Empathy and Adult Bullying

A woman named Diane just sent me a comment that I felt is more appropriate as a post. She gave her permission to share, so I wanted to. Currently my sister is recovering from breast cancer. It pains me to see her physical changes as I know it is hard for her to deal with as well. As you can read below, Diane shares an important message to all about having empathy and how bullying can and does occur among adults. ~ Alan Eisenberg


I want to tell you about something that happened just a few days ago that gave me a glimpse into what it might feel like for a young person to be bullied because of a physical appearance that is outside the norm. On Monday I found an anonymous, typed note in my mailbox at work. The note informed me of how bad my clothes look on me and that I really need to get some new ones. The tone of the note implied that this person cared about me, and therefore, thought I should know this.

I have no idea who wrote the note, and I don’t know if this person is aware that I am a cancer survivor. Perhaps they aren’t aware that two surgeries, radiation treatments, and hormone therapy have left me with a body quite different from the cute, petite figure I had a few years ago. Perhaps they don’t know about the challenges I have in finding clothes that will hide the deformities that will be with me for the rest of my life. And they probably don’t understand the financial challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.

When I read the note, I told myself that as a mature adult, I should just let these cruel comments roll off my back. Instead, I went home and wept. I cried to know that someone thought my appearance was so bad that they felt compelled to leave me this hurtful note. And I cried because the note was a reminder of the losses and changes that I’ve seen in my life since cancer moved in.

But, as in all of life’s experiences, there was a lesson here. If I, as a 50 year-old woman, could be bothered so much by an anonymous note, then I thought about how a fragile teenager might feel when exposed to hurtful comments, especially when they happen repeatedly.

4 thoughts on “Empathy and Adult Bullying

  1. Or worse imagine how children feel when it’s their family that bullies them.
    I’m sorry about the letter though. People have hard times understanding and having compassion these days

  2. When I was around 6 or 7, I got a particularly painful tetanus shot. I remember counting on my fingers how many years till I turned 21. Why? Because adults didn’t cry at shots, and I was under the impression that things didn’t hurt so much when you were a grown up. How wrong I was.
    And it’s truly shocking how many “grown up” people make hurtful remarks and suggestions under the guise of “for your own good”. I feel very badly for Diane…and can only say that thank God the person didn’t post her “suggestion” on a social site (I fervently hope!)

  3. Pingback: Bullying (Part 7): Bullying Differences – The Problem : Embracing Chaos

  4. Pingback: Bullying (Part 7): Bullying Differences – The Problem | Neurodiversity

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