Arts & Culture The Identity Issue

Our readers reveal how they were bullied

"Bullying really affects you…really badly."

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Image: Shutterstock.

This story is brought to you by Dr. Rocco’s Specialized Dental Center in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Being the target of bullying can be an agonizing and devastating experience, particularly if the bullying is directed towards your identity, or something that is at the core of who you are. It can affect your perception of yourself, and of others, for years to come. Sometimes it can even shape who you will be for the remainder of your life.

This month, we spoke to six of our readers and asked them to tell us how and why they were bullied, and how those experiences have affected them.

Their responses ranged from being bullied for having a disability, to being bullied for being quiet, to being bullied for no apparent reason whatsoever. The common thread between all their stories was that their experiences have stayed with them and impacted them, for better or for worse, for a long time.

Bullied for being deaf

“I was born completely deaf. I later underwent a surgery that allowed me to hear with the help of a hearing aid. At school, girls bullied me for this, with many kicking me out of their cliques because of it, or refusing to be my friends in the first place. But I didn’t really care. It didn’t stop at the student level, however. When I was in the sixth grade, one of my teachers made me sit on the floor and called me a “deaf pig” after I spoke to one of my classmates during a lesson to alert her that she was writing something incorrectly. Similarly, my swimming teacher would always isolate me from the other girls during swim class and bully me. This lasted until I I was in the 11th grade. I’m now in my senior year of high school, and these incidents don’t generally upset me, but when they do I write about them in my diary. Overall, however, they have made me a stronger person.”

– Buthaina Al Kindi, Oman

Bullied by my boss

“I have spent the last three years at work constantly being told that the work I was doing was not enough. Being bullied as an adult is an insidious thing because you end up in a meeting room being screamed at, and you are not quite sure how to respond. From the beginning, it felt like I was being targeted because I was the quiet one. My boss would stand explaining something and the next comment would always be directed at me. I didn’t speak Arabic enoughI was too sensitive. I was spoiled. What did I do anyway? I know that people who are insecure project faults on everyone else. The whole department was suffering in one way or another, but only the vulnerable were targeted. Every time she raised her voice, called me names, or made vulgar statements, I felt like I was unprepared.

As a child, even if a teacher bullied me, it would be something my very overprotective family tried to solve while ingraining it in me that I had to respect my elders. I didn’t have the skills as an adult. What do you respond to someone feeding on your silence, especially when you were raised that it is disrespectful to argue with someone in authority? Trying to be the bigger person only meant that I was working all the time because I was so stressed that nothing was enough. I made up scenarios in my imagination where I finally spoke, but every time I wanted to it was like my vocal cords were tied.

The confrontation happened at some point when my boss asked if we were happy at work. It was like the scene in “The Little Mermaid”, when Ariel’s voice comes rushing back and she belts out in song. Her response was that she was so proud of my assertiveness, and I wanted to scream that she didn’t have the right to take credit for my own efforts.

Maybe part of me was afraid that if I spoke up, I would be a tyrant and then how would that set me apart from her? But I realised that standing up for myself did not have to be loud or rude. It was my voice, still quiet, emotionally intelligent, but very honest.

The balance shifted between us and I’m lighter lately because since I found my voice in the workplace, I stopped letting it get under my skin.”

– Anonymous, UAE

Bullied for being from a different country

When I was in elementary, I had a Khaleeji best friend who was from the country I am residing in. I am Khaleeji too, but from a neighbouring country to hers. We had a fight and stopped talking. The next thing I know, she turned the whole class against me. They started chanting degrading words at me at recess, and made fun of my home country. They even called my mum and accused me of being a flirt and hooking up with men when I was barely 12 years old! They hacked my email address too. They made my experience at school horrible. No one wanted to be seen with me. The minute bell rang for recess, I’d go and hide the library and read books between the shelves.

