Do Bullies Ever Leave?

First, here’s a little background on my history with bullies —

When I was younger (late elementary school to junior high school), I was bullied by girls at my dance studio. They were mean and hurtful and I would come home and cry almost every day. They made me feel like everything I did was wrong, and then when I finally accomplished something I was proud of, they would tell me how I didn’t deserve it.

One moment that really stands out to me is when I had finally reached a goal and progressed to a group of girls that I had worked so hard to be with. Another girl, who didn’t get into the group, told me that it must have been a mistake because never in a million years would they ever take me over her. She said that I wasn’t even good enough to be in a group with them.

Because I was only about 11 years old and completely vulnerable, I believed every single word they said. They would make fun of what I wore, the way I acted, everything. And to someone so young, that can be extremely damaging. But instead of letting them tear me to shreds, I learned how to build myself up.

I learned that they could talk as much as they wanted to, but in the end, I was the one progressing and moving up in life, whereas they were falling behind. They weren’t getting the things they wanted, but I was. And so I stayed quiet and kept my head down, but I never stopped working hard. I never stopped being myself and doing what I knew how to do best. Their words hurt, but the older I got, the less they meant.

Now, here I am, 11 years later. And I can look back at these girls and resent them for ruining so much of my childhood, but that just isn’t the case. If anything, I almost feel like in a dark, twisted way, I should thank them. It’s because of them that I became the woman I am today. I am strong. I am independent. But most importantly, I am myself. And I’ve learned to not judge people for also wanting to be themselves.

Joining a sorority was a big step for me. That was letting go of the idea that a large group of girls meant being bullied by some of them. It meant understanding that not every person you meet is going to try to drag you down as you try to rise. And I’m extremely grateful for the friendships I made while I was there. But, I also think that I lost myself a bit while I was in a whirlwind of Lilly Pulitzer and monograms.

I became grossly aware of the things I wore. I cared about who was going to the best parties with the best people. I followed rules that I would have never agreed to had it been any other organization in my life. I got so wrapped up in being this prim and proper little belle that never slipped up and never caused any problems that I completely lost who I was originally. Or changed who I was, I guess. Either way, looking back at it now, I never should have done that.

I never should have let a single organization consume me so greatly that I forgot who I was when I joined. I forgot why I joined. I forgot that people are actually allowed to wear whatever they want and take pictures with whatever they want and that right vs. wrong is actually just someone’s opinion. And when people judge other people on this “right vs. wrong” and “appropriate vs. inappropriate” mindset, they completely tear down somebody who is just trying to live his/her life. They’re bullies.

And while I was in a sorority, I judged. I laughed. I questioned. And I cared about things that I have never cared about in my life. I’m not saying joining a sorority is bad — I made some of my absolute best friends because I joined. What I’m saying, though, is to be careful. Don’t judge people just because they don’t make the same decisions as you. And if you ever feel like you’re being bullied, please speak up. Say something. Not even just if you join a sorority, but if you join any organization ever. No one should ever have to feel the way I did 11 years ago. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain and sadness on anyone. Don’t be a bully, be a friend.

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