Being that this month is Anti-Bullying Month, the NaturallyCurly editors wanted to reach out to our local community to see where we can lend our support. Whether it's fat shaming, hair discrimination or manipulation. We wanted to provide girls with helpful tips to conquer bullying and celebrate their uniqueness.
We partnered with one of my favorite local organizations, Girls Empowerment Network where we visited Bedicheck Middle School and lead an activity and discussion. Read on for our candid experiences.
To get the girls moving, we started with a quick activity asking them questions about how someone has made them feel or how they've made someone feel by their actions or words. If they answered yes they would walk to the other side of the room and if they answered no they would stay where they were. This was to show that most of us have been on both sides from being bullied or being the bully, so we understand the pain it causes.
After that, we split up into 4 groups, where the editors lead the discussion. We reminisced on our bullying experiences as young girls, learned about their experiences and reminded them how smart, powerful and strong they were. Ironically, they taught a few things as well, keep scrolling to find out.
Cristina, Managing Editor
I was surprised by how many of the interactions and examples the girls were pulling from in our discussions were from their relationships with boys! It's been a while since I was in middle school, I think I forgot how early these crushes and arguments with boys start. We all had to go around the room and talk about something good in our day, something bad, and something we were looking forward to. One girl said the bad part of her day was that her boyfriend hadn't texted her back. When we asked what she was looking forward to she said, "an explanation!" These girls are fierce!
But on a more serious note, one of the middle school girls said this yesterday, and I really loved it, she said "Talk to the bully, ask them what the issue is and see if you can work it out together. They may have something they're going through that you don't know about. If that doesn't work, tell an adult.
My biggest takeaway was to recognize that our words hold so much power, which can be hurtful in the form of bullying, but it can also be positive and uplifting. It only takes a moment for us to recognize and compliment another girl's greatness, and that compliment may brighten her whole day.
Gerilyn, Sr. Copywriter
Listening to the girls' celebrations and frustrations made me realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As the girls were trying to determine what is real and worthy of their concentration, they were simultaneously laying the foundation for their future interactions with their colleagues, family members, and peers. Their concerns were kind of a funhouse mirror image of adulthood; and admittedly, a bit revelatory for me, an adult who's still fumbling about with random anxieties developed in her childhood. It was remarkable to listen to these insightful little women and to be a part of their world for just a moment. All 3 of the girls in my group told me that they rely on the help of an adult, and I agree with them. If you are being bullied, talk with an adult that you trust. Talking with your friends is helpful, but an adult can nip things in the bud faster than you can imagine. Whether it is a family member, your teacher, or even your school bus driver, you need to be supported. An adult can help with that!
It's so so so important to make naturally quieter children feel included in conversations with more talkative ones. Once I opened the floor for one of the more reticent girls in my pod, not only did she have a lot to say, the other girls that were more exuberant personalities were immediately listening and responsive and interactive with her. It's not that quieter kids don't want to talk 100% of the time, it may just be that they feel uncomfortable interrupting others or jumping in on their own. Similarly, it's not true that talkative kids can't listen and be nurturing and helpful!
Find your tribe. When you see your antagonizers every day at school, avoidance isn't always an option. And sometimes it can be hard to talk to adults, even the ones that are supposed to be there to help. So it's more important than anything to cultivate your interests and make sure you have friends in the same arenas to talk to. Discovering your passions and then joining related clubs, age-appropriate online groups, and going to events when you're able can help you feel like you have somewhere to belong, even when your peers or the adults in your life can't be supportive like you need them to be. And having something you love can make all the difference in keeping you grounded and sane— even if you have to be a tribe of one for a while.
I'm really hoping to start shifting onus to change from the victims of bullying to the actual bullies. There's a lot of the 'They bully you because of their own problems' and 'Turn the other cheek, be the bigger person' rhetoric still floating around, but I think it's incredibly unfair and unhelpful to tell children the only thing to be done is for them to change their own behavior and emotions when they haven't done anything untoward, or to tell them that they're 'just as bad' if they defend themselves. I'd like to be the start of telling more kids "What's happening to you is terrible, you don't deserve to be treated this way, and you're not wrong to be angry about it."
I was inspired by the girl's honesty, transparency, and vulnerability to speak their truths and share their experiences about themselves. It truly showed their bravery. Anytime I get the opportunity to speak with young girls, it reminds me how strong, intelligent and aware they are of not only themselves but those around them. One of the things I remember one of the girls saying was when people call her names her response is, " I don't care, that's what makes me unique!"
I hope to continue to mentor young girls and remind them of their greatness, they are the future. By sharing my journey I strive to show girls that they too can create a limitless life and walk in their purpose, regardless of what is popular or looks cool.
Thank you GEN, for giving us the opportunity to discuss the importance of self-love and how to conquer bullying.