Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Inferiority Complex


As a teacher, I hear a lot of anti-bullying campaigns. Our school has one. I'm pretty sure just about every school in America has one. These are campaigns that encourage students not to be bullies and/or to stand up for students who are being bullied. 
While I completely agree with the sentiment, I think we might be focusing too much on only one side of the issue. 

Yes, bullying is bad. We should be kind to each other and not belittle others in a sad, pathetic attempt to make ourselves feel like we are worth more. It's called being a decent human being, and the world often seems to be in short supply of those.

Here is my problem with anti-bullying campaigns: we focus too much on the wrong side of the bullying equation. The problem with mean people is that they're mean. Part of the requirements of being a mean person is that you don't care that you need to treat people with decency and respect. Now, I know that bullies don't all fit one mold. I know that a lot of kids belittle others out of deep-seeded insecurity. There could be a serious underlying issue involved. I also want to make sure to note that I recognize there can be some extreme cases of bullying that heap on severe mental or physical abuse, and those need to be dealt with by professionals. I'm not arguing against anti-bulling campaigns. They absolutely should exist. I don't want to get rid of them. I just think we need to add another component.

Instead of spending all of our time focusing on trying to teach mean kids not to be bullies, how about we focus on teaching all kids not to be victims? That doesn't mean we teach them to pick fights will bullies and punch their way out of situations. That's not the way to avoid being a victim. Maybe a few years ago that would've worked, but the nature of bullying has changed, and our society is too litigious. Bullies today don't steal your lunch money or beat you up in the playground after school. Bullies today create fake Twitter accounts for the "fat" girl in class or post demeaning comments on your Instagram posts. Bullies whisper behind your back while they smile to your face. The most destructive weapons in a bully's arsenal are words. 

Words have so much power. A well-placed and genuine compliment can leave a person glowing while an ill-timed and inconsiderate comment can leave them shattered. We often don't give words the credit they deserve. They can cause devastation. They can tear a person down until there is nothing left. Words can be used to create something beautiful, but they can also be used to create something vile and ugly. 

The thing about words, though, is that they only have as much power over us as we allow. 

Most of the time, the people who are going to be bullies are the people who don't care about listening to an anti-bullying campaign. So, maybe we should focus our efforts on showing students that sometimes the best offense is a good defense (or something like that...sports have never been my thing). 
The fact of the matter is, we need to learn how to grow thicker skin. Bullying would be much less of an issue if we stopped allowing bullies to make us feel bad about ourselves. Our society coddles victims, and in our society, everyone is a victim. 
This "Oh you poor baby! How dare she say that about you?" attitude we have is crippling us. And as much as I hate to admit it--because I feel like everyone is getting really tired of the "E" word--I think it all goes back to this feeling of entitlement. The reason why we need anti-bullying campaigns more now than we did 50 years ago is because each generation seems to feel more entitled than the one before. I know I shouldn't speak in generalizations, but for the most part, this seems to be the case.

We don't need to be teaching kids that they should be treated like glass. Humans aren't as fragile as we like to think. We need to teach them to be confident. We need to teach them that sometimes people are going to say awful things. Sometimes people are going to belittle you and cut you down. Sometimes people aren't going to like you and they may not have a good reason for it. 

Sometimes life isn't fair and people are just plain mean.

Mind. Blown.
Write that one down. It's a game-changer.

You can't control what other people do or say, but you can control how you react. You can learn not to give other people the power to tell you how you should feel about yourself. Bullying shouldn't be tolerated. Period. But while we are working on eradicating that issue (which is a pipe dream and everyone knows it), how about we learn how to put our big girl panties on and deal with it? Don't be a victim. A victim, by definition, will always be victimized. The more we can teach our children and our students to quit caring what people say the less likely it is that they will be bullied. Because bullies only bully if someone lets them. We let them when we care what they say and when we get upset by their words. Once a bully sees that his victim isn't affected by his words, he will (most likely) move on to a more vulnerable target. 

**Once again, I want to note the disclaimer that there are exceptions to this because in severe cases of bullying the issue is not the victim's attitude.**

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." People might not ever stop bullying you, but if you stop giving them the power to make you feel inferior then it won't matter. 


We need to teach students to be confident. We need to empower them with the skills that help them cultivate thick skin and a positive attitude. Confidence is empowering. We can put up thousands of posters that say, "Bullying stops here," or "It isn't big to make others feel small," or "Don't stand by, stand up, stand strong, stand together. Stamp out bullying." But that isn't the way to take away a bully's power. The best way to do that is to teach ourselves to move past it and to quit giving bullies an inch. The only way to strip a bully of his or her power is simply not to hand over that power. Don't give a bully the ability to make you feel different about yourself. 

We need to teach our students and children that only they have the power to make themselves feel inferior and that as long as they don't give that power away the bullies will never win.

1 comment:

  1. WOW!JUST WHAT IT IS...I MIGHT WANT TO REPUBLISH THIS.

    ReplyDelete