When I was a little girl, I didn’t know anything about fitting in until I turned 6. I had been to Kindergarten the year before and, it was there that I felt what it was like to be unconditionally accepted and loved by someone outside of my family. My teacher, Mrs. Roach, made me feel empowered and loved. The following year, I went to grade one and learned what it was like to have to struggle to fit in. My birthday was on September 3rd, three days before school started. I was so proud when everyone in my family celebrated my right of passage to the big school. I was a big girl now, and I was told that I would learn so much and have a lot of fun; I would make many friends. I went to school with all the enthusiasm that was bestowed upon me and, I will admit, I did learn a lot, and as a result, I did not have fun.
The things I learned along with reading, writing and arithmetic, was that there was a way of being that was necessary if you wanted certain girls to include you in their circle. I learned that if you had a longer than average nose, you would be asked if you had lied, or if you could smell things far, far away, and then everyone would laugh. I learned that if your eyes squinted when you smiled, you would be asked if you were blind, and then everyone would laugh again. I learned that having a short pixie haircut and being skinny was equated with looking like a boy. I learned that spontaneously laughing out loud was not acceptable, unless you were the popular girls’ tribe leader. Most devastating, I learned that being creative, something that had always made me the happiest before going to the big school, was the worst thing I could ever be. I learned that celebrating my unique self was equated with being different from the rest, and that was very, very bad.
I was angry that everyone had lied to me when they told me I would make new friends. I was sad that I did not. I became anxious because I believed that I needed to make friends in order to be considered good enough, worthy and loved. I found out that if I wanted to fit in, I needed to work very hard to be like the other girls who stood by the bicycle rack and tossed their long hair from side to side while they giggled in a huddle so girls like me could not hear what they were sharing. I learned that if I wanted to feel connected and have even one friend, I needed to be someone else; I needed to be like everyone else.
Today, the children who laughed at me would be called bullies. They would be frowned upon and we would march in the streets with our anti-bullying signs. We would post videos with our children ranting ‘Stop the Bully’. But those girls were not bad people; they just learned what they had been taught…by the rest of the world; by us, the adult bullies.
Our adult society has created the bully by modelling bullying. Generally, we teach our children how to fit in and how to cast out. It is all around us within our ‘grown up’ world; we model bullying everyday. We exude wanting to hang with those who are most like us. If someone is not like us, we don’t accept them. The mere act of calling someone a bully is segregating them from the rest; it is bullying in it’s truest form.
What if we dared to create a new pattern and advocated acceptance of everyone, including those who didn’t fit our specific model? What if we dared to get rid of any model other than that of acceptance and kindness? What if we dared to accept the bully, and showed her some compassion by befriending and showing her a new way of being; I’m guessing she doesn’t have many friends, and doesn’t know another way……
It doesn’t mean that we would allow her to hurt us or our children but, we would dare to model the values we say we have; integrity, compassion and kindness. It means that with a little love and support we might discover that even the bully wants to be accepted by someone. I really believe that, just like I did, the bully dreams every night about fitting in somewhere, and she does what she has learned from others in order to, hopefully, make that happen.