Thankfully, summer break was around the corner, and the following school year I joined a different school. But for that entire summer I didn’t communicate with any friends or anyone except for those in my immediate family. Their bullying shattered a part of me. I still have trust issues with regards to girls of that Khaleeji country, and I don’t like to befriend them. The positive takeaway out of this experience would be that I got to go to a better school, ended up in an excellent university, and have used that pain to empower myself and become a better and more empathetic person. When I look back now, I feel sorry for those girls; how pitiful it is to have young girls at such a tender age be that abusive.

– Anonymous

Image: Shutterstock.

Bullied by my best friend

“When I was in the fifth grade, I was bullied by my best friend. It began with her making fun of me for no reason, and as if that wasn’t enough, she also eventually turned the whole class against me. They joked about me in whispers and out loud, and it always ended with me crying in the bathroom.

To me, it was the worst experience. It traumatized me because I thought everyone would be like her, to the point that whenever I have heated discussions or arguments with my friends today, I get really anxious and think that it will end with them bullying me too.  I still don’t know why my best friend chose to bully me in particular. All I know is that I was too kind and forgiving at the time.

The bullying lasted till high school. It happened way too many times, and by different people as well, until I reached senior year. By then, I finally became strong and started to defend myself. 

I used to have nightmares, but thankfully they have stopped. I am now in university. However, I still sometimes think that everyone in my life will turn against me. Unfortunately, what many people don’t understand is that bullying really affects you…really badly. But I keep on going, and try to keep the faith that people are innately good.”

– Zainab Waleed, Kuwait

Bullied for my looks

“ When I was 12 years old, I suffered from severe anemia. As a result, I was noticeably underweight and I had very weak eyesight. So, I had to wear very thick glasses that obstructed the way my eyes looked to people. My schoolmates either made fun of me because of that, or just stared at me like I was abnormal. I was called an “owl,”  “spaghetti fingers,” and “the daughter of the giraffe”. Some even started a rumor that I had a weird contagious disease!

For so long, going to school gave me so much anxiety that I sometimes skipped it for weeks at a time. But in the end I asked myself, ‘Was I the one who asked to look like this?’ And the answer was no, it was fate; something that was beyond my control.’

With time, people at school stopped bullying me because I didn’t respond to them, or care about what they said. I’m now 18 years old and in excellent shape. I follow a healthy diet, exercise, play basketball and even practice martial arts. I also began wearing lenses. My confidence in myself is great.”

-Samira Taghisti, Morocco

Bullied by my relatives

“I started getting bullied by my cousins when I was 13 years old. One of my cousins— let’s say her name was Hind (it’s not)—was the mastermind behind all of this. She was four years older than me, and at that time she was going to enter her first year in university.

Over those years, Hind tried so hard to exclude me and to make me feel inadequate. She constantly exhibited passive aggressive behavior towards me. When all of my cousins and I sat at the living room, she would stare at me the whole time just so that she could find something I did that she could make fun of, and the rest of my cousins could laugh about. She also constantly criticised me, whether it was about my looks, what I said earlier, what I like and even my personality.

During the time that she bullied me my personality changed. I had let her words and behavior get the best of me. I always felt less valuable than others. I thought something was actually wrong with me, and that was why she was bullying me.

The psychological and verbal harassment also changed my view of people for a while. I thought that most people were probably like Hind, and if they weren’t like Hind, then they would be like my other cousins who would join in the fun of embarrassing other people. I also didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself around other people for a really long time.

I was 18 years old when I decided that treating me horribly was not acceptable. I realised this after a long time because I was finally mature enough to see through all the bullying. I understood that I wasn’t the real victim here. I was also old enough to no longer be afraid of a bully. I decided to put boundaries between me and her. I only spoke to her during family gatherings. I never shared anything with her on social media. I also started responding to her comments. To my surprise, she stopped mistreating me really quickly.

However, after two years, she decided to block me out of her life after a heated argument happened between us. She didn’t stop there, though. She went to my relatives to spread lies and rumors about me, which she still does to this day.

If you’re wondering, most of my cousins eventually realised that she had violated me in so many ways, and they stood beside me, and they still do.”

– Anonymous, UAE

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees, and affiliates.

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