Rebuilding your confidence after bullying can be difficult. When I was younger, I was called names, told I was ugly, and harassed by hurtful bullies who roamed as a pack of cowards. What they saw as humor, I saw as unprovoked attacks that left me emotionally scarred.
The problem is, the first few times are fairly easy to ignore—then something happens. You begin to wonder if what they are saying is true. I started to think that I really was ugly. I kept these feeling bottled up inside, and I told no one because I was so ashamed. I felt hideous and stopped going out with friends. I was scared to be in public, fearing another attack on my appearance.
Years later when I finally confided in my best friend, no amount of compliments and kind words could change my mind. I thought I looked like a monster.
It has been nearly a decade now, and I am just beginning to come out of my shell of insecurity. It has taken a lot of heart-to-heart talks with friends and family and a lot of time to heal.
The sad part is, it didn’t have to take that long. I now know that I could have done a few simple things to begin rebuilding my confidence more quickly back when the bullying was still fresh in my mind. I hope that by sharing these steps with you, I can save you many years of needless pain and self-doubt.
1. Talk to someone. Talk to a best friend, your partner, a parent, a teacher, a professional counselor — anyone who will listen and understand your pain. It is not healthy to keep your emotions buried, and there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are being bullied. The only ones who should be feeling shame are the bullies.
2. Help others. When you are feeling down, helping others can lift you up and put a smile on your face. Maybe you could volunteer at a local animal shelter, sign up to work with an anti-bullying organization, offer to help serve meals at a homeless shelter, or get involved in a church related charity. They key is stepping outside of your sadness and being there for others who need you.
3. Get involved. Try a new dance class, sign up for a sport you have been wanting to try, pick up guitar lessons, or enroll in a painting class. Find something you love that you can do every day. It is a great way to relieve stress, allows you to excel at something you enjoy, and provides you with a positive social outlet. Plus, it is just plain fun, and will help you feel happier and more confident.
4. Remember that you are special. You are a unique individual with your own set of ideas, beliefs, and thoughts. Maybe you are really creative, are an expert inventor, or are a math whiz. The point is, you are unique, talented, special, and there is only one of you. Don’t let a couple of cowardly bullies rob the world of knowing who you truly are as a whole person.
5. Remember that subjectivity is normal. Beauty, talent, and intelligence are all subjective. Someone who is “smart and beautiful” may mean a dark haired literature buff to one person or a redhead scientist to the next. One person’s opinion should never define who you are or who you will become in the future.
6. Forgiveness. This one isn’t easy. When that group of bullies attacked me, heartlessly calling me ugly, I was at a low point in my life. I had major health problems that were affecting my weight, hair, and skin. They didn’t care. Their only concern was amusing themselves with my pain. As the years passed, my health problems disappeared, my appearance changed, but my mind still held onto the pain. I may have lost weight, my skin may have cleared up, but I was still angry at the bullies. I held onto that bitterness for many years. Far too long, in fact. It was only once I forgave them and made a conscious decision to move on with my life that the emotional pain began to ease. They no longer had any power over me or my emotions.
Healing is a process. It takes time, so be gentle and patient with yourself as you go through the healing process. Remember, too, that you are not alone. I have been there myself. While painful, and sometimes slow, the healing will happen. When it does, you will be the strong, beautiful person you always have been in the eyes of those who really matter in your life.