For this week’s Write Anything Wednesday, I thought I would give more detailed advice to 15-year-olds. But before I can get into that, I need to share some background information. As I wrote this, I realized that this needed to be broken into two parts.
(BTW: Sorry for the lateness in the reply. I had to rest and my sleep schedule is pretty mess up right now. It’s been like this for a couple of weeks. These posts will be back-dated.)
Anyway, for this post I will revisit two things:
- One of my answers to a question posed to me by a fellow Liebster Award Nominee.
- My thoughts about the saying, “Don’t cry over spilt (or spilled) milk.”
Things I Said Before
Here’s what I said while accepting the Liebster Award:
8. If you could give only one wise advice to a 15 year-old, what would it be?
I have three things I want to say:
- Sometimes, confrontation is unavoidable. Be prepared to defend yourself verbally. Don’t just take people’s crap when you are free to speak up and you know you could beat the crap out of the instigator. (I’m not telling anyone to beat the crap out of instigators, but you know what I mean). Other than that, run after you say what you need to say you have to pick and choose your battles.
- Enjoy your youth. School sucks (mostly because some of the people), but you are partially responsible for your own education.
- You might think it’s too early, but you really need to start thinking about your future right now. If you have access to the Internet, start doing research about professions and things you need to do to get hired. Ask questions. And if you already have marketable skills (like acting, acumen with numbers), find out what you need to do to stand out.
When addressing the famous saying, I discussed how important it was to move on.
By now, you should realize this post is about emotional bullying. I’ve been meaning to give more detailed advice about this for a while now.
What Emotional Bullying Is
While there are many people who don’t see emotional bullying as a valid concern, it often has long-lasting effects. And physical bullies often employ emotional bullying and verbal abuse alongside their physical abuse. In fact, verbal abuse is often a prelude to the physical. Why?
People who harass others know this about human nature: We tend to dwell on the negative. If you look at news reports, which items receive the most attention? We’ll see stories about murder, violence, other series crimes, and even those about famous personalities or celebrities insulting each other.
For some reason, negative events and words stay with us no matter what. A thousand people can tell a woman that she’s beautiful, but she will remember the ten times someone told her that she was ugly. A boy could grow up to be an astrophysicist, be highly regarded, and meet other brilliant people, but he will remember the teacher who discouraged him early on. Someone can use the words to motivate themselves or fall back on them in low points in their life, but the fact remains they will remember much of what is said against them.
It often doesn’t matter how famous or successful we become. Kate Winslet once gave an interview on NBC’s Late Night (when Conan O’Brien was the host) and she talked a little bit about a girl who teased her regularly. Winslet had a weight problem as a young girl. She remembered the taunting even into adulthood. One day, she met the girl who had harassed her before. The girl was now a woman, and she was working at a makeup counter. Winslet recalled, pointing at her and asking, “This is what you do now?” or something like that and laughed.
And we can tell ourselves, “These are words. Words shouldn’t hurt that much. We give them too much power.” Yes, we know this, but our minds don’t let us move on as easily. Words might just be words, but they are part of language and language has meaning. The use of language has intent behind it.
Sometimes the adults in our lives make things worse. Maybe a parent will say something to embarrass and that will only incite more abuse when the adults aren’t looking. A teacher or principle can do the same. What really annoys is when the emotional bully gets to say their garbage and then a teacher interrupts the other kid before they can respond. “Now, now, children. Play nice.” Shut up, teacher. Why don’t you go after the instigator?!
It’s only worse when we don’t fight it at all. Sometimes we feel helpless, especially if the first harasser gets a friend or two to join in and pile on us. We may think that speaking up will only incite more abuse or be futile at best.
After a while, we start to internalize the abuse and blame ourselves for it. “Is it my fault?” Some outsides will say, “Yes,” thus compounding the problem.
That’s how verbal abuse works. Words are often used to deceive and conceal and keep others down. Knowing that we might dwell on the negative, ponder the meaning and intent behind words and fear more abuse, emotional abusers use that to control us. And as I said above, harsh words are often paired with actions.
What I Still Remember
Before I can get to the advice, I would like to share some background information. There are things that were said to me years ago that I still remember. Over the years, I of course deal with unpleasant people saying unpleasant things to me.
I still remember some crap from my childhood. For instance, when I was in the first grade, I remember a fourth grader coming up to me, getting up and my grill and saying, “Hey, ugly!” (Btw, he died over a decade ago. He mixed marijuana with formaldehyde and smoked it.) I remember being told that I was ugly or unattractive more times after that. And I remember being told that was dumb. That crap made me feel dumb and unattractive.
Things really came to a head when I was in the seventh grade. I had been hanging out with some girls that year, but some of use turned on each other for one reason or another. I really started to struggle with my weight in the 5-6 grade, so I was very sensitive to that. And of course, people would talk about it. One girl didn’t help matters by repeating what some stupid eighth-graders said about me behind my back. Really, what was the point? Regardless, that got to me and I finally broke down when I got home.
I hated High School because of the people there. As I’ve said before, I never really liked most teenagers, even when I was one. That’s because many love to torment others. Take childhood taunting and mix it with hormones, anger, a false sense of maturity, and peer pressure. I bet you teenagers today feel the same way. (The teenagers I have traded messages with on WP are cool, though. Just so you know.)
