I am a bully.
I used to be hell-bent on denying that for as long as I could remember. Many people used the word “bully” to describe me, but I never identified as such. All I knew was that I was having the best time of my life and that there was nothing wrong with it.
The only wake-up call I had was when I saw a group of seniors bullying my sister to give them her lunch money when I was in high school. From the other side of the hallway, I could already see them surrounding a small student backed up on the lockers. No one knew that she was my sister at the time because, hello, it was only the first day of school, and we didn’t walk around together all the time. But as I got closer, I could overhear their conversation.
Senior 1: Ooh, cool bag! How much dough did your momma give you today, Ms. Freshman?
Sister: Uhm, $10. Why do you care?
Senior 2 (grabbing her bag): That’s cool. Let’s see how crisp a ten-dollar bill is now. (He proceeded to rummage through the bag.)
When I showed up, my sister ran straight to me and hid behind me, while the bullies dropped her bag. One managed to ask, “Do you know this girl?”
With my head held up, I said, “Yes, she’s my sister. Have you got a problem with her?”
No one tried to bully my little sister again after that. However, that incident showed me that I was also a bully like those other kids. I would never try to steal someone’s money or harass them if they didn’t give it immediately, but I used to join in when my classmates passed around some student’s backpack or turned them into laughingstocks. Heck, I even high-fived the boys who flipped the girls’ skirts in the hallways.
I had been wrong, and I know it now.
Hitting Rock-Bottom (Intentionally)
I was honestly ashamed to admit to my family that I was a bully, even though I wanted to do everything to rectify my mistakes. It’s just that my parents had always been kind and law-abiding citizens their entire lives; I didn’t want them to feel like there’s something wrong with their parenting skills. Thus, in the beginning, I kept the news to myself.
I looked up the reasons behind bullying on the internet and found that peer pressure was on top of the list. That’s correct—I had seen it happen first-hand—but I didn’t think it applied much to me. In reality, some of my friends were blatantly telling me to stop messing with others, so they were obviously not pressuring me to bully anyone.
Some folks also said that it could be a way to make someone pay for whatever they did to the bully. Well, since I was among the biggest football players at school, I had never encountered a fellow student who poked fun at me. It was usually the other way around, so no, it wasn’t due to payback either.
Then, after some time, I came across two words: pleasure and popularity.
As mentioned above, I was on the football team. The taller and bulkier a player was, the higher their popularity level was. And I wasn’t exempted from that. Almost every day, I would open my locker and see love letters and proposals from girls who wanted to be my girlfriend. Besides that, some guys looked up to me, and I wanted to show how cool I was by—pardon my French—helping them bully others.
I guess I liked the attention a little too much, to the extent that I didn’t see how my actions started having adverse effects on others’ lives.
Seeking Mental Help
When I realized what was probably wrong with me, I asked my parents if they could take me to a mental health professional. Although I had an idea of curbing my bullying tendencies, I felt the need to consult a psychologist before I faced anyone at school again. In the process, I also had to tell my parents about my awful behavior. They were disappointed with me, but they were willing to give me another chance because they saw how much I wanted to turn my life around.
The psychologist said that I should apologize to every person that I bullied. There were a few of them, so I spent an entire month tracking them down and finding a way to make them accept my apology. After that, the mental health expert recommended that I attend group counseling with fellow reforming teenage bullies. I did not know how it would benefit me initially, but I was glad to sign up for it without asking too many questions because I ended up loving it.
Five years later, I am already taking a Master’s degree in Child Psychology. Bullying is nothing but a part of my history. When I finish all the necessary training, I want to help troubled teenagers (like I have once been) get their lives back on track.