Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Bullied Passively in School : Ten Years Later

I was loved, growing up. Family, friends, an army of brothers: I know I was loved, in a very conventional sense of relationships and situations. But what I remember more than that love is that I was also slighted at almost every turn. As a result of that, I never felt loved. There is this difference between knowing you are being loved and feeling loved, and that is lost in many a friendship and relationships.

The thought of school yards drag with it happy memories in the mud. I have friendships from Kindergarten that I still cherish and hold dear, and they are also the very same people who have hurt me without their own knowledge. Back then, I thought it was enough to be just loved, that the banter that accompanied it comes with friendship and intimate relationships. But at 14 years of age, I experienced a gaping hole like none other in the presence of the very people I grew up with, for a good decade. Almost all of them don't know about it, even now. It took me my higher secondary education, five years of college, and becoming 22 before I realised that love was not enough, that the assumed 'friendly banter' is not acceptable and the fact that I have, indeed been passively bullied for a good part of my formative years. I vocalised this to two of my friends (from school) about two years ago: one of whom was subject to something similar in our school-life and another (who has been through their fair share of experiences) who looked a little stunned to know how much of what they thought was not a big deal has affected us in our respective lives.

I was always the person targeted as the 'entertainment' in many groups of people from my school life. I was a fairly popular kid for an interesting mix of reasons: being one of the best sports-persons in school, my loquaciousness and my uninhibited strength to ask silly questions about the things I don't understand. While each of these sound to be independently good aspects of my personality (which I believe they are), it was also what was made fun of at every point. I was (and still am) a tomboy. I talk a lot and in those formative years at school when you are still trying to make sense of life and finding out who you are, trying to accept and wishfully want to be accepted, being passively bullied fell together with me. I understand how my talkativeness could be annoying to someone but it was not like I always blabber incomprehensible gibberish. Every time I had something to say, I was shut off before I was heard, I was laughed at before I finished the sentence and sometimes, left alone to finish saying what I wanted to say because I have even had people walk away from conversations with me. I have been asked to shut up. I have been asked to stop 'lecturing' someone when I would merely be trying to tell someone about my thoughts on a particular matter. My voice was loud, but it was not heard and I want to tell you how much that hurts, even now. These experiences from school form a great part of our lives, it chisels us to be who we are. I think I am finally at that place where I can publicly say this, without anger or sounding accusatory.

When you are not heard, when you are not seen for anything but as being the person who is prodded to ask questions in a classroom by the other students so that the class could potentially waste time in a boring course, when your talents are not quite acknowledged, or when you're visible only for the times of entertainment for someone else: you learn to build walls. You learn to build walls to keep everyone at a distance, dole out unconditional love for a select few and stay safe with yourself.My own friends have been passive bullies, and they have left me with huge insecurities about myself. I find myself apologizing frequently when I talk to people because I have been made to feel like I am not worth someone's time in the past. I speak quickly so I can speak without being cut off. I learnt to focus on art, writing, reading books, being involved in sports and by default, being in the company of dogs. These skills I built were overlooked for a good deal of time. Even now, when someone compliments my writing or art, it doesn't go into me beyond my skin. These things don't seem to travel far but they definitely do cut deep.

While I am not an anxious or an anti-social person on the surface, I am left over-thinking a lot of things and conversations. I make acquaintances with people easily. I am easy to talk to. I believe this in itself turned up to be a part of myself because I know how it feels like when you're assumed invisible or looked through. My empathy can definitely improve, but I learnt a lot more quickly (in comparison to my peers) to be kind, to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, my intention is not to pull the rug from under my friendships but to bring to the forefront, how these interactions have impacted me. I don't hold any resentment for any of my friends who have hurt me: they did not even realise that what they were doing is actually passively bullying someone. Their intent was good perhaps, but their actions directed by peer pressure and the weight of growing up to fit certain slots put me through rough times. For that reason, I decided not to ever treat someone unkindly. I would talk to everyone in my class, there were no outcasts nor uncool kids in my sight. I played with everyone, interacted with everyone and tried reaching out to people in ways I could. But to this day, it's hard for me to accept an outreached arm at me. I don't accept love easily. I don't call someone my close friend easily. I don't share what is on my mind with someone unless I know to trust them fully. I am always on the edge on the inside of my soul. I am almost always expecting someone to bid me goodbye or ask me to shut up. That, perhaps is the baggage I carry with me from school- like a backpack. I have not been able to set it down since.

I have been discussing this several times with a good friend from my school who went through something similar. Classmates and my friends used to assume what this person is made up of. They have told me of similar and other issues that presses them until this day. They are in a great position in life, they worked a good job and are now abroad, in a prestigious university. But the insecurity and scars from childhood into adulthood has not faded away. They are still too haunting. I wonder how different this situation would have been had we had counselors in school and more awareness about such concepts. It still exists in a majority of schools, where I am from. Teachers were not sensitized to pick any of these up. I have my first two favourite professors now: when I am now pursuing my Masters degree and that is because they are sensitive and pick up things quickly, they ask me and we have conversations. We need some changes in our own systems of education.

One thing that kind of seems visible in confrontations I have had recently on this front is the fact that me being hurt about something almost seemed incomprehensible to the other because they were 'only joking'. 'We love you, we were only joking', they'd say. You don't get to decide if someone else is hurt or not, that is simply not an option or a decision of yours to make! Please remember to be kind, please remember to check-in with someone you think you may have offended in any conversation. We all grow up. I am not the person I was ten years ago. My interactions have to, thus, change with time. Sadly, when I do position myself strongly now, it hurts the very people I am trying to tell that have been hurting me all this time. But, I guess that's inevitable right now.

Being subject to such instances and mildly self-troubling formative years has left me a person most people don't recognise. When I am truly trust you, I speak to you in a different way of which only a few know. I urge you you to be generous with your kindness. You never know when you make someone's day. For, when I have been subject to all this and in seventh grade, I got out of an English exam to have one of my own friends who has been their share of insensitive tell me that the composition passage reminded them of me. It said and I still remember 'Creative people are not afraid to ask silly doubts'. It was a reinforcement of sorts. I never stopped asking questions or being talkative despite what I went through. It hurt, but I tried and pushed through because I didn't want someone else to define who I am, as a person. Please remember that any relationship needs both love and respect. It can't survive on just one of these.

All this only made me stronger. I learnt to take care of myself. I learnt to be independent. I developed skills that were in part coping mechanisms and a good part, passion. The last few times I confronted someone close to me about this, they were hurt/offended. I had to spell out that it's not okay to hurt someone even though you love them dearly. You don't love someone and hurt them for being who they are or what you think they are. It has been as hard for me as much as it is for them, and I hope they understand that. My intention isn't to hurt anyone but speak up because this is an important message to put out for one to see. I had a draft of this almost two years ago and I'm only getting around to publishing this now, because this time around, I have to let go. I have to write this down and let this go.

This time, I am still loud and will make sure I am heard.

Please be kind to one another.


Source: Pixabay 


  1. Great share. Worth reading. An eye-opener for many to be more alert when we handle others too the same way how we would like to be handled...Keep up the momentum. and know this am your secret admirer :)

    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you listened to my experiences and are reflecting on it. Please do stay connected.

      Much love,


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