A recent string of suicides by young people bullied by their peers has become a hot news topic.  Each story is heartbreaking.  It’s hard imagining a young person ending his or her life prematurely.  Rather, this behavior is a cry out for help; only they can’t receive the help when it arrives.  The kids have taken their lives, all because they were bullied.

I never tried ending my life, but can totally relate to these children who no longer have a voice to express their anger, shame, and desperation.  From a very young age and through my mid-teenage years, I was bullied.  It was difficult to “go on” some days when all the kids would avoid me, except for the bullies, who only wanted to confront me, just because I was being myself.

The kids we’ve been hearing about on the news lately weren’t so unusual.  One boy was teased for being short.  A girl was teased about her looks, but she wasn’t at all unattractive.  Until home life and schools are places where civility are taught and practiced, it’s not likely everyone will practice it.  Still, those positive messages are not apt to reach a hardheaded bully.

I’ll never forget my pinnacle bullying experience as a high school sophomore.  A football player – seriously about three times my physical size – started bashing me on the head with his schoolbooks on school grounds before boarding the school bus for the ride home.  On the bus, the head bashing continued.  If I moved from the front of the bus to the back, he followed and the beating continued.  No one intervened, not even the driver.

The bully lived around the corner.  We, unfortunately, shared the same bus stop, the final one on the route.  He was all fired up and ready to beat me up.  I wasn’t much for fighting, but was tougher than most people knew, probably because I had put up with being bullied all my life.  At first, I refused to get off the bus.  The driver drove us away.  When I returned some twenty minutes later, he was walking home.  It’s hard to make a stealth return in a big orange school bus.  He saw the bus, and I knew there was no turning back.

I was going to have to defend myself.

On my front porch, this punk hit me everywhere he could.  But everywhere his fist went, my hard skull met it.  I threw some punches, too.  I didn’t care how “sissy” my fighting would be recounted later.  After all, this was the main reason why I was the target of such bullying to begin with.  Thinking back, I had been so badly battered, emotionally and physically, from bullying that I didn’t really know who I was.  But I was alive, and was fighting for whatever honor I had.

Physically unscathed from the incident, I showed up to school the next day afraid of retribution.  The bully showed up with a black and blue eye, and a cast covering one arm from shoulder to finger tips.  Two of his bully friends held me up against lockers in front of an audience so he could return a certain kick I gave him on my front porch the afternoon before.  It didn’t happen.

If no one comes to the defense of your child, grandchild, or your own inner child, the best defense is self-defense.  I seemed to innately know this at a very young age because it’s what helped me to go on when I could know no other reason.  When a young person feels like there’s nothing but darkness, connecting to a shred of self-esteem is where the light is.

If you know of a young person who struggles with being bullied, or know of a school that would welcome a guest speaker to talk about this topic, I’d welcome the opportunity to share more insights and help young people find their light so they can see their way out of the darkness, too.

No one should listen to, believe, or act on a bully’s negative PR about them.  It’s a killer.

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Joseph Rosenfeld helps professional men, women, and corporate workgroups create effective visual brands. Visit JosephRosenfeld.comhttps://www.josephrosenfeld.com/creating-unique-style-improves-bottom-line-seminars-workshops/ for details about the program entitled “Beat Bullying and Feel Better About Who You Are.”