I Know

Sometimes, You’ve Gotta Show Your Teeth.

Yesterday, my friend Sarah Kempson wrote about online bullying, following her experience as the winner of the Westfield Blogger Competition.

Not only did Sarah hit the proverbial nail on the head, she also did something I strongly admire; she spoke out.

Speaking out – about anything – is never easy. Speaking out when you know there’s an audience just waiting to pounce on you is even harder. But it’s important to do so.

I really dislike bullying, of any kind, but it’s the faceless kind that bothers me the most. It’s one thing to be delivered an insult from someone face to face, or over the phone, when you know exactly who your ‘enemy’ is, but such behaviour online is not only cowardly, but simply far too easy to engage in.

Sarah mentioned in her blog post that she was taught the age-old mantra, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all.” A view my mother instilled in me as well. But do you know what my mother also instilled in me? A strong sense of self and a generous dose of self-respect. Something I’m glad Sarah also seems to have inherited.

Growing up, my parents taught me to be polite and nice to everyone. They also taught me to never, ever start a fight, but to sure as hell be prepared to finish one. Something that I do each and every time one is presented my way.

I do not delight in arguing. I am not a trouble maker. And I always aim to spread positivity, rather than negativity. But when picked on, I fight back. When argued against, I argue back. I’m not afraid of standing up for myself. Or those that I love.

So, when reading of Sarah’s experience, my first message to her was that I was quite prepared to hunt down the faceless weaklings that had hurt her and greet them with a baseball bat. After re-assessing, I decided that was a pretty unlikely scenario (not because I’d be unprepared to do so, but just because I’ve no way of tracking down the gutless commentators). What I could use, though, was my words. And maybe, hopefully, spread some sort of message.

Like; it’s not okay to write rubbish online – because there’s no apparent form of consequence. Like; if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t write something down about them, and not even be honest enough to put your name to it. Like; grow a brain, and get a life, and focus on improving yourself rather than attempting to bring others down.

I often get told that I’m ‘ballsy’. That I’m ‘strong’. That I’m not afraid of staring someone in the face and letting them know exactly what I think. All of those things are true. The other truth, however, is that just because that is so, does not mean it is easy to do so.

I was rarely picked on at school. On the isolated occasions that I was, always from older kids, like the Grade 6 boys, I had a stock standard response; “I’ll get my older brother to come and bash you up.” In this politically correct, namby pamby era, that might not sound ‘nice’, but it sure was effective.

I grew up always knowing that someone had my back. And there’s nothing more potent to building self-confidence and self-belief than knowing someone, or more than one person, will stand up for you, no matter what.

Everything that people call me is true; ballsy, strong, capable, confident. But all that has far less to do with me and far more to do with my family. If I didn’t grow up thinking I could have and be anything in the world, I wouldn’t have and be what I am. If I grew up thinking it was okay to be pushed around, then I probably would have been.

Bullies need to be put in their place. It’s obvious to me that all the efforts and guidelines from Government, Education Departments and schools are put in place with good intentions, but, years later, are still doing very little to get to the core of the issue. The problem with bullying is that bullies get away with being one. I say, fight fire with fire. A tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. Someone pushes you? Push them back. Harder. Metaphorically and physically. Whenever you cop anything unjust from anyone in life, give it back to them. With twice as much oomph. If we never stand up to bullies, they will never stop.

It’s not easy standing up or speaking up. There’s nothing harder than putting your opinion out there. But doing so does make you stronger.

If we all spoke up a little more, the voices of nastiness and negativity would be slightly harder to hear. And the more we can beat them down, the better off everyone will be. Bullies aren’t renowned for their tenacity, or their intelligence. Chances are, you’ll outsmart them pretty quickly.

It’s not your job to fight someone else’s battle. But you can be the someone who’s got someone else’s back. Irrespective of how old I get, I know I can always tell someone that my brother will come and bash them up. I may not be the little girl in Grade 4 anymore, but I am the same person, and while I haven’t actually said my stock standard line to anyone in a number of years, knowing that I can makes me feel fearless.

If we all went by the mantra to never, ever start a fight, but always finish one, then pretty soon, there’d be no fights left. I realise that’s an idealist sentiment, so I’ll leave you with something a little more real; forget the politically correct bullshit and show people your teeth. Stand up for yourself. No matter how hard it is to do.

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16 thoughts on “Sometimes, You’ve Gotta Show Your Teeth.

  1. Fearsome and fabulous. Someone called me domineering yesterday, and that it was a compliment. Perhaps maybe it was after all. Love your words SS, you’re an amazing soul. Thanks for sharing. x

  2. Nathan.Z says:

    Hello Sandi, My name is Nathan and I went to high school with Sarah. For memory she was and I believe still is an outgoing, genuine personality. I never had any problems with her at all then or now. I spoke with her the other night and she sent me the blog with those acidic comments, I agree wholeheartedly with everything written here. It’s really refreshing to still see a small portion of actual people who care enough for others in this world. I hope she’s doing ok, she may feel fearless with you in her corner now 🙂

  3. Love it!

    Someone told me recently that I was the King of confrontation. I replied that I have no issue voicing my opinion in person. There is a big difference. Faceless criticism always grates on me.

    Fight the good fight.

    P.S. Remind me not to pick a fight with you 🙂

    • There is a big difference – voicing your opinion to someone face to face is between only you and them. Voicing it online is to thousands – and is cowardly to boot.

      Honey, there’s no reason you or I ever need to fight.

  4. Kerryn says:

    Well said Sandi. Being a close friend of Sarah’s myself, I took those hurtful comments to heart for her. Like you, I am ballsy and confrontational and on many occasions have stood up for Sarah or taught her the act of retaliation (sometimes she is too sweet natured for her own good). I would love nothing more than to come face to face with those gutless individuals and teach them a lesson on how well a girl can punch. I personally was bullied in high school because i was “fair” in complexion and they didn’t like my blonde hair. For months on end I dreaded waking up and going to school for fear of persecution for my hair colouring of all things. After the school did very little to resolve the issue my older brother asked my mother if we could resolve this “his” way and although as an adult I don’t condone his or my actions now, at the time Master C’s mantra of “find the lead girl, take her out and they will leave you alone” was what I needed take back control of the situation and to help me gain my confidence back. Long story short, I did take out that lead girl with a fist to the nose. As I said, not an action I would suggest nowadays, as you’re more likely to get sued than fix the problem. But at 14 it was one of the most liberating moments of my life that I truly believe has made me the person I am today. The strong independent woman who stands up for what she believes in. If only people would learn to live by “treat people as you would like to be treated”…..

    • I think you’ve hit on an important point – these days, punching someone in the face results in all manner of problems, hell breaking loose and – in some cases – an afternoon in court.

      If we were all a little more honest, we’d recognise that sometimes all these bullies need is a good whack, smack bang in the nose, and they’d quiet down and leave everyone alone.

      What I’ve just said isn’t right. It isn’t nice. But it’s the truth. Bullies get away with far too much, far too often. And it all starts in school.

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