When I was a child and dealing with bullies, I figured it was only in the USA. To be honest, I really thought it was only where I was. See, there was no internet and even TV was only a few channels. We really had little knowledge of what was going on in the big world on a daily basis. When I started this site, I had no idea that I would communicate internationally and that we would share our collective stories. Then we also find it and we are not so different and all go through many of the same things. It is this story from Luzia, who grew up in Brazil, which sheds further light as to how we all deal with bullies, not matter what part of the world we live in. ~Alan Eisenberg
Bullying is a significant problem that affects many people on a daily basis. This is my adult’s perspective on the long-term effects that bullying has brought to my life.
I strongly believe that bullying comes in many different shapes and forms. My personal experience proves just that.
I am 30 years old. Born and raised in Brazil, I lived there for 24 years. Growing up in a house with 3 sisters and being the only “chubby” one, it’s not so hard to imagine the “verbal” bullying I had to endure. I call it bullying because it wasn’t just innocent, back and forth teasing between kids. It came from adults for the most part and it was targeted, recurrent and persistent. I was constantly criticized by some family members/relatives/family friends privately and in public. According to them, I was chubby, short, my forehead was too big, my face was too round, my hair was too thin, my breasts were too big, etc…In addition, I’d have them compare me and my so-called “flaws” to my sisters/relatives. That was extremely unfair since we’re all very different both physically and personality wise. Needless to say, such comparisons always ended with them determining or hinting my “disadvantaged” position. When I would go buy clothes, I’d always have what they said in mind: “you can’t wear this, you have to wear that.”
Years went by and I took extreme/unhealthy measures to lose weight (think throwing up and drinking hot water and soap). I got thinner indeed but the bullying never stopped completely. It was extremely detrimental to my emotional development and well-being. It affected the way I conducted all my personal interactions. For a long time, I even forced myself to avoid any possibility of having real relationships with boys. I’ve met a few and even though they were nice to me I simply could not believe that we could have a normal, healthy relationship. I would always question myself: ” why would they want to date me? That can’t be serious.”
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to move to the U.S and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. It gave me the chance to get away from all the bullies that were always pointing out my physical “imperfections”. Also, people here seem to be a little less focused on their appearance (it might be a bit hard to believe but that’s true – try living in Brazil where the sun shines all year and your body is constantly exposed and scrutinized).
I visit my family in Brazil once a year and even though I lost the extra weight I carried as a child, I still hear from some of those people: “You lost weight but your face is still chubby. You lost weight but you still got a little tummy. You look like you could use some tightening. You look thinner in pictures.” As I get older, they started adding: “Wow, are those wrinkles forming here and there?”. Once again, I call this bullying because I was always their one and only target and no matter what I do, they always find a reason to make recurrent, belittling comments about me.
Saying that bullying affected my emotional well-being is almost like an understatement. I don’t even remember the last time I wore a bathing suit. I was a kid, I believe. I know I NEVER wore a bikini, that’s for sure. Despite being an adult, I still avoid beaches, lakes, swimming pools…I know I’ve lost the weight but I don’t know when I’ll be fully able to look at myself as a thin person. I still go to clothing stores and look for the tags that say LARGE even though I’m a SMALL. I’m fighting on a daily basis to overcome these body issues that resulted from years of harassment.
Five years ago, I was lucky enough to find an amazing partner. He’s very nice, loving, sweet and incredibly kind. No matter how bad I wake up feeling, he’s always trying to convince me that I’m beautiful and he loves me just the way I am. After meeting him, a few of my insecurities went away. Unfortunately, not all of them but enough for me to realize that I wasn’t as fat/unattractive as they wanted me to believe I was. Enough for me to realize that I deserved to love and be loved. Enough for me to try to fight to be an independent, self-assuring, confident person. I’m not there yet but I’m trying.
This is my bullying story. Sure, I wasn’t pushed, shoved or punched like some kids who are victims of some very aggravated forms of bullying. But I guess they punched me in the inside. And those are wounds that take a very long time to heal as well.
It saddens me to know that there are many kids, teenagers and even adults who become victims to some type of bullying every day at school, at work, at home, etc. I just want those people to stand up and speak out. Nobody has the right to deliberately harass, threaten or put someone else down no matter what reasons they might think they have to do that. ANY sort, shape or form of bullying is unacceptable.