Don’t let being bullied turn you into a bully

The month of December is generally AWESOME for many reasons, not the least of which is the reason of holiday fun. Here in the greater LA area, there’s outdoor ice skating at LA Live. There are festive holiday celebrations in the streets of Long Beach. Even the zoos and aquariums are on top of it with awesome light shows! And now that NaNoWriMo’s over (did I mention I finished on time?), I can finally return to writing at the more leisurely pace I prefer. So, December is ESPECIALLY awesome this time around.

Still, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. I haven’t been to pole in over 3 weeks, due in part to NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and a bout of strep throat that had me thinking I would never recover. I’m trying not to get down on myself for this. We all have days, weeks, or even months where our bodies need a change, and sometimes that change means not doing quite as much. Unfortunately, not exercising has a profound effect on my self-esteem, and this leads me to places that I don’t  usually like to go.

Since my work’s busy season is over, I’ve been able to spend more time in the glorious black hole of self-loathing that is Facebook. While I am earnestly trying to reduce my consumption of social media, I am the first to admit that I can get absolutely ENRAPTURED by the stuff on there–even if it’s totally stupid. From debates about Donald Trump’s newest quips of ignorance, to the easy-access news feed (which usually references Ariana Grande more often than foreign policy, but I digress), to the delightful new baby and dog pictures that appear every day, there’s something for everyone to waste time with on Facebook. Which is fine, except I’d kind of like to look back on my day and go “I read/painted/competed in a pole competition/taught someone something/wrote something” versus “I pattered around the internet for a few hours and discovered the intimate details of some random celebrity’s divorce. Oh, and I found this funny cat video.”

But it goes further than cat videos, as we all know. Obviously, Facebook started as (and still is) a “place for friends” – as well as coworkers, family members, and basically every other human you could have possibly interacted with throughout your life.

Including, of course, your past bullies.

Now, first, let me pump the brakes right here and say that I don’t believe in dwelling on bullies or trying to figure out what their intentions were when they bullied you (unless you intend to confront them like an adult and find closure). I also don’t believe in trying to analyze bullies as they are in the present. We have absolutely no idea what people have been through unless we are them, and unless you feel truly marred and bothered by what a bully did to you, it’s best to just let it go and keep kicking ass on your own.

That said, I’m also a normal, curious human being who does occasionally wonder what various people who were mean to me are up to now. For some reason, I especially wonder about Ella*, the bully I first mentioned in a post I wrote earlier this year, “A Letter to Insecure Teenage Girls“.

This afternoon, I looked on one of my Facebook side panels to see a familiar name in the “People You May Know” section. It took me about five seconds to figure out that it was someone I knew from middle school. Since my brothers are exemplary extroverts and know virtually everyone in my hometown, they were both mutual friends with this person. It was then that the devil on my shoulder saw the perfect opportunity to tap away.

Check out their friend list. I bet they know [Meaniepants], [Poophead], and [Boogerbrain]Come on, it’ll be so juicy!”

I didn’t put up much of a fight; I was in the trenches within seconds.

I did, in fact, find Meaniepants, Poophead, and Boogerbrain, along with a score of others. Instead of moving on and not thinking anything of them, however, I am sad to admit that the following thoughts crossed my mind:

Wow, they’re still working at [x]? That’s kind of sad.”

“They posted about [x]. How ignorant can they be?”

“They’re posing like that? Wow, trying to get attention much?”

And so on and so forth.

When I found Ella’s profile again (I had already found it about a year ago, but decided to “check up” on her, to see if she had done anything new), I saw that she had posted pictures showing off her athletic prowess, with over a hundred likes and quite a few comments praising her as a wonderful person. Then, for a moment, I’m afraid to admit that I felt bitter.

I felt bitter because I couldn’t imagine how someone who had made it their M.O. to make me feel like a hideous pariah back in middle school could ever be seen as a “good” person. I felt bitter because here I was, barely exercising for almost a month, and this person has muscles that take a ludicrous amount of time and energy to cultivate. I (embarrassingly enough) felt bitter because I have never had 100+ people like something of mine on Facebook.

Even though I told no one that I did this or how I felt, I actually did stop myself later in the day. After a while, only one additional thought remained in my head:

Haley, you were kind of an immature dick today.

Even though my bullies haven’t bullied me for years,  I was the bully earlier. More importantly, as my older post describes, I have most DEFINITELY had my ugly moments as a human being too, especially when I was in high school. But do people love me less? No. Do I still have an incredibly rich life? Absolutely. And do I consider how I acted in high school to be representative of how I am today in any way? Not one bit.

Because of my socio-personal hardships as a young person, I let myself become a bully at times, too. And even at 25, it’s evident that I’m not immune to that type of behavior, albeit privately. But why even cloud your thoughts with such negativity? Why waste the brain power necessary to pick apart past bullies? Why waste the time? I could be learning a new language, picking up a new form of exercise, or finally learning about how I can cook kohlrabi. All of these things are way better and probably take a lot less negative energy (although, learning Japanese grammar does come with a fair bit of frustration, just FYI).

In conclusion:

  • Stop worrying about bullies unless you intend on having a sincere, mature conversation with one for closure. Otherwise, limit your conversations about them to therapy and try to move on.
  • Facebook is good for some things and terrible for (most) others. Do not go down the “Stalking People from the Past to Compare Yourself” rabbit hole on Facebook or any other form of social media. You’ll end up either feeling unnecessarily bad about yourself or feeling overly important because you see yourself as “doing better” than them. Thinking that alone is pretty rude.
  • I may be an atheist, but I’m a big believer in “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. We are ALL guilty of being rude, mean, snobbish, cold, or impolite at various times in our lives. Some of us, like me, even had full-fledged phases of being a giant douchebag. The important thing is that we move forward and aim to be as kind, patient, and understanding as we can be.

Alright, time for me to get off the computer and play the “let’s find a store to shop at that isn’t crawling with people buying peppermint chocolates and turkey dishes for holiday parties” game! Hint: Trader Joe’s does not fall into this category. 🙁

-H

*Note: As I mentioned in the “Letter” article, Ella’s name is not really “Ella”. But duh.

2 thoughts on “Don’t let being bullied turn you into a bully”

  1. Oh Haley, I hope you at least know that you’re the best person in the whole world, since everyone does this and most of them don’t feel bad at all (including me!). Whenever I see your pictures or posts I think, “That Haley is so much better than us all,” and it doesn’t make me bitter because you’re too kind and good for me to feel that way, so instead I got a tattoo of your face on my shoulder that says “WWHD” and it reminds me to do what Haley would do any time I’m acting stupid.

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