Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Smiley Face Lady Bug

©2010 Cristina Kollet
Life's a bit of a balancing act. There are a lot of things that are not going the way I'd like and a lot of things that I'd never imagined I'd be doing that are going very well. It helps to remember that there are smiles waiting in unexpected places.

I took this at Dutch Springs last weekend. I didn't see the smiley faces till I got home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On the Subject of Bullies

Like many, I have been saddened by the stories of young people taking their lives because of bullies. A lot of people are contributing videos to the It Gets Better Project. I wanted to use this blog to add my two cents.

Bullies are fearful, diminished individuals who are so insecure of the validity of their own convictions or themselves that they must rage against anything or anyone that presents the possibility that an alternative exists. And they make their point by force, or with words, or by exclusion. Some can do it with a look. Some do it in person, some online, or by text. Some use the media, some even use the pulpit.

Bullies exist in all walks of life, at all ages. Some are individuals; some are groups, governments, institutions, and religions.

They get the most attention because they scream the loudest. Because happy, satisfied, secure people don’t spend a lot of time screaming that everyone should be as they are. Happy, satisfied, secure people are fine with the existence of differences; they understand that it takes a lot of different people to make a society work. It doesn’t shake their sense of self to see that alternatives exist. The best embrace them.

I dealt with bullies when I was a kid. In grade school there was a girl who picked on me and threatened to beat me up after school. (I showed up. She didn’t.)

I went to a very cliquey high school where kids ran in similarly dressed tribes and didn’t belong to any of them. This made me very unpopular with certain girls. I was picked on for a while because I hadn’t developed yet and later because I had developed too much.

Bullies tend to pick on something their victims can’t change, or can’t change easily. I spent a fair amount of my time trying to be invisible. But eventually I learned that the true power was in focusing on myself and not caring what they thought.

(I’ll admit this tactic is most effective against bullies who are using physical attack.)

People will tell you that it gets better. I’ll join that chorus.

I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that the most important thing is not to give up. What bullies want is to kill your hope and your faith in yourself. Don’t give that to them. It’s too precious and worth way more than their opinion of you.

As I said before, bullies try to be the loudest voice in the room, so they can’t be ignored. Don’t confuse them with the majority. And please don’t confuse people who claim to speak for God with words of hate as speaking for everyone either. They speak for themselves. They may speak for their small group. But they don’t speak for everyone and they are most likely not people you would want to spend your time with anyway.

So how is it that things get better?

Don’t put up with it. If you’re being harassed or threatened, tell someone, tell everyone. Keep talking till someone helps.

Unfortunately our culture is entirely too comfortable with hazing. And you may find that people in your life expect you to roll with it. They survived, now it’s your turn. Or they may just not want to hear what you have to say because they disagree or can’t deal.

If you can’t find someone in your circle to help you, expand your circle. Talk to the parent of a friend or a teacher or go farther out. Groups like the Trevor Project can help. If the focus of the bullying isn’t a matter of gender identity, there are other groups that can help. A quick Google search can help you find someone.

Focus on what matters to you and have faith in yourself. Focus on the people who accept you as you are and if you haven’t found them yet, keep looking. They are out there and they probably feel like you do. And remember that the best way to find new friends is to take a chance and just be one.

Focus on what you’re good at and passionate about. Share your gifts. Teach someone what you know, make art, make music, study what interests you. These are the things that will matter later and make your life bigger and more wonderful.

And listen to the softer voices. Pay attention to the people who smile at you, the ones who celebrate your achievements, the people who don’t feel the need to shout from the rooftops that different is bad.

You’ll find that we out number the bullies. They’re the ones who don’t belong because they hold themselves apart.

Your life has so much more in store for you than their narrow worldview can even guess at.  And you’ll find your happiness when they’re still cowering in fear, grasping at their narrow world view and screaming against the winds of change.

Bluer skies and better days await you.