It is an inescapable fact of life; where there are children, there is bullying. The world of playground politics can be brutal, with the few dominant leaders in charge of choosing who out of the year group is to be accepted or not. Where you stand within this system of popularity can be one of the main deciding factors on whether one’s school days were in fact the happiest years in one’s life or not. What you experienced in that hour and a half a day lunch break is vital to how you view your school forever. The world of the playground is divided up into the leaders and the followers, the popular and the rejects, the bully and the victim.
I was a victim for seven years, from the age of nine to sixteen. This ranged from physical abuse, coventry, sarcasm, name calling, taunts, humiliation, manipulation and subtle comments. It varied from year to year and was dependent upon the bullies’ personal taste.
One reason lay behind all the misery I went through. I was proclaimed to be different’ from the rest of the crowd. My personality, interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes, hairstyle, clothing and choice in accessories were not accepted by the popular crowd who ruled the membership of the various cliques. I was rejected from each clique one by one until I found myself at the bottom of the playground ranking system. If I was not accepted there then the whole year would have rejected me as a whole. I would have been alone and consequently fair game for anyone. The idea was to belong with one group who would protect you from the rest of them.
I was accepted by the group of the lowest rank, and bullied by them. I stood up to them at first, and found I could intellectually humiliate them. However that was small comfort as over the years they destroyed my self confidence and belief in myself, which today remains extremely fragile. As a result of my experiences I dislike looking into mirrors, have very low self confidence, and find it extremely difficult to trust people.
When I was in the situation I did not approach the teachers for several reasons. Initially it was out of fear at the prospect of further repercussions from my peer group and fear of total rejection. There remains always within school culture the rule of keeping mum, which becomes instilled in every student. No one likes an informer, no matter what the information. Ironically enough I was respected by my peer group for not being an informer. I then got to the stage in the last two years when I felt it was my fault, and so became introverted at school, avoided eye contact and crowds, and just wished to be invisible. My parents never knew a thing until I told them several years later as part of the healing process, when I began to recover.
I found out in later years as I began to make friends that what happened to me was by no means uncommon. The one of a crowd’ mentality is widespread amongst children and teens. Thus anyone who expresses their uniqueness and individuality, or are considered to be different’ in any way by the majority can be singled out and bullied for that reason alone.
It is my belief therefore that the current underlying culture which exists in every school plays a fundamental part in the existence of bullying. Age old attitudes need to be revised, which have remained embedded within school and teenager culture for decades. Students could be encouraged to take on responsibility and discern between matters which need reporting, i.e reporting a suspect situation where it appears there is a victim, and just telling tales. Also uniqueness and individualism could perhaps be promoted more, in an attempt to break through the culture of popular’ or cool’ cliques, to encourage acceptance of individual talents and gifts.