Combat Bullying through Self-Compassion!
Image Credit: http://www.hpedsb.on.ca/newsroom/?p=6699
Pink Shirt Day, a day to raise awareness against bullying, began in 2007, when fifty teenagers in Nova Scotia showed up to class wearing a pink shirt in order to stand alongside a schoolmate who had been bullied for his choice in clothing. Those students all rose up in unity, armed with only the symbolic power of a pink shirt, to silence the bullies who had tried to intimidate their classmate. What's really remarkable about this story is that they used a non-confrontational and non-violent approach to fight against bullying. Sometimes, in a society that is somewhat desensitized to violence, it's often easy to turn around and fight fire with fire and respond to bullying in an aggressive manner. I admire the peaceful, innovative, and mature solution dreamed up by these teens.
Bullying is a topic at the national forefront nowadays, with many tragic stories of bullying-based suicides hitting the headlines. It's definitely a difficult problem to address as it has been menacing school yards for many generations. There are many approaches to resolving the problem when it presents itself, however, it seems that most of the literature points to telling a trusted responsible adult. This is absolutely the best thing to do for a child who is being bullied, however, what can we do as individuals to help alleviate instances of bullying?
Any cursory research into the root cause of bullying will reveal that bullies often victimize others in an attempt to make themselves feel better by bringing others down to their level of suffering. Or sometimes it is a reaction to some negative emotions that have gone unresolved or an attempt to fit in where they feel they don't belong. However, it is clear that it is rooted in low self-esteem and a sense of not belonging. Thus, considering these factors, we can change our behaviours in order to make our communities more inviting. We can teach children to work on their self-esteem and we can teach them to comfort others. But first, we must model this behaviour. It really starts with each individual. Body-based bullying is one problem that many people who visit the NEDIC website can relate too. When I say it starts with us, I'm not referencing the obvious: do not bully or discriminate others for their physical appearance. What about promising to never bully yourself? It seems that when it comes to ourselves, we issue a 'free pass' allowing us to say whatever negative things we want about our bodies. If we treat ourselves in such a manner, and constantly engage in fat-talk such as: “I look so fat today!" "I shouldn't have eaten that cupcake!" "Why can't I fit into my skinny jeans"; then how can we be in a position to show compassion to others?
In honour of Bullying Awareness Week , let's start by being kinder to ourselves - whether it's fat-talk or other negative-talk. This is sure to create a positive ripple effect and lift others who are struggling with self-esteem issues that might drive them towards bullying. It's a small little change to make, and it's not going to stop bullying in its tracks, but at least it's sure to bring about positive changes in our communities.
Priyanka Parshad has been a volunteer at NEDIC since 2012. She is a financial analyst by day and a writer by heart. You can read more from her at www.priyankaparshad.com