And names will always hurt me.
This topic is TV 14- so may not be appropriate for kids under 14.
We’ve been binge watching Stranger Things created by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer on Netflix. Thank you, Nancy, for getting us hooked. It takes place in Hawkins, Indiana, a quiet, backwards town that gets sucked into a sinister mystery with the disappearance of Will Byers and the appearance of Eleven, a young girl who has special but dangerous powers. Think government conspiracy and evil powers trying to destroy humanity, and you have an intriguing show that yanks you in episode by episode. Is this FACT or FICTION?
Fiction, I think, but I want to talk a little about Eleven – or El, the name given to her by Mike, Lucas, and Dustin, three friends of Will, who discovered Eleven while searching for Will. El has lots of flashbacks. Most of her memories are of the secret government hideout where they probed and tested her mercilessly and unethically. Bullies, if you ask me. (BTW: Will and his friends face bullies at the school, too.)
Bully, as defined by Google Dictionary, is a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.
Bullies are as old as dirt and more difficult to get out of your life than a fatal disease. Bullies lurk in schools, at parks, at work, at home…on social media. We do not always graduate away from bullies when we leave school, as there are countless adults dealing with bullies at their jobs or in their personal lives. There are lots of articles and books about bullies. Schools have anti-bully campaigns. It seems, however, that the disease of bullying has no cure.
Some experts offer preventative advice - "Make yourself appear less vulnerable."
What does that look like? Conformity? Do we have to dress like everyone else? Do we have to like the same music, movies, politicians, and television shows like everyone else? Do we stop having friendships or romantic relationships? Does it mean we can’t be unique? Does it mean we can’t stand up for a cause?
No. It means you project confidence – true confidence in who you are. This "confident attitude" might work for a while, but sometimes a mosquito sneaks in a bite. Sometimes bullies don’t like when you succeed or stand up for an cause.
That’s how it happened to me. I was eight and played summer softball. The coach posted me in right field. I was happy because I didn’t want a lot of action. There was a girl who played first base. I’ll call her "Attitude," and she had plenty of it. The coach took her out and moved me to first base. I played well (it helped that my older sisters taught me how to play). "Attitude" decided to push me around after practice. One night she followed me home. She pushed me. Mom appeared and told her never to bother me again. "Attitude" tried every once in while, but she eventually stopped.
It happened in high school, too. I spoke up in class; I even ran for class president one year. It was as if I invited every bully-demon to attack. Finally, the tormenters wrote two letters and left them in my locker. My two friends, Kellie and Lorie, read the letters and gave them to my parents. Mom visited the school. The bullying stopped.
See a pattern?
Yes, I needed help! Am I wimp? Am I a weakling? Maybe, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was just trying to play softball or attend school when some person or persons decided to harass me.
They were wrong – not me.
That’s an important first step. Sometimes you wonder, “What is my problem? Why is this happening?”
If you are not hurting others; if you’re just being yourself, do not let the bullies make you believe you're defective. It doesn’t matter if you have acne, if you dress differently, if you bring a bag lunch with sauerkraut, if you have different opinions. You are you! You have value!
You are not the problem
It is the bully/bullies who have a problem. If they have to harass or intimidate, something is deeply wrong with them. Some should seek therapy. Some have terrible role models in their lives, for example parents or coaches who bully them or bully others.
Next, get help – parents, teacher, lawyer, boss, friend. Bullies, much like cockroaches, like to work in the dark. Oh sure, we can see bullies picking on others, but they do not want anyone in authority to discover their secret. Get help. Do not let the bully frighten you into saying nothing.
If you are a person who has witnessed bullying, should you ignore it?
Take a step back and put yourself in the bullied person’s footsteps. Would you want to face this alone?
Reach out to teachers, parents, bosses, friends. Please step in! I am eternally grateful for Kellie and Lorie’s intervention (and my siblings who stood up for me in grade school).
Finally, examine your own behavior. Do you try to control others? Do you laugh when someone is different or someone trips or falls? Are you posting rude things on social media? Do you try to leave others out of your group? Do you gossip about others? (1)
I think in many ways we all can be a bully at one time or another. We need to examine how we treat everyone whether we like them or not, whether we agree with their politics or not. It doesn’t mean you have to invite everyone into your friend group, but it does mean you’re welcoming. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything someone says, but Tweeting your disparaging opinions about a person is bullying. Posting harassing comments on someone's blog is bullying.
Many schools have Kindness campaigns to help lower the incidents of bullying. What does kindness look like? Invite others to your lunch table: work on a project with a classmate who doesn’t have a partner; stop the gossip mill; do not “share” or “repost” nasty comments about others; greet people in a friendly way; look around you – do not be so absorbed with your life or phone that you ignore others. This applies to adults as well as children. No matter how many posters and t-shirts we have that say, "Kindness," the campaigns are useless unless we actively work to be kind to each other.
Telling someone to "suck it up," is almost as cruel as the bullying itself.
One more thing - there are those who believe that being bullied makes you a stronger person. I've heard countless people who decry anti-bully campaigns and say we're creating weaklings. I think they do not understand the emotional toll bullies exert on people. Let's turn this around a bit. What if someone repeatedly punched your right eye? The first few times it would probably repair itself, but if it continuously got punched, you would probably lose your sight, even the eye. The psychological effects of bullying are deep and painful and vary with every person. Telling someone to "suck it up," is almost as cruel as the bullying itself.
I think the scientists in Stranger Things believed they were helping humanity by testing El in the most inhumane ways possible. Maybe bullies have some distorted thoughts in their heads that they're serving humanity by destroying others' reputations and self confidence. Now, that's what I call Stranger Things.
Thank you for reading. Please share and check out my latest YouTube where I discuss "Plastic Perfection" and bullies.
Author's note: "Bullies" is a topic I've discussed in previous blogs.
StopBullying.gov. 2021. What Is Bullying. [online] Available at: <https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/what-is-bullying> [Accessed 15 April 2021].