By Brenda Corderman
Bullying hurts. It hurts bad. It can cause serious emotional harm. It can change the way you think about yourself. It can cause lasting pain and damage self-esteem and the ability to trust others. At Kennedy’s Voice, we’re committed to doing all we can to prevent that from happening.
We aim to empower the kids and teens who are being bullied, picked on, or harassed. We also want to help parents get a sense of how insecurities, negative self-talk and negative self-image can form suddenly if their kids, teens or someone they know is being bullied. Platitudes like, “just ignore them,” or, “they’re just jealous of you,” although good-intentioned, don’t work, and sometimes make things worse. We at Kennedy’s Voice know that your child wants the people in charge to take action, including immediate relief from the bully. And, we’re working on that.
Kids and teens
It’s painful when your mind keeps repeating the bully’s voice and the cruel things they’ve said to you, over and over. And now…the worst part is…you’re starting to agree with them.
You might be remembering and wondering…
- I’m the only one in the class being laughed at and called names.
(Why are they singling me out? What have I ever done? What’s wrong with ME?)
- They’re really mean when I’m changing clothes in gym class, and, they won’t stop.
(Why me? Is my body gross and ugly? Am I? What’s wrong with ME?)
- They sometimes follow me home, picking on me. I’m afraid they’ll jump me.
(I’m so scared. What a wimp. I feel like such a loser! What’s wrong with ME?)
These are just a few thoughts kids and teens who are bullied wonder about themselves and why they are being bullied. And, when they can’t find the answers outside themselves, they start trying to change or criticize themselves. The thought is, “I’ll just beat them to it. If I say something bad about myself first, then they can’t hurt me.” But, they do. They still hurt you.
You might think, “If I just change how I dress, how I act, how I talk, or just don’t talk at all, playing it cool, maybe they’ll think I’m cool and will stop being mean to me.”
But, they don’t. Why? Because at this moment in time, you’re the bully’s target. Know this: It has nothing to do with you. At Kennedy’s Voice, we are working to help you and others be safe as fast as we can. We don’t want you to blame yourselves for one single thing about your hurt and rejection. We want to help get you back to where you want to be…safely.
Eventually, kids and teens who are bullied start to do what therapists refer to as negative self-talk. Maybe you’ve experienced some of them:
I’m so dumb, an idiot, a moron.
I’m a dork, a geek, a nerd, and not in a good way.
I hate my body. It’s gross.
No one likes me. I literally have NO friends.
My friends know I’m being bullied and stopped talking to me. That is so rude and mean. What’s wrong with ME?
I was sure there was something seriously wrong with them. But, they have lots of friends! So, maybe there’s something seriously wrong with ME.
That was such a stupid thing I said/did. No wonder why I have NO friends!
All my friends have prom/homecoming dates except me. I know it’s because I’m not attractive or popular. Or a million other reasons.
People think my tormentor is so cool. How is that possible?! I must be wrong.
Question: Would it upset you if someone you really cared about was talking to themselves in this negative way, when they have done nothing wrong? Yes. You’d even try to stop them. So, think about it: Why is it okay to talk to yourself that way, to blame yourself for someone else’s cruel behaviors? Guess what? It’s not. It’s not okay. (But, I understand why you got there.)
Do you want to find your self-confidence and feel truly good about yourself again? Are you willing to try to learn and practice how to stop blaming and putting yourself down? (Say Yes!) We want to help you.
How to stop negative self-talk:
Stop believing (even 1%) of what the bully says about you.
Bullies thrive on seeing their victims upset. They might not know a single thing about you. But, they’ll keep trying until they hit a nerve or get a round of applause from their followers. You know better. Deep down, you know they’re wrong.
Stop placing ridiculously high standards on yourself.
You don’t have to be perfect. So, don’t criticize yourself for feeling hurt/sad/mad/angry if you’re being picked on and harassed. That’s how bullies want you to feel – helpless, insecure, alone and hurting. Instead of devising your own plan or making sudden changes to yourself, talk with someone who will support you. That’s what we do at Kennedy’s Voice.
Remind yourself of what you know to be true about you.
I’m a good person. I care about how others feel. (That’s a good thing.)
I’m funny. I’m creative. I can draw. I’m kind and sensitive. (Don’t change!)
I’m good at history, debate, and some sports. I play guitar. My parents say they are proud of me. My teachers like me, too.
Keep self-criticism low and realistic.
Write down ONLY 3 things you want to change about yourself.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
Instead of thinking/saying, “I look HUGE. I’m SO fat! Popular girls are skinny! No guys will ever like me!” Or, “I’m short and puny. No girls are ever gonna like me!”
Replace those shaming, unrealistic criticisms:
“My doctor said that I don’t need to lose ANY weight. But, if I insist, the most weight she will let me lose is 7-10 pounds. She said that I am very healthy. I was surprised!”
Write down: “My doctor says I am very healthy. Weight loss goal: 7-10 pounds, no more.”
Name each of your inner critics. (This can be fun!)
If there’s a part of you that constantly corrects, think to yourself, “Hello, Captain Critical!” If there’s a negative pessimist, you can name it Debbie Downer. (Watch the Debbie Downer SNL character on YouTube. It’s hilarious.) Have a name for each critical part. If there’s a voice that knocks you for your weight, you can say, “Here’s Twiggy!”
Comparison is the thief of joy.
For every moment that you negatively compare yourself to others, you lose moments, days, and years of joy, and of being happy with who you truly are.
Bullies feel better about themselves when they put others down. Sometimes they’re mean and bully a lot of people, a group of people, or just you.
They can make fun of your ethnicity or race, your religion, how you look, how you dress, how you walk and talk. They make assumptions and demeaning comments about others’ sexuality. Bullies make up homophobic slurs all the time.
Remember: We take bullying very seriously and do not minimize or make excuses for it. We would like to completely eradicate it. But, in the meantime, do NOT believe an ounce of what bullies say. And, don’t wait to talk to someone. Bullying doesn’t lessen over time.
Stand up, speak up, and tell a trustworthy adult. We care about you, your feelings and your safety. We’re here to educate and to help.
For more information about Kennedy’s Voice, follow them on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to help or volunteer with Kennedy’s Voice, please contact Sierra Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org, Bonnie Palacio at email@example.com, Kandie Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or Scott Snyder at email@example.com.
About Brenda Corderman
Brenda Corderman, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Brea, CA. She is a member of Kennedy’s Voice and an advocate against bullying. For more information, visit her website at www.brendacorderman.com.