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.