Now, there were two girls I hated the most. One was kinda chubby herself and a racist. The other sounded like she was cold or something and she joined later. I don’t know why I stayed around the first one for as long as I did. (Maybe it’s the same reason some people keep shitty friends. They don’t want to be alone and they’re kinda lazy. It is hard to put in the work to look for new, better friends.) Before, there was this nice girl who was friends with us both and she left in the middle of my freshman year. I think I even tried to find new places to sit afterward, but that mean girl followed me sometimes, too, for the same reason. Anyway, by the end of the year, it was finally clear that I could not sit by those chicks anymore. Yeah, the mean girl had another friend, so she didn’t “need” me.
But it didn’t end there. I had to wait a while, but some others let me sit with them. In the meantime, those other girls would look over and laugh at me sitting along. Those two would still talk to me and disparage me even though I did my best to avoid them and move on.
I hated my sophomore year after a while. Unfortunately, I had to be in the same English class as those two and for some strange reason, they decided to sit behind me. The point? That year, I went through more verbal abuse. I was called things like “fatass,” “butch,” “fat pig,” “monkey,” and “apey.” But that girl who called me the last two things wasn’t racist, y’all! She had black friends, ya’ hear?
(And it was kind of annoying to see monkeys and apes mixed up yet again. Monkeys are not apes, and vice versa. Get that through your heads, people!)
Those girls attacked my appearance and my femininity. They also said some things I would rather not repeat but the gist is they equated dating and sex (even as minors) to personal worth. Oh joy.
And to top it off, the first witch started making noises. Sometimes when I walked, she would make that sound repeatedly.
It didn’t help matters that yet another person decided to repeat some dumb shit those two girls said behind my back. “They call you ‘that thing’ and asked me why I was talking to you.” Really, what was the point of telling me that shit? Then that girl had the nerve to tell me to move on. To her, I wish I had said, “Fuck you. Fuck you. Did you not realize that you were part of the damn problem? Idiot.”
Why This Bullshit Stayed with Me
When I see all this written down, it might look so small and petty. I know there are kids who have had it far worse than I and I graduated high school before online harassment really became a thing. Regardless, there are a number of reasons I held on to this crap.
First of all, I was in disbelief. The attacks made absolutely no sense. The moment I left them alone, the shit should have ended. I never sought them out (except that one time shiver-girl had no backup) but for the most part, they looked to pester me. I never tried to hit them. I tried to kill one of them with kindness, but that never worked. For the most part, it was random. The only thing I can really think of is this: Perhaps I got under the first one’s skin.
Second, I felt handicapped. The fear was that I couldn’t adequately defend myself verbally. I feared that it was futile because I would be drowned out and teased more harshly. But the fact is, this shit didn’t stop until my junior year. By then, I was in different classes and the first girl didn’t have anyone to hind behind. What’s more is that I was told that hitting people meant that they win. What a stupid thing to tell a kid.
(Years before I had been violent. In the second grade, I hit people who said rude and mean things to me and even knocked one kid’s head into a pole for calling me a “dork.” I got a belt whippin’ for that. Afterward, I was told never to go to the principal’s office again. I mellowed out, but was never given much to defend myself verbally.)
On top of that, I was told not to let people see me sweat. Sometimes we need to cry, but we are made to feel ashamed of that. And some people will take pride in moving another person to tears. That causes people
Third, I lived with a verbal abuser. This one is big. When you come home, you want peace. But you won’t get that if you live with a mean-spirited person. You can face assholes in the outside world, but then come home to a person who reinforces that. This person will point out your flaws and mistakes.
Fourth, the verbal abuse hit me on a racial level. Black girls are told early on that they are ugly, inside and out. We are also told that the darker the skin, the worse the person is and the more unattractive the woman is. People also call us things like “chickenheads,” “knappy-headed hos,” and “ratchet.” People tell us that us we are promiscuous, loud, rude, temperamental, ignorant and inadequate.
Now, we may all have negative attributes, but it’s not exclusive to us. When one black person messes up, it’s counted as double and it’s counted against all black people. The same thing is happening with black women.
And we don’t do ourselves any favors. Sometimes we blow up at each other, tease each other on our speech, and criticize each other’s hair and lifestyles more harshly than others do.
It’s no surprise that young black girls view black and white dolls differently. It’s merely an extension of how they view themselves. These destructive things are instilled in them early on and reinforced. When you add that to the attacks about my weight, there was a dehumanizing process.
Finally and most importantly, I was angry at myself more than I was truly angry at those who wronged me. I was angry at the way I handled most of those incidents. I wish I had the presence of mind to say certain things, even if it meant calling some people the C-word to their faces. That would not have been nice, but it would have gotten the job done in some instances. There is no better description for some of that behavior, honestly.
Most of all, I wish I had stopped holding onto this shit for so long. I let this hold me back. I fell back on these memories at my lowest point. My unresolved issues affected me in my work and in my relationships. It was hard for some people to even approach me because I was closed off and socially awkward. And while I might appear to be “low-energy” and “aloof,” that belies my inner desires, interests, and creativity.
Hold that thought. In Part 2, I will go into my advice.