suicide, I would assume that to a degree, we all understand the seriousness of this issue – that bullying has and likely will continue to affect society. That is, until more can be done in terms of awareness and prevention.
In a recent discussion with one of my best girlfriends the topic of bullying came up, in context to our understanding of how kids who face criticism on a daily basis can often times develop coping mechanisms that are carried into adulthood, for better or for worse. Our rationales and beliefs on this subject are very much informed by respective experiences in being bullied as youth; she the archetype of the shy, overweight bookworm-girl with crooked teeth and I the skinny small-town fairy-boy hiding in the halls of his school; both experienced in fearing for their safety and well versed in insults and threats.
My friend and I have known each other for years so the subject of bullying was hardly foreign to either of us. While we both know these experiences do not define who we are, we acknowledge they had detrimental effects; a common denominator uniting our individual stories being ingrained coping mechanisms of sensitivity and a pre-disposition to self-judgment. I’d go as for as to say that this was as much a factor that connected us as youth as was anything else – misfits uniting on a common ground. Something she said in terms of self-awareness stood out for me in this recent discussion, and so to paraphrase:
Not anyone could surprise me with a criticism I haven’t already had myself… when you have been bullied by kids in school – it hurts; the shock more than anything. So no one is going to say these things and shock me because I already know the negative – you can’t hurt me with what I already know…
If anything it speaks to how as adults, we can still contend with the residual effects of being bullied, even years after the insults and threats have faded. One of the residual effects of bullying is a self-judgment arguably as detrimental to our mental/emotional health today as was the actual bullying going on in our youth. This coping mechanism of judging oneself so harshly in the face of stress and/or life in general, can still hold us back from being our higher self (whatever it is we deem our higher self to be) if we are not conscious of it.
Leading me to wonder if this is the case for a lot of people and if so – are we really any better to ourselves today than bullies were to us back then? While I do understand how and why we can be our own worst judge, jury and executioner (as a matter of coping with life) – I do wonder how better off we are today if we’ve yet to rid ourselves of the self-judgment developed in the name of self-preservation….
I do agree with my friend – there is nothing anyone could say to me that could hurt me as much as the things I say to myself. Fine. And further more, I agree that in many instances as youth, and perhaps as adults – its the shock in facing judgment that stings more than the judgment itself – because we are not always prepared to comprehend what inanity is. I acknowledge that light-years away from high school bullying, I now need to take a moment from time to time and ask myself just how beneficial it is for me to be so self-critical, even if the trait to be so was born out of psychological defense.
So if there is any kind of final statement to make – clearly there is an urgent need in our society to protect children and youth from being bullied. However, there is also the need for people in general to be conscious of potentially negatively ingrained coping mechanisms born out of being bullied, as these traits may or may not be holding us back in entirely different ways in our adulthood. I don’t suppose I’ll ever refrain from judging myself; yet I am 100% opposed to holding on to self-judgment unnecessarily so, particularly when its effects do nothing in the way of liberating us.