Girls in middle school try hard to fit in with their peers while trying to find themselves at the same time. During this crucial stage of development, girls learn important social skills like how to hang out with friends and how to politely decline a movie invitation.
But sometimes, thoughts of power and insecurity overrule politeness, and reaching the top of the never-ending social ladder matters more than just fitting in.
Looking back on my middle school years, I know what makes a bully because that’s the kind of girl I was. I was ruthless in my actions and coldhearted with my words. I didn’t stop until I got my way, no matter whom I hurt in the process.
The girls in my class were mostly kind and sweet, but one of the most thoughtful of these girls made me so angry. Why bully her? I probably wished I was as happy as she. I was going through a rough time and needed an outlet to express my anger so she was the perfect target.
When one of my friends talked to this girl, I told that friend to cut all contact with her. I would move seats to avoid sitting with her and move all my friends along with me.
I laughed in her face, told her that her clothes were ridiculous and made her life hell, probably because I lacked the qualities that she had in abundance.
Yep—I know what makes a bully.
My bullying split the class in two: those with me and those against me. The majority of the class chose me, so I was fine. But when a girl told me that this other girl was her best friend, I went ballistic: “I’ve been your friend forever. You have to be my friend, not hers,” I yelled. “How could you choose her over me?”
The girl looked at me and said, “Exactly,” and walked away.
She stood up to me and chose loyalty to her friend, despite my antics to keep the power. My reign was over, and I quickly became aware of the monster I had become.
How did this happen? Why bully others? How did I get so out of whack from the kind, innocent girl I used to be? At that moment, I decided to change. I apologized to everyone, but I would never be the same. The phrase “actions speak louder than words,” became my life motto, and I now make a conscious effort to keep my actions moral and in-line.
Adults wonder if teenagers are conscious of how they treat one another. The answer is yes and no. Yes, I knew that I wasn’t acting in a respectful way. No, I didn’t understand that my behavior was unacceptable because no adult intervened and told me to stop.
Many bullies have an “awakening” and realize that their behavior is horrible. Sometimes they don’t. Now is the time to become aware of how our actions can change someone’s life forever: for better or worse.