If you don’t like your reflection; you might need a better mirror

Yesterday, I spent the morning doing a workshop on bullying and how it affects youth. We covered exclusion, physical and verbal abuse, how media/school/parents/society handles or treats bullying, the shift in victimization and online bullying. Yet again, I was reminded that life doesn’t necessarily change or get better when we become adults. We don’t just turn 18 or 21 and suddenly are gifted with a non-douchey (cos that’s a word) personality. Bullying happens at ALL ages – which is why I love doing youth work; hopefully I can prevent asshole adults. Ha.

One thing that really resonated with me was the concept that targets (of bullying) are easily manipulated due to their need to fit in / please others. While I’m a huge advocate these days for “letting your freak flag fly” and celebrating individuality / differences / diversity, I realized that the “target” (not victim) described me personally. Growing up in a country school – population 30 when I started there – I was one of the only brown kids. Furthermore, I wasn’t exactly fit / skinny / sporty, so was teased a lot for being “big-boned”. I was geeky (nicknamed the Human Dictionary), louder and deeper voiced than all the girls (so I had to sing with the boys), I was strange because I wrote songs, and I was CERTAINLY the only one who’d had brain surgery. I was awkward, precocious and the only places I really felt at home were whilst reading a book, or on stage.

Moving to the city when I was 9, I decided to “transform” my personality, and create a whole new identity for myself – someone who’s confident, happy and didn’t REALLY care what others thought. Obviously I did, hence my developing depression at age 12 – which lasted seven painful and incredibly difficult years. There were many contributing factors to why it happened – depression and anxiety runs in the family, and I experienced a lot of not-so-cool events as a young person. The drug taking and alcohol abuse that came hand in hand with these events probably wasn’t the smartest decision either, but we live and learn. I actually visited a psychiatrist in 2008 while I was still living in Hamilton who completely changed and saved my life – I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but I want to thank him for helping me overcome my depression and give myself permission to forgive myself and heal.

Anyway, I digress. As I grew up and carried on with music and my various jobs, I was always very conscious of my interactions with people – how they were doing, their mental health, their happiness and their wellbeing, as I wanted to ensure that they didn’t go through what I went through, but I forgot to check in with myself.

At the workshop yesterday, we watched this awesome spoken word by Shane Koyczan which talks about how detrimental this mindset can be – which potentially explains how it is that I’ve so often found myself in relationships with… well, the very wrong types of men. Ha. It’s not even a subconscious need for pleasing – fuck knows that’s never been my style – but more a case of wanting to ensure that no one gets to the stage of unhappiness / depression / need that I’ve experienced in the past that I just seem to put most everyone’s needs before mine.

I’m well aware that to be influential, or a good leader, we need to lead by example, so I’m learning (slowly) that there is a huge difference between selfishness and self care. So my mission henceforth is to start looking after myself more – and ACTIVELY celebrate my freak flag – brain surgeries and all (I actually used to be ashamed of my scars; I’m slowly learning that they’re not war wounds to hide, but badges of honour to celebrate).

Overcoming bullying as a society isn’t about punishing anyone; but about embracing everyone. Celebrating the freaks, the geeks, the powerful and those who are still finding their voice. Maybe then we’ll stop needing to seek approval – and stop punishing eachother (and ourselves) for not fitting into the boxes that we kid ourselves into believing that we need.

We all have scars – but that doesn’t mean we should keep slashing.

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2 thoughts on “If you don’t like your reflection; you might need a better mirror

  1. Thanks for this, Emma. We have very similar stories and you’re right, bullying doesn’t just stop because you officially become an ‘adult.’ In fact, it can be worse and far more damaging.
    I love your attitude and your constant want to be a better person, not for others, but within yourself. Much love xx

    Like

    1. Thanks Cara! I totally agree that it can be worse as adults – which is why I’m SO adamant about growing stronger, kinder and more resilient young people. I want to live in a world of love, not resentment. 🙂

      Like

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