I managed to find a rather frightening statistic online that indicates that 46% of children in the UK had been bullied at school at some point in their lives. That’s nearly half the population - if we generalise this figure - and it seems to be on the increase. School is just another survival mechanism. What we learn and how well we do academically is supposed to set us up for the future and enable us to get the better jobs when we enter into the world of adulthood (obviously this is debatable right now in this day and age, but that’s another topic entirely). But also, it teaches us how to get along with others. We develop friendships with likeminded people; we develop our interpersonal skills; we learn what is right and what is wrong and then we do what feels right.
Obviously, however, what feels right isn’t necessarily what is right. Some people are naturally more outgoing or extrovert while others are more withdrawn or reserved. These are the people that are usually targeted by those of us who find joy in picking on others and while we could assess this behaviour until the cow’s come home, it’s never realised just how much of an impact bullying can have. Granted, children – or bullies in general – don’t consider this when they choose to act. My primary school head-teacher didn’t think that the child he took part in bullying in his youth would jump off of London Bridge because he couldn’t take it anymore. Nor have others considered that the reason why someone self harms might be because they think they deserve it – after all, everyone else clearly thinks so.
I was reading an interesting article the other day and the following statement hit close to home:
“If you are or have ever been a victim of bullying and failed to do anything about it, your confidence has most likely been deflated. If you couldn’t stand up to your bully, you probably felt ashamed, like I did… This lack of confidence can carry over to your adult life…”
I was bullied in primary school and indirectly during secondary school. I know the reasons why and knowing what has become of these people warms my soul a little – karma’s a bitch, ain’t it? But even though I feel like I may have made my peace with it all, I look at the way I evaluate myself and conduct myself and it leads me to realise that I haven’t.
The article went on the further explain how this lack of confidence generated through bullying can stop you from doing things such as approaching that good-looking guy at the bar or something along the lines of asking for a raise (this seems to be a female specific thing, however). And I realise that I do this. In my entire life, I have only ever directly told one guy that I found him attractive* – and this was over the internet. Most of the time, I’ve been pursued by someone else. When someone has rather rudely been smoking in the queues at Thorpe Park, I’ll usually let it go despite how much it irritates the crap out of me; the same goes for queue jumpers – although, I’ve been working on this. Ultimately, for the most part, I am a docile person. I don’t like to make waves or cause trouble – even when it might be necessary. I find confrontation terrifying – such like I experienced yesterday at work when an angry married couple came in first thing shouting the odds about an issue that wasn’t even my fault.
I’m not damaged to the point of depression, but I am not as assertive as I’d like to be – it really depends on the situation. At the same time, however, I am an adult and a woman at that, which means I have the ability to remove myself from an uncomfortable situation. In school, however, this is not the case. Children are forced to endure because it’s the law that they attend school, but no matter how many anti-bullying campaigns arise or how many times a teacher is told, it doesn’t detract from the fact that bullying is on the rise. And where there’s bullying, there’s low self esteem and in some cases, self-hate. And where there’s self-hate, there comes a failure to function adequately in society when is that not what society wants – its people to behave in uniformity; in a socially accepted manner?
But humans are constantly subject to human error and we continue to make bad choices as part of every day life. We try to make up for it by instigating these anti-bullying campaigns and zero-tolerance measures in school and sometimes they work, but when a child ventures outside those school gates or grows up and enters into the real world, these movements lose their power. What’s more is that society has a habit of shoving all the problem kids into one place. I remember hearing a rumour that when a school changes its name to incorporate the word “Academy”, it’s generally because it's quite a bad school. Similarly, an ex supervisor of mine now works in a school that specifically takes in problem children. These children make friends with other problem children which strengthens the nature of their issues, so to speak. They run circles around the teachers that they know they can get around and while the school may have measures in place, they’ll continue to take in these children because the more of them they get, the more money the school gets.
Imagine that. Making money out of the misfortune of others? Haven’t heard that one before...
Fortunately, children are impressionable and if you isolate a child – even a bully – and work with them, I feel that they can be reformed in some shape or...form, but society just doesn’t have enough of these resources. And with jobs few and far between, it doesn’t have the man power either. So we get trapped in a cycle. Bullies pick their targets; targets become victims; victims may even become bullies, or they grow up emotionally crippled (no matter how small that scar is) and pass this on to the next generation.
Sad, isn’t it? :/
*two, if you count the confidence I gained via drinking excessive amounts of alcohol at a Staff Christmas Party