So last night I had some free time and decided to check out an episode of Ke$ha’s show “My Crazy Beautiful Life.” I love behind-the-scenes looks at tours and pop stars in general. I was obsessed with Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” and even loved the Bieber movie. Don’t judge, okay? But while I enjoyed watching Ke$ha perform and unwind with her family and band, something much more important struck me as I watched. She was doing a meet and greet with fans in Scotland when a young boy came up to her and delivered a book that he had made for her. He started sobbing and collapsed into her arms, explaining that he is tormented at school, doesn’t fit in at all, and is having a difficult time. Ke$ha got choked up too, since she is passionate about anti-bullying efforts and has experienced torment herself.
This kid’s clear heartbreak and devastation made me nearly physically sick. Here was a sweet kid who was being torn apart. He explained that Ke$ha’s music is part of the reason he’s even still here today. This boy isn’t alone either. We all see the news and read about kids killing themselves because they can’t deal with the harassment at school anymore. I switched off the show in the middle of the episode and immediately started Googling ways to help. Then I remembered that I’ve been following a program called The Kind Campaign on Twitter. It’s started by two girls who experienced bullying themselves (one of them is marrying Aaron Paul, so you may have heard about Lauren and seen her amazing hair in magazines). The program tours all over the country, talking about girl-on-girl bullying. There are also Kind Clubs in schools all over that help to spread the message of treating others with respect. Because of what I saw tonight (and my own experience), I’m looking into starting one at my high school. It’s a cause that I think is important and could benefit a lot of people.
Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience with bullying, particularly the online variety. I experienced it in middle school and in high school, both from so-called “friends” and via anonymous posters online. There was an entire website called School Scum where people could anonymously post hateful comments about their classmates. I got my own thread on that site (aren’t I special?) and read comments about how I was ugly, spoiled, and thought I was amazing. I became frantic to find out who wrote these things, and would rack my brain trying to think about who would have said them.
Truthfully, it doesn’t matter who said it or what their reasoning was. Whether it was jealousy or true dislike of me, the comments devastated me. Since there wasn’t much talk about bullying and online harassment at this time, I was completely mortified and ashamed. I assumed I was a freak who wasn’t able to fit in due to faults of my own. I would cry and get terrible stomachaches and worry constantly about how my classmates perceived me. When I answered a question in class, I would listen to see if anyone laughed. I didn’t even talk to anyone about it because I was convinced I was the only one experiencing these issues. Luckily, later in high school I was able to realize that as long as I was doing what I thought was right and had friends who supported me, my online bullies and critics didn’t matter. Unfortunately, online bullying doesn’t end in high school either. It seems that people constantly forget that others have feelings. To be honest, to this day I watch my blog comments, waiting for someone to make the same remarks that were made to me back then. I’m always shocked when people provide praise or kind words. It’s sad, but true.
The bright side of the harassment I experienced in high school was that, because of my first-hand experience, I became a lot more aware of how my own actions impacted other people. There was a girl in my gym class who was overweight, didn’t dress like everyone else, and was virtually ignored by the entire class. I would always partner up with her, even if people would laugh or question why I did it. I’m not saying I should deserve praise or that I’m some human rights activist, but this interaction helped me to realize that even small acts of kindness can make a major difference.
If you get anything from this lengthy rant, just know that the words you say and what you do does count. If you see someone looking lonely, talk to them. If you like someone’s haircut, let them know. Unfortunately, there’s no way for any one person to stop bullying, but people’s seemingly small actions, actions that cost nothing at all, can make a huge difference.