Letter to My Bully

I found the old class photograph and I looked for you.

I can remember your words, most of them.

The words that stung, that ripped into me, then undermined me even when they made no sense: weird, strange, not normal, ugly, stupid, clumsy, useless, soft, cry-baby, weak: the jibes about my body, my face, my hair, my skin, my family, my past, my future.

I remember the separation, the isolation, the other-ness.

But guess what? Your face itself is blank.

Do I wish I learnt earlier to hide the pain? Maybe.

Perhaps I wish I had stopped looking at myself sooner and looked at everyone else instead to see that their vulnerabilities, their weaknesses, their weirdnesses, stupidities and so on were no less than mine. It was simply that theirs were not pointed out.

I certainly wish that it had not taken me so long to realise that you were the one with the problem, not me.

Someone who could uses fear to make companions is just as friendless as someone who sits alone. Maybe more so.

And if I was vulnerable and sensitive, in fact, if I am still vulnerable or sensitive then I am glad.

I have learnt that these are good things to be.

At least I can recognise pain and doubt and fear and try to comfort rather than exploit. I want to be kind and loyal. I bitterly regret every unkindness or disloyalty I have ever been guilty of.

And I do not fear failure. I know I can start again and again and again.

You thought that failure makes you weak. But you were wrong. It is not failure which makes you weak. Failure makes you strong. Failure makes you look at yourself and analyse what went wrong and move forward.

Being cruel makes you weak. Being a bully makes you smug on victory, building yourself up and up … but there is nothing but destruction waiting when you fall.

So I can look at the school photograph and find myself. I remember how alone I felt in that class of young faces. I can name most of those other children, including the ones who told me afterwards how afraid they were of you and the ones who tried to be kind even when you picked on them for trying to befriend me. But I can’t find you. If you’re who I think you are then you looked like everyone else. You don’t look so scary.

I am not ashamed to have been that shy, lonely little girl who didn’t know how to hide her feelings. I am proud that I have grown to want to be kind.

Are you proud to be the one who made me cry?


Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

8 thoughts on “Letter to My Bully

  1. It annoys me we don’t do more to prevent bullies even now. It’s not inevitable and children don’t have to be mean. I home educate and in our local group children have come and gone but I remember one minor incident of a bossy pre-teen girl (and she was bossy rather than bullying). It stuck out because in fourteen years it has been the only one.

    1. My parents had both been bullied and their view was that you just had to put up with it. When someone started on my son, I stepped right in and worked with the school to resolve it. A lot depends on the school. Mine was absolutely terrible. My son’s is very good.

  2. I had the unique “pleasure” of being bullied by a huge group of kids in middle and high school, kids I didn’t even know. The worst part was that my friends stood by doing nothing. Some were friends with the bullies. I understand why they did it (they were scared to be bullied too) but it still stings to no end. You never really get over it completely.

    1. No, you’re right. After the girl in question had moved on (thankfully) I had one more year in junior school when a couple of girls came out of the woodwork and sort of made friends, two on them still picked on me and perpetuated the situation. When we moved on to High School, I ditched the lot of them and did my best to reinvent myself although eventually one of those girls and I became good friends for a number of years. She said “I felt so sorry for you but I was scared of her”. As you say, it still hurt. I think I built up a load of walls as a result which I’ve since had to break down bit by bit. Still a bit of a loner though.

  3. Your bully. An everyone else’s. My parents would have thought that standing up to bullies was character building I suspect. I never bothered telling them. The school headmistress was a bully. The year 3 girls who bullied me were her pets. No hope when it’s institutionalised like that. Private schools have scarred many and yet the victims – let’s face it that’s what they are – often brush off, or worse, defend the experience as being ‘normal’, par of some sort of necessary rite of passage. It is only ‘normal’ because people accept it and don’t speak out for fear of being seen as weak. No wonder we have such bullish, politicians who lack empathy with people.

    I was bullied because I was studious – even though I was streamed in a middle band and not part of the academic elite – and because I wore Startrite shoes due to mechanical issues with my feet. I got not to care and instead of becoming a ‘shrinking Violet’ it made me defensive of others who were bullied. I could certainly identify with them: the girl 2 years ahead of me who probably had disabilities and was certainly ‘different’; the non-white people in our year who didn’t fit in and were the subject of racist insults.

    You’re right it makes you stronger, but it shouldn’t happen. Not then. Not now.

    1. No it shouldn’t. I can’t even identify why I was bullied particularly. The worst offender was a girl who was very clever about it. She only struck out once and I retaliated (naturally I was the one who got caught). After that she went back to subtle insults. I think the first time I was upset, I was marked as a victim and that was a pattern from school to school. When I got to secondary, I just built a shell, which is hard to break out of; and a self-deprecation which annoys others and myself. Work has its own bullies as well and they’re hard to stand up because they are almost always in a position of power. My parents’ view was not so much that it was character building as it was inevitable. I refused to take the same stance when the same thing happened to my child. Fortunately their school is much better than any of mine were.

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