Bullying: A story from my life

When I was in elementary school, I never felt like the other kids in my class. I set myself apart from them and could never fully feel comfortable in any environment. As an Indian-Pakistani American in a predominantly white school, I compared myself to the other girls in my school. I would look at their beautiful vivid blue eyes and their perfectly straight, blonde hair and think about how all I had was thick, dark-brown hair and boring black eyes. The boys would call me ugly and constantly point out the hair on my arms, legs, and above my lip. They would ask why I never shaved, and my response was always, “I don’t know.” It’s truly unfortunate that as a child, many of my peers would make me feel inferior to them. 

I remember one day I walked into school with a different outfit than usual: skinny jeans, a purple top that I had seen as cute, my best pair of sneakers, and a baseball cap. I had even straightened my hair to my best ability and shaved my upper lip with my mother’s razor. I thought I would be the best dressed in my grade that day, and I confidently strutted down the halls with that thought. But I realized the only attention I gained was negative – the same boys who made fun of me before laughed at my appearance. I even remember one of my friends saying, “what are you wearing!? What happened to your face!?” I sought the validation of the beautiful blonde girls in my grade. I desired to look and dress like them, but I guess I hadn’t done too good of a job. It broke my heart and I never tried again.

Truthfully, I remember wishing I looked like the other girls in my class but I don’t remember why. I suppose it must have been because of the societal standards and a perception of the expectations that I tried so hard. I don’t blame the others for bringing me down. I blame society for imposing unkind beliefs into the delicate brains of young people. I also needed to be comfortable in my own skin and embrace my qualities. This can be hard for many people, especially young children as they may not have learned the skills used to navigate through a judgemental society.

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that can include a real or perceived power imbalance, and can be repeated (stopbullying.gov). There are many reasons why students may be bullied. They include but are not limited to differences in race, ethnicities, physical appearance, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, learning abilities (of all levels). Anyone can be a target of bullying, even popular kids who seem to have everything going for them. 

If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self that there are far more significant things I could do than worrying about “fitting in.” What would I even achieve if I had “fitted in” then? Nothing of true importance would have been obtained. The most important thing that I did indeed obtain eventually was my own identity and understanding how to differentiate between superficial standards and those that are of value. I learned that I don’t have to look like everyone else to be beautiful and that beautiful has many definitions and flavors. Also, I realized that I did not need to be accepted by everyone. Every individual is unique and possesses many strengths. With that mindset, I grew more confident. I truly believe that once you learn to not care about societal beauty standards, your happiness will increase.

One Reply to “Bullying: A story from my life”

  1. Incredible Marya, that you are able to talk about your former insecurities shows just how far you have moved from that place – it’s great that you have learnt to celebrate your own true value and uniquesness .

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