A comment on one of my first articles during my freshman year almost made me regret ever becoming a columnist.
“But maybe you should leave the commenting on THIS centurys music to someone else & just any other freshman who was allowed to go to a high school party or watch risqu music videos without being scolded in Mandarin.”
I would never have admitted it at the time, but I almost wanted to quit being a columnist after reading that comment. I didn’t get just this one comment — I painfully read through another 10 or so similar ones. Call me weak, but no one can possibly read comments like that and not feel something for even a brief moment.
These moments brought back bitter memories from a childhood of being bullied — ones of when I would run to my teacher to tell her about a classmate making fun of me, when I would avoid certain kids in the hall because I knew the malicious comments they would say to me and when I would try to stick up for myself.
Like almost every other kid, I wanted what the crying girl from “Mean Girls” wanted: “I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school … and bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.”
In some ways, this is also what society wants when it comes to bullying. We create campaigns to encourage people to be nicer, advocate stricter social media controls when cyberbullying happens, try to criminalize bullies and find ways to shield kids from the bullies themselves.
In this world of hatred and bullying, I’ve realized that I can’t win, which is a painful reality of becoming an adult. And this isn’t necessarily a pessimistic conclusion, though it may look like one. It’s a change of perspective, not an admission of defeat.
There will always be people who don’t like you, who want to be mean to you and who will put you down. It is impossible to control others, but we do have control over ourselves. When it comes to bullying, we have to worry less about the bullies and more about the victims.
Instead of trying to surround kids with “nice” environments, we should be empowering kids, helping them build their self esteems and instilling confidence in kids so that when they do encounter bullying, they can speak up for themselves and cope with the negativity.
At the end of the day, Mommy, Daddy or the teacher won’t be there to settle the situation. To effectively make bullies powerless, we must make them incapable of actually affecting those whom they taunt, instead of unrealistically trying to reduce how many there are.
As a kid, I learned to love myself unconditionally to counteract the bullying. Even when I wanted to hide in a hole forever, I loved myself too much to let others tell me how to view myself. It was this self-love that made me impervious to many comments over the years. It’s easy to forget about this though, and those who have been on the receiving end of bullying need to be reminded sometimes.
“You’re an idiot Robert, and no wonder since you’re in Wharton which is a blight on the University and the world … Creating parasites that feed on the poor, thats all that Wharton does, and surprise surprise, you already have that mentality. Thanks for being one of the problems that exist in the world.”
That’s probably my favorite mean comment from the columns that I have written because it epitomized someone deducing who I am from roughly 700 words. It stung a little at first when I read it in January, but I laughed it off since I knew I was a much better person than the commenter knew me to be. This isn’t the first mean comment I’ve gotten, and I’m sure it definitely won’t be the last.
But just as somewhat crude commenters won’t go away, neither will the bullies in any other kid’s life — no matter how hard we try to make them. What we can do, however, is laugh, love and click to another web page, so to speak.
Robert Hsu, a College and Wharton sophomore from Novi, Mich. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @mrroberthsu. “The Casual Observer” appears every other Friday.
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