Oct 5, 2011

Bullying and Prejudice

I've made no secret of my dislike for prejudice. I've previously blogged about gender double standards in particular. Today I'd like to talk a bit more about bullying and similar forms of abuse.

Like a lot of kids, I suffered from bullying throughout my time in school. Some of it was brought on by others taking issue with decisions that made me stand out from the crowd; I had long hair, didn't wear the same clothes as other children, didn't like the same music, and was generally quite withdrawn. Some of it was just because the people in question wanted someone to target and would pick on anything from the way I walked to the way I spoke - I just happened to be an available target. Some of it was worse. Some of it was an attempt to let me into a particular circle and let it appear as thought I was welcome when in fact I wasn't and wouldn't realise what was actually going on for a long time.

I had my share of emotional, verbal and physical abuse in school. I've had my sexuality taken into question in the most vulgar ways. I've been threatened and physically attacked. I've listened to my spiritual beliefs be ridiculed. I hardened myself to it. Told myself everything would be better once I was done with school. What I wasn't prepared for was for that abuse to continue in college. It was by no means as frequent and, unlike school, it never resulted in violence. However when the people responsible are older, I believe there's a higher level of intentional cruelty present. The thing about it, in this case, was that I hung around it far longer than I should have because the people responsible were popular members of the college drama society.

I love theatre. I grew up around theatre and music and was part of a youth drama group during my teens. I was never able to be part of any of the cliques, though, and this inability followed me to college. The college drama society had some pretty bad ones while I was there. I let some of them treat me badly, never standing up for myself because I was so afraid of not being part of the in-crowd, when in truth I was never a part of it.

The last mistreatment I allowed was when some of the in-crowd sat in the front row of a one-act play I had written, while it was being performed, and laughed at it. It wasn't the best thing I'd ever written and it could have used some more rehearsal time, but there was no call for that. One of them did come to me to apologise after the last performance. I told her I didn't appreciate their behaviour. It was the last time I spoke to them. Thereafter I associated less and less with the drama society, spending more time with the games society, which became my second home. That was where I started to find myself, with the help of my friends.

Looking back, I know that those people made the drama society a cruel, toxic place. I should have left long before I did, but I was afraid. I'm not afraid anymore.

If anyone is reading this who has found themselves trying to please others while suffering their behaviour, staying for fear of what might happen if you're not accepted into their world, don't be afraid. You wouldn't want to be one of them even if they wanted you. You're better than that. Bullies never change. They're all made strong by people who suck up to them and people who fear them. You don't have to fear them. You can just walk away and find something better, because you are amazing, even if you don't realise it, and the right people will love you for just being you. Once you turn your back on those kinds of people, you'll be surprised who you find waiting to accept you.


  1. Excellent post... I suffered for many years with bullies it was only when I was in my twenties that I realised you don't have to stand for it.
    You will find your own rhythm and group that will accept you regardless of gender, age, appearance or sexuality.

    "You can just walk away and find something better, because you are amazing, even if you don't realise it"

    This is now up there with one of my Favourite quotes.


  2. This is an extremely moving blog post. I'll never understand what makes one human behave so badly towards another. Your advice is sound. Walk away. The hard part though is facing the loneliness. It's not always easy to walk away from familiarity and stand on your own. So glad that it worked out for you.

  3. Great post, Paul. I've gone through similar bullying at two different jobs, strange as that sounds. I know I should stand up for myself, but you're right; I'm scared.

    Everyday I tell myself its the day I won't take anymore. I suppose I'll have my moment, similar to when you decided enough was enough.

  4. Gemma: I was about the same, and it still left me with some issues to get over. But making that first choice to turn away from those people is the hardest part. If you can get through that, you can get through anything.

    Rosalind: Standing alone can be so hard. It's important though. Odds are you're never as alone as you think.

    Olene: Office bullying is pretty horrible, too. It can even be worse than school bullying, on an emotional level, because it's so seldom acknowledged. You have the strength in you, and you deserve better than to be treated poorly by others.

  5. Great honest, heartfelt post, Paul.
    Mostly bullies are afraid of someone who is different because beneath it all they are cowards themselves. Your obvious talents as a writer made you different. Walking away was, and always wil be, the answer. While I've thankfully left bullying behind me, my kids are never far away from experiencing it on and off, at school mostly. I may well get them to read your post, Paul.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Mari: I hope the post helps. I found school to be some of the toughest times of my life and it took me years to really believe that I deserved to be treated better.

  7. Fair play for writing about this Paul, I remember some of the Dramsoc stuff not to mention some of the crap you had to put up with from some people in Bray. Didn't realise things were so bad with Dramsoc though... Anyway, Gamesoc ftw! I was a bit luckier in that I was able to make a clean break after I left school and basically start again in College. I'll never forget the times in school though, looking back I find it almost unbelievable now some of the stuff that happened.


  8. Thanks for stopping by, Geoff! I think college can be amazing for finding a group of people that you fit with. You can learn so much about the kind of person you want to be that way.