I recently have had the honour to hear personal stories from those I have become close with during my travels, regarding their past and how they were severely bullied as children and teenagers. In some cases, when I tried to join the conversation to discuss the similar situations I have incurred and share my own experiences and show how even though our countries and language may differ, bullying is still the same worldwide, I got a lot of scoffs. I had many question how I could have possibly been bullied. This confused me, because I don’t see or understand how I could be any different from you. All children can be exposed to bullies and I can ensure plenty of peers will happily testify that I was NOT in the popular crowd, either in primary or high school.
This is where I can only deem that image becomes a reflection of how people will perceive you. We all know the classic ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and yet no one seems to actively incorporate this in their daily lives. Do you not deem me bully worthy because I dyed my hair blonde for a year and half (but have since gone back red), I chose to work within the fashion industry and can carry myself with confidence. Yes, this is my external image, but that doesn’t define who I am, or mean I wasn’t mercilessly ridiculed as a child and teenager.
I can assure you, all of these visual factors of my appearance inflict adult bullying as well, either through the assumption I am unintelligent due to the previous colour of my hair, or through the competitiveness and nasty behaviour I have had the displeasure to incur from the industry I poured my heart and soul into. We need to stop placing our judgements on others and realise that as we get older, the kids you once called losers, nerds, outcasts and misfits grow up and often grow out of the appearance and (sometimes unfortunately) the personality they were once teased for. I personally was an overweight, freckle-faced, red head, smartarse, A+ student wearing Winnie the Pooh fan t-shirts and it definitely didn’t earn me any friends. It didn’t help that I had the stubborn behaviour I still have now and would bite back at the bullies, only to encourage more retaliation.
(from The Good Quote)
The thing is, I did grow up, but many others unfortunately haven’t and still live with a youthful mentality that to get ahead it’s better to put others down. Yes, I went into a creative career, I learnt how to use makeup and style my hair, but why should my adult external appearance define who I am and your ideas of what my childhood contained. It’s taken a long time for me to finally feel comfortable with myself and my natural appearance. I no longer feel the need to smoother myself in fakeness. I won’t change my opinion if it isn’t part of the percentage of popular belief, nor will I change who I am just to fit in. I still appreciate an epic hair cut and killer contouring, but I no longer feel that I have to be perfect to please everyone and I certainly won’t associate with a group of people that reflect a negative attitude towards those that aren’t exactly like them.
So no, I am not popular and I never will be. I was the 7 year old that had her entire class decide not to speak to her for a whole day because the ‘cool’ girl told them to. I was the 11 year old that had a group of kids pretend the boy I liked, liked me back and told me he would meet me at recess and he never showed up. I was the 14 year old who had a girl follow her home throwing rocks at her because we shared the same name and I again wasn’t ‘cool’ enough to be known as Leah as well. I was the 16 year old who had a girl deliberately stomp on her foot on a trip to the US when she knew I had an infection in my toe and caused walking to be painful and the healing to take twice as long.
We need to stop believing we can perceive all we need to know at a glance. A girl may be beautiful, but that doesn’t mean she is self centered and obsessive about her appearance. A teenager may have braces, glasses, and pimples on their face so you assume they’re a ‘nerd’ but they could be failing every class. The point is we can’t know how a person has had to deal with their life, simply by how they look.
(Image I took on the Subway in Scotland)
My good friend Grace that I met in Israel has told me of her initiative she implemented amongst her friends called The Cool Kid Table, and no it isn’t what you might first think. She herself was bullied as a child and now she wants to encourage everyone to pass on a good deed. This is an initiative to be inclusive, not exclusive. The Cool Kid Table should be filled with of a variety of personalities where everyone shares, communicates and acts to understand people from all walks of life. A place for everyone to mix and mingle. It shouldn’t be this preconceived idea of people behaving as if they are too good for you to even think you deserve a place to sit next to them. What a fickle mentality in the first place.
If you see someone sitting by themselves, ask them to sit with you to engage in an interesting conversation. Better yet, encourage others to then sit with both of you so you can get a big group together of individuality, not carbon copies. It can’t hurt you to give a smile and a few moments of your time to interact with a real person, that you might have otherwise spent on your phone.
I’m so pleased to know many amazing people from all around the world, that ooze kindness, intelligence, patience and generosity. I thank them every day for accepting me for who I am, just as I do for them. What society currently perceives as ‘cool kids’ are the type of personalities that don’t like me and I couldn’t care less. My life is enriched every day by surrounding myself only with wonderful people and it is these type of personalities that are the real cool kids. How about making your New Year resolution one of inclusion of everyone. Go out into the world and meet a few of these real cool kids for yourself to see what I’m talking about. It’s time for more acceptance in 2017.
♥ Love from Leah