by Karen D. Swim
I am firmly convinced that the little boy who took my milk money in first grade is either a CEO or a convicted felon. Hopefully, he channeled his alpha tendencies in a positive manner and is a CEO, but the latter choice would not surprise me!
We all knew bullies growing up. Heck, some of you may have even been that bully. Not all bullies asserted their authority physically, some were geniuses at mental torture. Others reigned their kingdom with superior skills and an authoritative tone. Yet, looking back I learned valuable lessons from each and I believe became a better person as a result of my encounters with them. So, without further ado, my bully hall of fame and the lessons they taught me.
Joaquin (First Grade Bully)
Joaquin was a tough little kid who ruled the school yard with an iron fist. He took my milk money for weeks before I gained the courage to tell my parents. When my mom came to school and personally advised him to leave me alone, he suddenly became just another first grader. Lesson learned: Bullies are tough, but moms are tougher!
Leticia (Grades 1-6)
Leticia came from a big family and she was loud and bossy. She ruled the tether ball court and we all patiently awaited our turn each day allowing us to kick our butts. Leticia was not unstoppable but her confident attitude led us all to believe that she could not be beaten.She was allowed to wear her hair and clothing styles that my mom forbid for me, which added to her standoffish cool. We went on to become great friends. Lesson learned: The right attitude will make people sit up and take notice, that and a cool hairstyle.
Alexis (Middle school)
Alexis was the quintessential teenage mean girl! She hated me and found new ways to torment me almost daily. She befriended another mean girl and together they were Evil and Evil personified. What incited their hatred? A boy of course. I have a permanent bump on the back of my head courtesy of Alexis. I later learned that the torturous duo each came from less than ideal homes. Lesson learned: Bullies are often acting out their own internal pain. Be empathetic, don't take it personally and when they come near you run like the wind!
All of these bullies and the ones I later encountered in Corporate America taught me strength. I learned to stand up for myself and not allow others to walk over me. I learned that fear was my true bully not people. Leticia also taught me to aim beyond my comfort zone. Because of her, I practiced tether ball at home every day preparing myself to beat her. I may not have become a world class tether baller but I did stretch myself to new limits.
What about you? Did you encounter bullies on the schoolyard (or in the workplace)? What lessons did you learn? The comment box is open and all are welcome!