‘Life’s too short to allow someone else to pull it down,’ that was a conclusion I reached after years of trying to process some events from my childhood. I would have loved to have reached it sooner and while it didn’t quite work out that way, the valuable lesson was insecurity is something everyone has to deal with. Some are better at coping with and working at strengthening them others, while others go to great lengths to masking them; some people use and feed on the insecurities of others as away dealing with their own – the sort of behaviour which defines bullying.
When I was fifteen I made a decision that would change the course of my life forever – it was to own my life. As simple as it sounds, it took me many more years to fully get a grip of it, there was a lot of damage that needed repairing, at the time it made a world of difference during the volatility of adolescence and dealing with bullies – not just the ones at high school. I concluded that the worst bully in my life ended up being me, of course the messages that came into my mind via other parties triggered oppressive thoughts, and that’s where discernment became a handy skill much later on – determining what’s true and what’s a lie.
Generally speaking, I believe the same is true for adulthood as it is for adolescence, while adolescence is an awkward time because we’re all trying to find our “thing” and making sure our “thing” is our “thing” and the “thing” everyone is into, it’s in adulthood where whatever lessons we learned or behaviours we’ve taken up or left behind in adolescence that counts.
In life and community, we’re all trying to find our place, to fit in and belong. Yet before this can really happen, you need to know who you are before you know what your “thing” is. Some know who they are inside and sell that side of themselves in order to conform and deny themselves of being their true self – it happens all too often.
This is where I believe I didn’t help myself enough; circumstances played a part, they always do, growing up in a working class and housing commission home, in a household riddled with grief didn’t help, and having no siblings to fall back on for support (my sister passed away three months before I was born) – the odds were quite stacked. It’s a breeding ground for insecurity and vulnerability. I did however have my old man’s record collection and a free licence to watch as much Rage I liked on a Saturday morning and night. It started the journey with the discovery of punk, glam rock and indie rock; coming out as a KISS, Sex Pistols or Midnight Oil fan in 1992 at thirteen never really had the word ‘cool’ attached to it. For me it did, it was the energy and the attitude which caught my attention – in the same way Nirvana did for me and many others. It was the ignition point. The word cool to is overrated compared to words like originality and identity.
I do believe if someone had of sat me down and said, ‘Own you life before someone else does,’ and asked me some simple questions, like, what makes you tick, or, where would you use your voice the most if you could? There is no doubt I or anyone else would have been far better off.
Bullying, like domestic violence, seems to make its way into the news almost on a daily basis. There are parallels between the two haunting western culture, particularly in Australia, where the consequences for both are proving too deadly. Sadly, the attitude is somewhere between defeatist and needing to do something about it, and some saying bullying at school is a rite of passage. How many times have you heard, ‘We all cop it – it’s part of growing up,’ but does it really have to be? I don’t believe so.
It’s not lost on the parents who have lost kids to suicide because of depression and anxiety caused by bullying; a psychological injury is as bad as a physical one, and with the ever growing invasion of social media network, bullying just isn’t confined to the classroom, playground or work place – now it follows you home. With a click it comes via an email, a cell-phone text, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram; it’s no longer nasty stuff on the toilet block wall, a nasty letter or name calling. It’s all that and more. Neither is lost of the many women and children who have had endure life with an abusive and violent man.
With the spotlight glowing brighter on bullying, I believe the most powerful response for a person being a victim of bullying is to own their life. To know what you’re about, what makes you tick and to live it out. Yes, it sounds too simple, because it means developing resolve and resilience, and how do you do that when it becomes relentless, and you don’t know how to live with it?
Own your life means exactly what it means – your life is your life. You’re the one living it, and you’re the one who can determine how it is lived. Responsibility is its companion; you determine how you live and how you will allow someone to treat you, and what it is you will do with your life. Sadly, there will always be an antagonist trying to bring you down, just don’t become one yourself.
Bullies, I believe, get given far more power than they deserve. They only have one weapon – power. It’s driven by prejudice or envy, and used by cowards. They get self-worth by heaping abuse and misery onto another person; they are people who are not living, and it doesn’t matter how they deliver the abuse, whether it’s verbal, physical, psychological or cyber – it is all the same. It’s all about power; bullying delivered by peer groups is no different – it’s about control. There’s usually a ringleader with groups, and then there are the followers – the sheep who can’t think for themselves.
The only way to get control back is to own your life, to take back the power from the bully or your abuser, and disarm them. Disarming bullies at work, school, or anywhere (family, church, sports teams etc.) is difficult, but if you own your life, meaning you’re choosing to be happy and see a happy world for others, you will soon see it gets easier. That’s something I will write about another time, but what you learn is that bullies are miserable people who do not own their life, they’re trying to own the life of another person. Maybe bullies do not realise the damage they inflict, even if they only intend it to be short-term, it ends up long-term.
Research completed in 2006 by Dr Jean Healey, while she was at the University of Western Sydney, after surveying 3000 children from a range of high schools, found that the trauma from bullying was / is the same as those who had been victims of child sex abuse. One in six Australian children are copping some form of bullying and abuse at schools around the country – imagine your child is sitting in the playground or classroom, or walking home and is being set upon by a tormentor or a group, or you’re not there to help them. No one deserves that kind of access to yours or anyone’s life. The same goes for women dealing with violent men, no man deserves access to your life if he is like that with you.
That one human being would want to torment another human being to the point where they have permanent psychological damage, says everything about the human being giving the abuse. They’re actually behaving in an inhumane (non-human) way. Hence, why I believe the best response any person enduring bullying can make, is to own their life.
Ownership of your life is the most empowering favour you will ever do for yourself. Your life is your life, your body, mind, heart and soul is yours – it doesn’t belong to anyone else. Don’t become a victim – that is what bullies want to do – victimise.
The day I decided I to become a victim, my life went to ruins. I lost self-control, self-respect, life-control, and caved into self-destruction and self-sabotage. I didn’t trust people. I began speaking negatively of others, which never helps.
Embrace positivity; negativity breeds negativity, and negativity comes from insecurity, and bullies are negative and insecure people.
People who have a healthy ownership of their life allow others to own theirs. They are not bothered by competition or others going after the same as them. These sorts of people know what they want and chase after it, and are happy for others when they have success – they encourage, support and assist others in any way they can. They’re also secure people who are honest about their insecurities, not bothered by fear, secure in themselves and what they have; they are humble and put others before themselves. They don’t impose themselves on another person, and they don’t expect others to come after them. If they hurt or offend someone, they will listen and are quick to mend fences. They take nothing for granted, for them life is to be lived and not to be taken for granted.
People who own their life deal with bullies in a way that makes them powerless. They know how to answer them verbally, non-verbally and physically. They don’t cower or run away, neither do they allow aggressors or bullies to “have their way with them.” They don’t allow a group of people to define them by whatever label they throw at them or another person, or how indifferent their peer group wants to treat others. They’re not influenced by peer pressure or expectations. They are assertively resistant people who don’t need to violence to deal with aggressive behaviour; they question the behaviour of someone and make them accountable for it, and they know how to walk away.
A person who owns their life objects to any sort of prejudice or behaviour that causes harm to others, and speak out about injustice and confront evil. They go and attend to the victim and offer reassurance – they’re not bystanders who let their friends treat others how they would not like to be treated themselves. They treat others how they want to be treated.
People who decide daily to be happy, own their life. Make that decision for yourself. Be angry about those who rob others of happiness and the opportunity to own their life. And that begs the question, do you own your life? It’s a question I ask myself everyday. Because painful experiences tell me, if you don’t own your life, someone or something else will. Don’t let them!