*James was bullied throughout school. Here he writes a letter to his younger self
Dear 13 year old me.
I’m writing this to you on the eve of one of the biggest days of your life to come. Hopefully it will help you through what is going to be a very rough few years. By now it’s already started, the taunting, the insults, the put-downs and the beatings. I wish I could tell you it stops soon, that you won’t be bullied for years to come but sadly, I can’t. However, I can tell you that it does get easier.
I guess honesty is the best policy here, so prepare yourself for what’s to come. The name calling won’t stop and it will get you down. The whole ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme is nonsense. Yes, a kick or a punch leaves a mark and the impact is visible for everyone to see but words hurt just as much – it’s just that internal damage can’t be seen. You’re always going to be conscious about your weight and appearance. You’re always going to hold back from things because of the judgments of others. You’re always going to doubt people’s intentions. You’re going to find it really difficult to see who your real friends are. You’re going to make excuses for so many people who hurt you because they’re “just joking”.
“By now it’s already started, the taunting, the insults, the put-downs and the beatings”
I wish I could say it stops at that, but no, sadly you’re going to take a few punches, and due to a lack of self-confidence, you’re not going to be able to defend yourself. Everyone will tell you to “stand up for yourself” and “to go down swinging” but you will always be fearful that they will just hit 10 times harder. In your mind you just want it to be over fast, so take the beating and leave it at that. You’re going to have negative rumours spread about you which lead to you not being able to leave your house in the holidays for the best part of a year. You’re going to be beat up on your own doorstep for something which you were never involved in. A teacher is going to have to take you home from school because the usual suspects are waiting for you on the stairs just to beat you up for the sake of it. You’re going to be spat on, backed into a corner and forced to surrender.
After school, it sort of eases up, and sort of doesn’t. You find a really good group of mates at college, you get a job, you feel safe and your confidence creeps back. You also start to discover girls. You make a few mistakes along the way but you’re a pretty decent guy overall, sadly people prey on that. University comes with its challenges. Everything that you’ve kept bottled up for so long comes out and you start drinking, using alcohol to mask how you are truly feeling.
“Even now, as a 26 year old, it still affects you. It affects your relationship and your friendships”
Even now, as a 26 year old, it still affects you. It affects your relationship and your friendships. You’re in a good position at the minute. You’ve got a decent job, you’re in a nice 2 bedroom flat with your soon-to-be fiancé, you’ve got a car, and you’ve got more genuine friends than you realise. You should be happy, but you’re not. You find friendships hard to understand. After going through so much abuse, you don’t know who to trust. You don’t know who is joking and you don’t know how to tell people when they go too far. You just feel like you have to take it and move on. You have become really good at bottling things up. You’re still conscious of how you look and overly obsess about your diet to make sure all the work you’ve put into slimming down isn’t defeated. You’re a pretty vain person sometimes, but it’s just overcompensation for a lack of confidence in your own appearance.
One word that will really stick out for you is banter. “Oh it’s just banter, you have to take it!” Do I? Do I really? Why can’t I tell people they’ve crossed a line, they have no idea how much things hurt, and how one wrong word can re-open a door you’re desperately trying to close behind you. Bullying is defined by the individual. It’s not a joke if you make fun behind people’s backs. Banter doesn’t mean it’s ok to single people out. You’re only a friend if you know where the line is, and have the decency to apologise if you cross it. People should never assume that everything is OK. Sometimes people put on a brave face but inside they hurt. Even now you psychoanalyse every negative decision or every joke someone makes at your expense. It may not always be to hurt you or leave you out, but you will always question it, and sometimes it drives you mad. You don’t really know who you can trust yet you try hard to be friends with everyone.
“Sometimes people put on a brave face but inside they hurt”
It’s not all doom and gloom I promise you. You will get through high school in one piece and will come out with some excellent GCSE results. You’ll feel immensely proud that you never gave into the people that bullied you and moved schools like your mum tries to get you to do on so many occasions. You never wanted them to win and your courage means they never will. You’ll get top marks in your class at college, and after 2 years of working in retail, you’ll go to university and really discover yourself. You’ll have 3 of the best years of your life. There will be plenty of ups and probably the lowest days of your life, but you will come out a new person and ready to face the world. Whilst at Uni, you’ll discover 5 people and these will be the only 5 people you really trust and consider your best friends. You have other people around you who are friends, but you’re never really sure where you stand with them. Those 5 people are the ones who keep you going, who know you inside out and are the ones who you can really depend on. One of them will become the girl you now live with. She’s the only girl you will meet who makes you feel confident in every sense.
“You need to understand that it’s ok to keep being who you are”
So what’s the point of this then? Why am I telling you how bad it’s going to get. Well you need to understand that it’s ok to keep being who you are, because you’re not a bad person. There’s a difference between the people who insult and hurt you and the people who joke about with you, and slowly you learn to understand the difference. You’ll never truly be able to separate the two, but you will get to a stage where you can deal with it. Also, you need to know that you don’t need to change for anyone. There are people who you will meet who simply won’t like you, and that’s ok. We’re not designed as people to like everyone. It’s ok to disagree, to have different interest, outlooks and opinions. What makes you stand out is that you don’t judge others for this the way some people judge you.
The one piece of advice I want to pass onto you is this, do not let your mind take over. Sadly your tendency to overthink everything never disappears. It’s a side effect of the bullying you experience. What you need to learn to do is look past this. Not everyone you meet is a bad person, not everyone you meet is out to get you, not everyone you meet wants you to suffer. There are people you will meet who you can call a friend. There are people who understand your past, believe in your future, and accept the way you are today. This is the meaning of friendship. You’re going to go to some pretty dark places in the next few years and your mind will tell you that you need to escape, but you’re going to pull through. You’re going to be ok.
“What makes you stand out is that you don’t judge others for this the way some people judge you”
It’s horrible to know you’re going to go through all this, and it’s equally as horrible to experience it. No one should have to be singled out and humiliated. There are some cruel people out there, but you’re not one of them. Just remember people that bully have a need to control other people because something in their own life isn’t in control. You really are one of the good guys.
If you are being bullied or are the one doing the bullying and want to stop, please contact us here. Ditch the Label can help you.