Sticks and stones breaking your bones?
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break my spirit… unless I allow them to.
Being born with Type 1 Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bones disease, I was very prone to fractures as a young child.
I couldn’t do the things a normal child could, like running, climbing or jumping around because something as simple as tripping could easily break my bones.
My fractures got so frequent that I stopped walking at the age of two and couldn’t stand up until I was 16. I was raised in a financially-constrained family. We were not rich, but our parents loved my siblings and I very much.
We couldn’t afford a wheelchair, so my mother had to carry me in her arms everywhere I went. This included trips to school and to classes. Because of that, I was laughed at, teased and bullied by some of my classmates in school.
By sharing my experiences and principal beliefs that helped me through my struggles of being bullied, I hope to help others who may be facing similar situations.
Bullying: More than just physical
Some forms of bullying are overlooked and seen as normal behaviour, especially among youths. Bullying doesn’t just appear in the form of physical violence.
According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive behaviour where someone intentionally and repeatedly causes injury or discomfort to another, and this can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions such as social exclusion.
The bullying I went through were mostly verbal and emotional in nature. No matter what forms of bullying you go through, bullying shouldn’t be overlooked and mistaken as “normal”. If you are a victim of bullying, do report it to the relevant authorities or a trusted adult.
Tell someone who cares
No one can go through life alone. Many times, we need people who can stand up for us, cheer us on and be our source of encouragement.
I had friends who were there for me when I was bullied, but my biggest source of support came from my parents. They loved me unconditionally and they never forgot to remind me that they would always be there for me. Not everyone has people to share problems with. So we stop reaching out, thinking that no one cares.
If you are being bullied at school or even at home, tell someone. It can be a friend, your parents, a teacher or even a counsellor. There is someone out there who cares about what is happening to you.
Lee with his teachers during his schooling years.
Your worth is not based on how people perceive you
When I was in Year Five, several classmates came together and publicly made fun of me, calling me budak cacat (crippled boy). That incident made me doubt my own worth, and if I could amount to anything in life because of my disability.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realised that my worth is not based on what people think of me. Instead, I get to choose who I want to be, and that decision is not affected by the opinion of others.
Never let anyone dictate who you are or who you should be, especially when the person’s intention is to hurt you.
Although it may be counter-intuitive at first, you need to be proud of who you are. This shouldn’t be mistaken with arrogance.
The Star article dated December 16, 2012, featuring Lee’s proud moment.
It’s not your fault
Victims of bullying sometimes blame themselves for what happens to them. Most times, the bullies convince the victims to believe that they deserve what they are getting.
These are not truths. Bullying is never right, and it is never the victim’s fault.
Words have no power until you give it meaning
Words often hurt more than the physical bullying. It’s perplexing because if we think about it, words are merely sound passing through vocal cords; pixels on a page; a collection of sounds and phrases that we decide have meaning.
When we allow what a person says to have a grip over who we are, we are already giving power to those words.
Do not allow negative words by bullies to influence what you think about yourself and the world around you. If you must, overpower those words with stronger, positive affirmation.
Forgive those who wronged you
In Year Six, I was in a different school and away from my bullies. Never did I imagine I would one day meet the bully who teased me in class at a leadership camp.
I remembered trying hard to decide if I should speak to him or hold on to the grudge. I finally decided that forgiveness wasn’t so much for the person than it was for myself to move on and be no longer bound by my past.
Forgive those who wronged you. Though it is hard to do, you will find that a burden is lifted from your chest when you actually do so.
You are stronger than you think
Many years later, these experiences have now become nothing more than a memory that serves as a reminder that pain doesn’t last forever. We can emerge from our past stronger and more determined.
It’s a reminder that although we may have scars, they are only there to show that we have overcome obstacles in life. You are stronger than you think!
With social media, come cyberbullying
Bullying has existed longer than we think. We often see an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim, with the former using whatever means necessary to gain superiority and power over the latter.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are platforms for people to connect and relate to one another. Unfortunately, having 24/7 connectivity also means that bullying is no longer limited to school compounds or playgrounds.
Cyberbullying can happen at many levels, with some being taken as a joke and some as a severe form of intimidation and harassment.
What to do if you are being cyberbullied:
- Do not engage
When someone is trying to harass you online, don’t engage in the conversation. Engaging bullies would only encourage them to harass you more. Whenever possible, ignore the bully.
- Record evidence
Keep a record of messages, emails or materials sent by the bully. You may need it to identify the bully or when you report it to the authorities.
- Reach out
You don’t have to go through bullying alone. Speak to an adult or someone who may be able to help. If what the bully does is against some form of rule or law, they can help you through the process of reporting it to the right authorities.