“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”- Dr. Seuss
In honour of Pink Shirt Day I thought it was important to talk about the growing issue of bullying that is increasingly present in schools, workplaces, and around our world.
If you didn’t already know, Pink Shirt Day began with an act of kindness in 2007 when a grade 9 boy was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. From there, two students decided to spread around pink shirts to all the boys in school in solidarity with the bullying victim. Years later, that small act has rippled to thousands of people joining together to wear pink, raise money for anti-bullying initiatives, and much more.
For me, because I went through it myself, bullying is a topic that I feel should be talked about much more.
Growing up I wasn’t the most liked person. I didn’t have a large group of friends and I never felt like I had a place of belonging. Because of the way society conforms us to thinking, it’s not surprising that we’re often inclined to reject anything remotely different or “abnormal”.
I had Dora bangs, Harry Potter glasses and braces so that of course meant through most of my time in elementary school I would be called every name in the book. People made fun of my weight, the way I talked, the way I walked, and the way I acted. It was a hard concept to comprehend at that age. I didn’t understand what was so wrong with me. I didn’t understand why people didn’t like me or how they could make fun of me without truly knowing me.
I vividly remember my mindset at the time being, “I need to find out what’s wrong with me and change completely”. I tried my best to dress the way everyone else would, rejecting my usual braids and scrunchies and ALL-yellow ensemble. I tried to cling to the newest fad or trend whether it was silly bands, Pokemon cards or double dutch, but nothing seemed to work. Nothing would help, no matter how hard I tried to fit in. I was still destined to be seen as the same four-eyed, brace-face I was originally viewed as.
After a while of the daily ridiculing by my peers, I became a different person. I was no longer the outgoing girl I once was. I become someone who would refuse to speak up in class and share my opinions out of fear of being ridiculed. A lot of the insecurities that I currently struggle with, stemmed from the bullying I faced as a child.
I felt alone.
It took a long time for me to stop listening to the comments from those who bullied me and start listening to myself and my feelings. Slowly, but surely I got through it. I met friends who accepted me for who I was and I stopped trying to change myself to conform with everybody else. I learned that I could never be anyone else, it just wouldn’t work. All that was left was for me to fall in love with myself and ignore the opinions of anyone who tried to knock me down for things that were not in my control.
They always say, “stick and stones may break my bones, but words could never hurt me”. In my opinion, that is completely wrong. Words DO hurt, they DO cause damage to people’s self-esteem. We have the power to be kind to one another and it is so important that we do so. We must accept one another for our differences and love ourselves; quirks and all. Our differences are what makes us unique and define us as people.
We have to stand up for the people who are forced to hide in the shadows and hide their true potential because of fear. We have to build each other up, not knock each other down.
I wish I knew when I was younger that I was perfect the way I was and didn’t need to try and change myself for anyone.
From time to time, I still struggle with my self-confidence. I still spend time questioning my worth and questioning who I am as a person. Luckily, through the support of friends and family, I’ve learned to put those negative thoughts behind me and remind myself that I am special and I matter.
Small actions can make a persons entire day. Spread kindness, spread love, show people how important they are. Whether it be a simple smile, a hug, or checking up on someone to see how their day is going. These little actions MATTER and do make a difference. Start a ripple effect today, spread an act of kindness to someone you think needs it.
You are loved and you are perfect just the way you are. Never forget that.
This Pink Shirt Day, make a change and start a conversation on bullying. Help those in need feel like they are not alone.
If you, or someone you know are in need please feel free to visit Humber’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre.
If you are in need of support, check out what resources can work for you.