It’s anti-bullying week at school, which means, in an effort to “put bulling to rest,” I got to wear my pajamas to work today. Although that’s a definite perk of anti-bullying week, it’s not the perk. The perk, of course, is that the entire week is devoted to illuminating and eradicating bullying – a noble effort that I applaud, support, and celebrate.
Bullying. When I think about a bully, I picture a kid – a large male with a bitter scowl and permanently clenched fists – shoving another (presumably smaller) kid into a locker, demanding lunch money, and throwing punches. This, of course, is a stereotype and like most stereotypes, it’s inaccurate. Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except that because of it, few people are able to recognize a real bully when they’re staring right at one. If it’s not massive, mean, and breathing fire, it’s not a bully. Right?
The truth is, we’re all bullies. Every single one of us. If bullying is picking on someone else in order to make ourselves feel better, then we’re all guilty. Ever gossiped? You’re a bully. Ever told (or laughed at) a joke that belittles someone’s appearance, race, culture? You’re a bully. Ever looked at someone and found comfort – cruel, disgusting comfort – in the fact that you’re not them, that your life is exponentially better than theirs? You’re a bully.
I’m a bully and that sucks.
Bullying isn’t the disease, it’s the symptom. We all pity the victim – and rightly so – but the bullies are more broken than the bullied. If each of us, at the very core of our being, truly believed – in a way that doesn’t require comparison or validation – that we mattered, that we were uniquely awesome, there would be no such thing as anti-bullying week. And that would be just swell. So instead of sending out a message exclusively for the bullied, today, in honor of anti-bullying week, I have a message for the bullied and the bullies.
You are awesome because you are here, which means you have something to contribute to this earth. Just because you haven’t found that something yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You struggle, but you don’t give up. You may think you’ve given up, but the fact that you show up for life everyday indicates otherwise. That doubt, that insecurity, is much smaller than it looks in your head. Right now, it’s covering your awesomeness, but that’s okay because awesomeness is patient. It will wait and wait and wait until you decide you’re ready to acknowledge it again, the same way you did when you were three years old, marching around in your Superman cape, so assured, so certain of your ability to save the world. That ability is still there, you know. It’s just hiding.
There is an infectious myth you should know about. That myth is this: Your awesomeness only exists if it’s recognized and celebrated by someone else. Here is the truth: Your awesomeness exists regardless of who acknowledges it. It rejoices momentarily when someone else sees it, but it protects you infinitely when you see it. When you truly believe it, it will burn powerfully in your chest, it will ring joyfully in your ears, and it will throw a badass party in your soul. But despite all this, you will feel absolutely no need to share that electricity with the world. That’s called humility – harboring strength that needs reinforced by no one but you.
And really, if I’m being truthful, this message isn’t for the bullied or for the bullies. It’s for my daughter, who will, like all of us, wear both of those pitiful shoes at some point during her lifetime. It’s a guide, really, on how to sit down, untie them, and take them off. Be kind to yourself, Savannah, and you will be kind to others.