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A Letter to the Bullied

I can’t take this anymore. I can’t read one more news story about a child who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied.

Bullying is the new smoking: The bad kids do it and always for terrible reasons. The schools are wallpapered with posters urging you not to do it. And apparently, bullying kills — far faster, in fact, than lung cancer does.

But I don’t want to talk about bullies, those cowardly cretins who think they can deflect attention from their own festering failures by kicking around someone who’s simply less inclined to be mean. It’s obvious; no one should harass or humiliate another person. But do you know what else shouldn’t happen? Children should not kill themselves. Ever. And that’s what I want to talk about.

This is a message for the bullied — a pissed-off missive for kids who’ve fallen prey to some loud-crowing schoolyard tyrant or cackling klatch of neighborhood creeps.

Dear Bullied Kid,

Yeah, you. The one wearing that mantle of shame. I’ll be honest: It doesn’t look great on you. It’s not your color, not your size. I see you in something more colorful — something lighter.

Word has it you’re being pestered by the local toughs. Do they say you’re weird? Call you a freak? Insist that you don’t fit in? Joke’s on them because you’re in great company: Nearly a third of American students say they’ve been bullied this year alone. That means one in every three kids on your block, your bus, your team feels the same way you do at any given moment.

As a once-bullied kid myself, I have a secret for all of you: You’re going to be just fine. Right now you’re surrounded by the voices of a few particularly loud jerksticks who never learned how to be comfortable in their own skin. The only way they feel safe in the tiny world you both share is to label someone else as a target. And for no rational reason, you’re the flavor of the month.

When you’re at the center of a pack of yipping coyotes, it’s impossible to hear the friendly voices, or see the welcoming smiles, of the world just beyond that unnerving circle.

But I’m here. I live in that world just past your classroom door, your school walls, your oppressive neighborhood in your too-small town. And I promise we’re all waiting to marvel at the fascinating, not-exactly-like-everyone-else package that is you. Out in the real world, we love people who fly an unexpectedly hued flag — especially survivors: Whoa! Hi, there, unique person who’s overcome unfair struggles! Come sit by me and tell me what it’s like to be you!

Before long, you can wing out of your frustrating, soul-crushing coop and join us — alighting wherever you want! The world is mind-bogglingly bigger — and kinder — than you know. Can you imagine anyone in Montana, Brazil, or Iceland giving a hot howdy-do if you have a lisp or grew up in a run-down house or prefer cheerleading to football or wore the same clothes two days in a row or liked a boy who didn’t like you back? No. One. Will. Care. It’s a fact, my friend.

Your bullies have only a little time left to try to convince themselves that they’re powerful and you’re afraid of them. Meanwhile, focus on what’s fantastic about you — the thing you’re great at, the quality that makes you remarkable. Heck, maybe it’s your ability to be picked on daily without collapsing in a pity puddle. Now say that thing aloud, like this: “I am terrific at [fill in the blank]. Man, I’m amazing at that.”

Here’s another fun tidbit: Bullies grow up to be losers. It’s true! Having worked so hard to clamber atop their tiny little bubble, they can never muster the chutzpah to leave. They wind up trapped in stifling jobs and humdrum marriages and spend their nights Googling all the people they used to point and laugh at — wondering how come you wound up so successful.

The best part? You won’t even have time to feel smug because you’ll be so busy sharing your sparkly you-ness with a grateful world. See you there, kid. I’m counting the days.

For help dealing with bullies, see’s “Dealing with Bullying”. And if you’re considering harming yourself, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime, day or night. They totally get what you’re going through.

Published inColumnsParenting

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