According to a survey conducted by local social enterprise Agent of Change Foundation, one in three students in Hong Kong have experienced bullying. I am one of those that have been bullied.
People who know me now know that I’m a talkative, positive, sociable person. I make friends easily. It might be hard for them to imagine that I was once a victim of bullying – but I can honestly say that I would not be the person that I am today were it not for my past.
That past also includes a time that I was the bully. When I was in primary school, I helped others make fun of one of my female classmates. Back then, I thought it was fun, but looking back, I feel ashamed of myself and bad for the girl I bullied. She didn’t deserve it. I got a taste of my own medicine when I entered middle school.
Awful rumours were spread about me by my classmates. Other students in classes outside my own did not want to become friends with me based on these rumours. I was, according to what they heard, not worth knowing.
My friends – the ones who had been friends with me since primary school – chose to say nothing. Some even distanced themselves from me. I didn’t know why this was happening to me, only that it was.
Even now, I don’t know why I was bullied, but I still remember how I’d feel on a daily basis – the constant, on-the-edge-of-my-seat waiting, the horrible uncertainty of not knowing when the next attack would come.
I made myself small, and tried to pass my days unnoticed with the few friends I had left. I was isolated, and lonely. My grades, my self-esteem, and even my mood all went in one direction – down.
After a number of years of this happening, I sought help from a social worker at my school. She told me that I would not be able to get along with everyone in the world, and that I shouldn’t live a life trying to make people who don’t like me, like me.
It is, she said, impossible to please everyone. I can’t change the labels people were putting on me, she said, but I could change how I dealt with them.
Her advice terrified me, but I knew that if I didn’t at least try then I would feel this way all my life. I started writing down motivational quotes in my schedule book. Seeing them every time I flipped through it helped me a lot.
A year after I started doing this, I began to stop paying attention to the comments. As soon as I stopped reacting to them, they stopped entirely.
The people who once bullied me haven’t ever apologised for what they used to do, but they have started talking to me again. I’ve let go of any grudges or resentment that I may have once felt for them for what they did.
If there is one thing that I can say about having been both bully and bullied, it’s that it’s given my the opportunity to reflect on how I did, do, and will treat others and myself.