It’s amazing when I look back at the last five to 10 years or so of my life, and mark the progression that I’ve made regarding the relationship I have with myself and the relationship I have with the world around me.
When I was in high school, I was swept away by all of these needs to fill expectations that others had of me. I was preoccupied with doing whatever I could to be admired by the more sociable and attractive group. I stepped on people to get where I needed to go, and throughout all of it really lacking an astute awareness of the ways in which my actions would intimidate or instill fear in others.
When I reflect now, I become an interesting blend of remorseful and grateful. I’m burdened by internal unrest I have potentially provoked in another, and curious if my actions had any long lasting effect.
(I have always admired greatly the stamina of a person who is consistently ridiculed throughout their childhood and even into adulthood. There’s an unbelievable test that those who are bullied are constantly taking…and passing. I found that even in the few times when I was publicly belittled, I was full of fear and anger, almost to the point of acting out on my heavy emotion. And I reflect on those people who withstand that hurricane for years without significant outburst.)
Bullying can look many ways. It can exist in all environments, between all kinds of people.
What’s consistent throughout bullying though is the feeling that accompanies being taken for granted in situation. In my experiences, I remember watching friends of mine being bullied and being too afraid to reach out and take a stand. As I became an adult, I had a tendency to take being bullied by employers because “they could.”
What comes now—years after the fact and reflecting on years of being both the recipient and a bystander—is appreciation. Appreciation for having learned those lessons, understanding that at one point in my life I didn’t have that inner strength to authentically express my feelings, and now realizing my tolerance for it has been reduced to zero. No regret. For there is nothing I would change to bring me to the place in my life that I am right now.
I am, though, quite grateful that I had to experience that in order to learn the importance of each person having a beautiful uniqueness, and just because our shells appear to be different, that doesn’t warrant my arrogance and need for personal ego fuel.
As part of this reflection, I marvel at my lack of awareness then and am humbled by awareness now. However, at times what it does do is propel me into watching my actions like a hawk. Really making sure that nothing is misinterpreted, I make sure that at the end of my days all relationships are on firm ground, and that I have contributed in whatever way—big or small. I think though that this imbalance isn’t necessarily healthy, I should go from one extreme to the other, and find middle ground in the beauty of the fallible nature of humans.
So I feel as though I have ping pong balled between lack of and excessive awareness. I don’t think yet I have found my completely comfortable middle ground. But I’m searching for it, to have an open eye to my actions, but not excessive.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger
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