I just learned that school friends are bullying a 16-year-old girl whom I love very much. This girl hasn’t a clue as to why she’s being whispered about, why she’s excluded from sleepovers and weekend get-togethers with her supposed “best friends.”
Once upon a time, I too, experienced this kind of teen peer abuse. Today I’m sharing some ideas that helped me cope. My resource is a diary I kept in 1971 during a turbulent time in seventh grade. I hope you will grant grace to my 13-year-old writing skills from that time and instead, see how each day I took steps to free myself from being a victim to living an empowered life and how you might encourage the young people you love to do so too.
Ten Ways to Thrive When You Experience Peer Abuse
1. Journal and no matter how short your journal entry, express what you’re feeling.
Thomas Mallon says in A Book of One’s Own, that most diaries begin “all at once, with a rolling up of sleeves, and intake of breath ― and a ‘here goes.’”
January 5, Tuesday, 1971
Today I’m going to start writing a journal. I think I will write anything that comes to my mind.
I encourage you who are experiencing peer abuse to journal each day. Save your entries so you can look back in a couple of months, years, decades to see your gained ground. My seventh-grade English teacher made us keep a journal. We had to write a page a day in a wide-lined spiral notebook. Our entries were graded on effort, not the quality of entries. This freed me to write what I wanted to write, no matter the grammar, punctuation, or how mundane my little life appeared. I have kept the practice of writing journal entries ever since. Though I didn’t feel at the time like I was taking positive steps to grow, now I look back and marvel at my in-process soul care as well as see the lessons I was learning.
Monday, January 10, 1971
“I don’t know why Lori is being so mean to me.”
What did the person who bullied you do? Acknowledge how you felt when you had a chair pulled out from underneath you. Write how you felt when you learned you were not invited to your best friend’s party. By whomever you are feeling victimized, write about it. You know what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission – and the honor – of expressing it.
Most of the time, why we are bullied will remain a mystery. Sometimes, though, we will see the effects of ridiculous games. When this happens, tell it like it is.
January 30, Saturday, 1971
Boy, today is really my worst day. I sure didn’t do good in bowling. My girlfriends I bowl with didn’t make it any easier either. First, I happened to notice that they made my points a pin lower each frame I bowled. Finally I told them that my score was wrong. One of them goes, “Well, Ugh!” And the other one says sarcastically after I had finished throwing my ball, “Well, sor-ry about that.” These two always pal-up, which burns me up so bad.”
2. Hand in 4 drawings by doing something concrete that has an empowering effect on you.
Friday, January 15, 1971.
Today in Art we had to complete all our drawings and hand them in to Mr. Razee to get some kind of grade on them. The least amount of drawings you could have was 3. I handed in 4.
Your friends may be treating you badly, but this doesn’t mean you have to treat yourself badly. Do an activity that you are good at, where you will see the effects of your trying to improve yourself.
3. Ice skate backward. Conquer something.
Saturday, January 16, 1971
I went skating with my brother Steve. he’s 8. he’s getting to be a pretty good skater. I finally can skate backwards fast. it’s about time.
What have you always wanted to try? Horseback riding? Ping-pong? Taking pictures? I have a goddaughter who lives to her own drumbeat. This summer she conquered water-skiing barefoot and two-people-high waterskiing in a national competition.
Only in our minds do we live 100 percent of the time within the vicinity of those who hurt us. You’ve acknowledged your feelings, now go out and live out the dreams you have for yourself. The more you take positive steps to create a new point of view of your life, the more you’ll train your brain to live in this empowering state of mind.
4. Do what you love.
Sunday, January 17, 1971
My dad watched the Super Bowl and Mom and my brother went sledding. I didn’t feel like going so instead made 1-2-3- Jello Lemon-lime. It turned out pretty good. It’s cool how they turn different colors.
I love to be creative and love to monkey around in the kitchen. It comes naturally to me. What do you love to do and what can you do almost with your eyes closed? Do it. You’ll be amazed at how you feel.
5. Pray for those who bully you.
As an adult, I learned the backstory to my bully’s life. It looked nothing like my idyllic happy home life. Through adult eyes, I can now grant her grace. I understand her need to control and her desire to influence others to bully me. I also learned why she lied. People lie because of their defense mechanisms. If they can create anything other than what is, then they don’t hurt so much. And sometimes, people burn bridges by bullying you because they know you can see right through them.
6. Let go of trying to be in your friend’s cliquey circle.
If you have never read The Inner Ring by C. S. Lewis, I encourage you to do so. You’ll find it with an Internet search as it is available as a pdf online. Lewis wrote this piece to a graduating class in 1944, but the lesson in it is just as relevant today. He writes,
“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.”
What Lewis eventually gets around to saying is this:
As long as you are governed by a desire to be a part of the Inner Ring, you will never get what you want. “You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.”
He also said that the quest of the Inner Ring will break your heart unless you break it. What Lewis means by this is kill the clique. You won’t find safe people there. You’ll get inside the Ring and find, “no ‘inside’ that is worth reaching.”
7. Make a new circle of friends.
February 12, 1971
Hi! It’s been a good day! I went over to my girlfriend’s house. Her name is Linda. She’s a lot of fun. I made friends with her in fourth grade. She sure is a loyal friend. She doesn’t say mean things. She lets me use anything I want in her house. That’s what I call a friend. And she never lies either. I mean it. She is the best friend a girl could have ― ever have.”
Sometimes friends go away. Sometimes you have to be the friend who goes away. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” It is time for you to kill your quest to be in the elusive Inner Ring called a clique. Lewis says that once you break the ring, or kill your quest for the clique, you will come upon real friends – as I did with Linda. “This, Lewis said, “is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ringer can ever have it.”
I love a couple of lines in the poem, Outwitted, by Edwin Markham
He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Make your own circle of wonderfully great people.
8. Send a thank you note to someone.
February 14, 1971
Mrs. Fatchett, you are so special. Happy Valentine’s Day! You are the best teacher ever!
You cannot feel two contradictory emotions at once. You cannot feel happy and sad at the same time. When you take your mind off of negative things and instead, focus on the positive things, you are training your brain to intentionally live an empowered life. Who is an encourager? Why not write him or her a thank-you note that says so? You will experience a wonderful feeling because you put good out into the world.
9. Live in the 40 percent.
Fifty percent of our brains are determined by our genetics. We can’t change them. Another10 percent of our brains are circumstances we also cannot control, whether it be we are an only child, our parents are married or divorced or we’re a twin. That leaves an astonishing 40 percent of our brain left for each one of us to control. Feed yourself positive nourishing thought. Hold your head high and be you. That’s why God created you: To be You.
10. Be the change.
Another diarist, Anne Frank, wrote, “Isn’t it wonderful that none of us need wait a moment before starting to change the world.”
Go ahead, be brave and change your reality. There’s a bigger world out there than bullies. The world not only needs you to be you; it is depending on it!
Question: Have you experienced bullying in your own life? What tools have you used to overcome; to thrive in these circumstances? Share your comment by clicking here.