Bullying… a loaded term we are asked to use lightly as it often comes with heavy consequences, especially when in the school setting. I don’t remember hearing the word much while I was in school, but bullying happened every day, we just didn’t label it for what it was. My high school bullying story comes in the form of body shaming, name calling, and the destruction of my personal property. I don’t want to be defined for my bullying experience in high school, but it shaped the woman I am today.
I’ve been watching a show called Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix that’s awakened an uncomfortable beast I’ve let sleep for years. I’m halfway through Season 2 and reflecting on all of the defining moments of my high school and college years. The way I felt pressured to dress a certain way, to drink alcohol, to do drugs, to hang out with a boy I didn’t even like, to hide feelings for a boy I did like – it was all impacted by my friends’ opinions and those of the people we associated with. Most of my insecurities as a female have actually stemmed from the way I was treated in high school and high school bullying is to blame.
My mailbox was smashed countless times as retaliation for breaking up with a boy I didn’t like and wanting to date his friend. The group of guys that both boys hung out with tormented me. They made me feel insecure and ugly and worthless. One of my nicknames was “Wideload” because I had womanly hips before the rest of my friends. Who would have thought that a girl would be mocked for looking like a woman? It happened though, and while the boys laughed, I giggled too, because I wanted them to think I was cool enough to handle their teasing.
Body Image Issues
I remember vividly how I started obsessing over my body once these so-called ‘boy friends’ pointed out my hips. I also began noticing the girls around me, those who had boyfriends and were called “pretty.” Their straight hips, thigh gap, and straight hair were all I wanted in life. Then one day, one of my so-called friends pointed out cellulite dimples on my thighs while my legs were crossed. I hated my body even more.
Over the years I’ve struggled with self image issues – from my curly hair to the size of my butt to my flat chest, I’ve never been completely comfortable with how God made me. Were it not for the kids in high school conditioning the way that I think and paving the way for what a pretty girl looks like, maybe I would’ve been more confident in myself. What is considered as bullying in high school varies, but to me – anything that makes someone feel less than is bullying.
The intimidating stares, under-the-breath comments, rude remarks… kids both older and younger than me had more to say about how I looked and what I wore than they should. The truth is, I didn’t have it that bad. The bullying I’m describing to you probably doesn’t hold a candle to what others experienced in my high school. Eventually, the name calling ended when the boys graduated, so most of the rumors and teasing went with them. That’s not to say that I never experienced feelings of inadequacy again. College was a whole other story.
I Only Took Photos of My Friends
I look back on photos of myself and see an awkward girl insecure with her body and looks. My high school albums are mostly filled with my friends because I thought they were beautiful and perfect and hated how I looked. I cringe at the thought that I couldn’t see how incredibly amazing I truly was and I blame high school bullying for blinding me. Outsiders may say I looked like the perfect girl – I was pretty, popular, and graduated at the top of my class. Things always look different to an outsider though… and you can never see how someone is feeling on the inside (which is where it counts).
As a Mother of two girls, I constantly fear they will feel like I did as a teenager someday. Some boy in high school is going to crush their self image and I’m going to want to call his Mom and tell her how he’s ruined my daughter. I know I can’t protect them from the cruel people in this world, but I can prepare them for these bullies. I can encourage them to stand up for their friends, to only uplift each other instead of tear one another down. I can teach them to be confident in their intelligence, in their wit, and that beauty is not what life is all about.