good enough. I had to go to the mall, Cato, Tempo, Maurice’s, or Hollywood’s before I was satisfied. I wasn’t happy unless I was dressed to the nines at school.

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I felt I had to be well dressed because I was still quite a bit insecure inside. I didn’t feel like I was worth anything unless I was dressed to impress. One of the thoughts which consumed me all during high school was how to dress like a fashionista.

It had a lot to do with how poorly I was being treated and I continued to believe that the better I dressed, the better I would be treated although, the exact opposite would occur. It seemed that my attire was arousing even further hatred and contempt.

Nevertheless, I absolutely had to be dressed in the hottest fashions or I just didn’t feel adequate. The more they put me down, the more I would dress up. I felt that my attire provided me with not only a sense of style but also control.

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Some mornings, I’d dress up, look at myself in the mirror and think,

“So they think I am trash? They must be blind. Does this look like trash? I think not! I know I’m hot and they are not going to convince me otherwise!”

Does this sound arrogant? Conceited? Maybe. Does this sound downright narcissistic? Perhaps. Was it the right attitude to have? Both yes and no. My defense was to act conceited, like I didn’t need any of them.

This holier-than-thou attitude, however unattractive it might have been, helped me preserve what little self-esteem and dignity I had. It helped me to keep going when things were at their worst. It helped me to keep from being totally brainwashed and reprogrammed by my evil classmates, unlike a good majority of other bullied targets, who, sadly, weren’t that fortunate!

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I walked around with my nose in the air and refused to speak to any of them. I had a sassy and smart alicky attitude. I was extremely sarcastic and had a snotty disposition. I even laughed at and bullied others to grab back some power. My attitude stunk – period.

Sure. This attitude could’ve easily gotten me hurt or worse had my bullies known for certain about it. A lot of those girls carried knives, especially those who were from families of criminals and ex-cons, families who were dirt poor or just plain loco. Sadly, that was over half of the student body.

I have no doubt that they would not have thought twice about whipping a blade out and slicing my face with it if they could have gotten me in the right place and I would have had to wear it for life.

However, this arrogance I often displayed was the only way I knew to stay strong and to maintain a little bit of power. I was only a teenager and had not yet fully developed the concrete thinking skills nor the processing ability to handle my situation more objectively. Back then, I was a slave to my emotions and I let them guide me in how I handled people and situations.

Also, I was under a tremendous amount of stress and had been for the last three years. And when anyone, even the most logical and rational person is under a large amount of stress that lasts over a long period of time; memory, emotional regulation, and ability to maintain positive relationships are negatively affected. Therefore, neurologically, I had two strikes against me- a double-whammy.

From the sixth grade, up until I left Oakley, I was constantly in survival mode due to being bullied and had to be in order to protect my personal well-being. To even make it to graduation, I had to be hyper-vigilant to be safe. You must understand that when you are a target of vicious bullies, it is as if you constantly have a target on your back. You are a marked person and you learn very quickly to grow eyes in the back of your head.

And it’s no way to live. Please feel free to comment on your experiences and what you did to cope.