It’s the ten year anniversary of Mean Girls. (Nothing like a teen movie from your twenties turning ten to make you feel old.) This movie and the book it was based on made waves a decade ago. Women everywhere identified. I bet you’ve got a mean girl in your head as you read this.
Today I’m here to remind you that the things we say have power. Self-esteem, body image and a person’s happiness can be altered for better or worse based on how we treat them. Don’t be a mean girl.
My dream to heal through photography is often to help undo something from a client’s past. Bullying is a real problem. Both the bully’s reasons and the person being bullied are difficult to address.
I’ve been bullied a decent amount over the years.
I was an over achiever and involved in a lot of school activities. I was pretty, though I didn’t know it and would spend a good twenty years feeling ugly. I was teased for my butt. For my hair. For my grades. For having “dirty” knees, elbows and toes. (#BrownGirlProblems) I actually cut the skin off the tops of my toes in an effort to make them less brown. I was teased for the fact that I had few friends and associated with the teachers. (Who wants to hang around moody teenagers when awesome teachers are around?!)
The most memorable bullying episode was my first.
Third grade. It was a warm day in Texas. We were just finishing recess and I wasn’t ready to go in. The teachers made the final call for us us to line up and I ran across the blacktop towards the door. Two pretty (aka popular) girls Tiffany and April stood on the raised platform by the door. At first I thought they were waving at me and I waved back. Then the smile faded from my face and my heart sank when I realized they were making fun of me. It took me a moment because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. The waved their hands while framing their faces, their thumbs in their ears. “Moose! Lim! Moose! Lim! She’s a MOOSE LIM,” They chanted laughing. It was quite creative I can appreciate as I look back. But it was the first of many times I would be ostracized for my religion. Being Muslim in America is challenging. That moment back in third grade was when I realized that I would probably do better in life if I hid that fact.
The adult in me knows that they were children and children zero in on anything that makes anyone different.
It’s a way of defining themselves. But the third grader cringed and felt ashamed of her vision of God.
Over the years I’ve met too many people of all faiths that claim to be Godly yet use their narrow minded God to judge others. That’s bullying.
The good news is that bullies grow up and most bullies feel remorse at some point.
Here’s the story of a bully apologizing years later.
So for the bullied, you HAVE to hold tight to your self-worth.
Life is going to throw much harder and larger stones your way. Your faith in yourself can be shaken but you can’t let it fade away. Words have power, especially when you’re talking to yourself.
Here’s a technique to help you let go of bad memories. I tried it with the bullying episode (after I wrote it) as a catharsis. Our minds are funny creatures and we tend to like running around in hamster wheels. This does help you let go.
Even things you say that are seemingly helpful can leave marks.
Have you given a friend unsolicited advice? Told them to make changes? No one can make a decision for anyone else or truly understand what’s going on. But we LOVE to judge. It’s hard to watch, but our job isn’t to make someone else learn their lessons. It’s to be here and give them a shoulder. If they ask for help, we can offer solutions. But they are the only person who can make the changes.
To those who have bullied:
An apology can help heal the other person immensely. It doesn’t matter how many years later it comes. If your heart is hurting because you’ve hurt someone, reach out. Be prepared for them to be angry. But you can let it go and forgive yourself.
Don’t be a mean girl. Feelings are fragile and they’re each person’s responsibility. But your words are YOUR responsibility.
Don’t be a mean girl to YOURSELF. Your thoughts and words can change how you feel about yourself. ABOVE ALL do not take outside voices and turn them into your own.