From the US to the Middle East, bullying has reached epidemic proportions and must be dealt with to help our youth and the adults they become. Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott, and Devin Brown are the most recent victims of bullying who were driven to suicide after suffering from the abuse of their tormenters. Their stories are nothing new. There are countless bullying experiences that you’ve read about, witnessed, or experienced first-hand. As an adult, you may think your experience with bullying is just a dark part of your past. But, the effects of bullying can last a lifetime. New research by Duke University found that bullied children face an elevated risk of anxiety disorders, depression, lowered self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts later in life. Do you have bullying wounds that need to be dealt with? Here’s how you can overcome bullying one step at a time. As a former bullying victim, I know firsthand the importance of fighting back fighting back and building the inner-strength to stand up for myself, that leads me to allow you to do the same.

What is Bullying?

You’ve seen bullying before. It’s anything that intentionally and consistently hurts someone else or makes them feel uncomfortable. Bullies choose victims that have trouble defending themselves or otherwise may be an easy target. That’s why inner-strength is so important in fighting back against bullying. Once a bully has qualified their victim, the harassment can get out of hand.

It can be physical or verbal, overt or covert and can even be carried out online, i.e. cyber-bullying. Were you hit, kicked, or pushed? Have you been restrained or shut out of your space by a bully? I’ve endured verbal bullying. You know the negative and demeaning words against your appearance or what you do, or even how you do something. Lies, rumors, and anything that hurts someone’s reputation is also bullying. The threats, insulting remarks, and teasing all fall under the umbrella of bullying. The newest wave of cyber-bullying includes intimidation, shaming, or alienating people through the internet and social media.

educational school isolation and bullying concept.

But bullying isn’t just for kids, it’s alive and well in adulthood as well. All of these forms of bullying are levied on people whose sexuality, weight, or race comes in conflict with a bully’s world. Most times it’s done in public, but sometimes it’s done in secret leaving the victim doubtful of the effects of the treatment and outsiders unaware. Here are the signs of bullying that you can see in a victim:

Signs of Bullying Victimization

· Poor Grades

· Alienation

· Withdrawal/Fear of Social Interaction

· Fear of participating in extra-curricular activities

· Anxious and over-reactive

· Expresses negative comments about one’s self

· Stress-related physical pain in the way of unexplained stomach and head aches

· School absenteeism

· Irritable and unexplained disinterest about activities that were once enjoyed

· Lack of sleep, nightmares

· Self-inflicted Pain

Who’s Being Bullied: You’re Not Alone

If you notice these signs in yourself, your children, or others, speak up and ask questions. It’s important that bullying not be left to “work itself out.” Anywhere from a 33 to 40% of American kids are exposed to bullying each year. So have no shame, you are not alone. Because bullying is so pervasive, learning how to deal with it is more important than trying to avoid it. How you deal with bullying will define you. If you can overcome the adversity and humiliation of bullying, you can conquer any confrontation in life. Build the inner-strength that goes beyond what you do and FEEL better about yourself now.

My Story of Being Bullied

I was bullied throughout my childhood so I can truly say that my commitment to fighting back against bullying in a passion and purpose for me. I was bullied for four reasons during my early years:

1. During 2nd and 3rd grade, I was bullied for not looking like my parents because I had darker more closed or slanted eyes and big lips. elementary school.

2. By 4th and 5th grade I was bullied for being adopted and mocked for not having “real” parents

3. Then I was bullied for being the food freak. I couldn’t eat wheat and sugar, so I was made fun of for what I wasn’t allowed to eat.

4. By middle school, I was bullied for being the fat kid.

For years I struggled for acceptance, and actually became the winner of overeating food contests. This of course lead to a binging problem. After years of struggle, I had an epiphany.

My defining moment came when I caught myself, hiding food in my closet from my Mom, binging on junk food eating in the dark. All of a sudden it just hit me… I recognized immediately that I was in denial about what I had become. Right then, I went down into the pantry and I stood there. I remember almost being in tears, asking for help in solitude. Then I felt a very real presence and I felt as thought I wasn’t alone. I knew my prayer was heard, and while I didn’t know what it was, I felt that what I had asked for had been answered… I remember having goosebumps. I said to myself from this day forward, I will be accountable to my word. I will walk the talk.

After this epiphany, I had a second awakening. It’s one thing to start your journey – it’s when you want to give up and somehow you make it over that hump and keep you going. I had already being more active and losing weight. I was at the point where I wanted to give up, but needed an extra push to finish what I had started. I had to dig deep and find a reason to keep going and I found it in one motivating sentence.

When I was a freshmen in high school and I’d already started losing weight… I had a crush on Sandra, a girl I knew throughout my childhood. She bumped into me while I had on shorts. I was ashamed of my skinny legs, and was mortified to be face to face with someone I really wanted approval from. As we locked eyes, she said, “Brett you look great – whatever you’re doing keep it up.” And that was it. That’s all it took for me to stay on #teamfit and become the Brett that I wanted to become. After a while, the bullying stopped. Through determination and turning my pain into passion, I found the inner-strength to overcome bullying.

Fitness was my freedom, but anything that helps you gain self-esteem and express who you are can help you. Whether it’s dance, art, or academics, find your passion and feed it. Practice, compete, and showcase your skills and you’ll be better for equipped to fight back. Following your passion is a catchall for wellness in life, so keep it moving.

Sound off…

What’s your bullying story? Tell us about it in the comments below. Whether you were a bystander, a victim, or the bully, share your experience and what you did to overcome it.