Obviously, the last. The first two days aim to raise awareness about groups of people who are often subjugated and belittled, while the third celebrates a bully. Ironic, then, that October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
The focus of the month is on ending bullying in schools, and rightly so. Our children need to be protected. Stomp Out Bullying has a list of ideas to empower kids for each week of the month. However, we need to lead by example. So, while we educate the kids about responding to their bullies, let’s stand up to ours and reach out to those who need our help.
Let Your Voice Be Heard. If your bully is a politician telling you that you don’t deserve reproductive rights, equal pay, or affordable health care, write a letter, make a phone call, or get ready to go to the polls. Let your voice be heard. Bullies often back down when they see the other side has support, so find the cause most passionate to you, and rally people who feel the same way. Exercise the strength in numbers.
We tell children to try to talk to their bullies, but we know from trying to talk to our own brow-beating family members, that it doesn’t always help the bully see right from wrong. If you aren’t in physical or emotional danger, give talking to your bully a shot. Let them see the hurt they are causing. If that doesn’t work, you fear the repercussions, or you aren’t sure what kind of gloves — kid or boxing — are needed to handle them, speak to a professional or a kind friend who can help you find the resources you need.
Offer Presence. Just like we tell the young ones, “if you see something, say something.” If you see someone being bullied, use your common sense about the best way to handle it. Intervene if necessary, talk to the person afterwards and see how you can help, or just listen. We tell our kids to mind their own business, but sometimes it’s nice to know that someone notices and can offer support.
Whether a person is in elementary school or in an office, they might feel alone in the lunchroom. I know the allure of a quiet, twenty-minute lunch break, but your presence and conversation might be the bright spot in a dull, dark day.
Be Compassionate. Sometimes we are our own worst bullies: tearing ourselves apart when we look in the mirror, inserting deprecating comments into conversation when someone compliments us, telling ourselves we can never accomplish A,B, or C, or denying ourselves our passions because someone might see and belittle us. We have the power to hurt ourselves more than anyone else ever could.
But that also means we have the power to help ourselves. You know how quick you are to grab someone a tissue to dry their tears? Make them a cup of tea? Post a supporting comment on Facebook for them? Be kind to yourself too.
Give yourself a compliment and gracefully receive one from someone else. Find one minute to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Embrace the dorkiness of your passion. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake instead of cursing yourself. And, when you need a pick me up, practice daily affirmations like Jessica does.
Remember, little eyes and ears are waiting to see how we respond to our own bullies.
For additional information and resources, please visit this guide.
Jennifer Brick is a writer and teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.