Bullies are inevitable. As a kid, teen or even an adult, bullies will always be around to try and knock you down. High school is already hard enough. With standardized testing, college applications and necessary self-exploration, adding bullies to the mix makes it much harder than it needs to be. But nothing in life lasts forever, so the bullying will end and you’ll move on. Choosing what you do with the trauma of being bullied defines who you are as an individual and how you choose to grow as time goes on. Holding grudges is tiring, and ignoring the fact it ever happened is unhealthy. Here’s how you can forgive the people who brought you down, no matter how much you think your pride will suffer from it.
You have to let it go
Some bullying experiences are hard to forget. It could be years since you were bullied, but the words have left a mark on you that you can’t seem to let go of. However, leaving the mark and grudging over it won’t get you anywhere in your recovery process to a more stress-free college experience. Yes, the words can hurt, but you must learn from it instead of dwelling in the past.
Lisbette Castillo, a recent graduate of Florida International University, was only in fifth grade when her teacher made her stand in front the class and told her she wasn’t “exactly a beauty queen.” Until she was 22 years old, Lisbette didn’t tell anyone about her experience and yet forgave her teacher for his hurtful words.
“I forgave him because I feel like holding a grudge is a disease that kills slowly,” she says. “After I forgave him, I was able to let that go and move on. If you love more and hate less, you’re bound to live a happier life.”
Lisbette makes a good point; why do you want to hold on to something that brought so much pain? Letting go means that those moments are gone. They’re in the past. Moving on and looking forward to better things would make you so much happier rather than wallowing in the bad things of your past. Besides, they probably forgot all about you, so why not return the favor?
Bullies will always be around—even in college
The experience of being hurt in high school, whether you believe it or not, makes you stronger. In every phase of life, someone with more insecurities than you may realize will try to bring you down. It’s a fact of life. Bullies wear a different mask in adulthood, so beware; they may be a passive-aggressive coworker, or even someone you once considered a friend who’s jealous of your success.
Kristen Perrone, a recent graduate of Siena College, never went through bullying personally but offers some good advice for struggling high schoolers. “The growth that takes place from high school graduation to college graduation is astonishing,” she says. “So with that in mind, you are so much better than who you or your bullies were in high school now.”
Forgiving your bullies in high school is the first step to growing into a stronger, more confident adult who won’t be fazed by other people’s negative comments.
Related: The Truth About Bullying in College
Their insecurities were probably as bad as yours
It’s hard to believe someone who’s willing to torture you for no apparent reason has insecurities. The truth is, you don’t really know a person behind closed doors. Bullies usually project their hardship and insecurities to other people. Even though it’s a harmful coping mechanism, it’s important to know their motives and why they’d act this way.
“They need to tear someone else down to feel good about themselves,” Kristen explains.
Sudyen Navarrete, a recent graduate of Florida International University, recalls her bullying experience.
“I was chunky, and I used to take the school bus. There were a whole bunch of older kids that would bully all the younger kids. One was the meanest of them all. He only saw me one time and started calling me ‘fat girl,’” she says. “He was short, like my height. I told him that he makes fun of people because he’s so insecure of himself.”
Sudyen was brave enough to face her (rather short) Goliath; she even defended other kids who weren’t as courageous to step up.
“I would always defend them. Maybe that’s why he bullied me so much–because I stood up to him,” she adds. “Maybe he just wanted to fight and let his anger out on someone, so he picked me.”
Although you don’t know another person’s struggle, you still shouldn’t let them step all over you. They have to learn on their own how to deal with their own problems instead of taking it out on other people.
The road to being the bigger person isn’t easy
It’s hard to forgive someone who hurt you to the point their words still resonate with you after all these years. But forgiving them isn’t an act for them, it’s to help heal those wounds that they put there. Even years after the bullying, thinking about the person or seeing them after high school might turn your stomach upside down. You automatically assume they’ll start making fun of you even though they’ve probably grown out of it.
“He stopped bullying me and other people, too. We kind of got along, but it was always awkward!” Sudyen says. “If I see him now, I think I’ll just say ‘Hey, how are you?’ and keep walking. I would never like to see him or be around him ever.”
It’s totally understandable that, as two grown adults, you should both be able to carry a conversation. At the same time, you might keep your eyes on your phone and pretend you’re engrossed in something more important if you see them.
Depending on your bullying experience, getting over it may never get easier. Forgiving the bully may be even harder. The most important take away from being bullied is to grow from it. Brooding and constantly thinking about it, letting it affect your life when it was years ago, will only bring you down and keep you from getting emotionally stronger. Be kind to one another, no matter how bad the other person may treat you.