From Shame To Shining
A Personal Perspective: Life after bullying.
Posted September 15, 2022 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
An ancient Buddhist teacher, Fa-Tsang (643-712) once said that emptiness is the same as fullness, just seen from a different perspective. We say that the coffee cup is empty; but empty means filled with space, filled with possibilities, ready for anything. Every moment of time, every point in space, is completely empty, and completely open for what wants to come. (Stephen Mitchell)
Empty is always used as a negative word. “My soul feels empty.” An optimist looks at empty as opportunity. “My life is empty,” means that I am free to go in any direction, with unlimited possibilities.
Your mind is the window to the world. All windows get a little foggy when the road is not clear up ahead. Have faith that the fog will clear and your mind will again see your future clearly.
Everything is uncertain except faith, love, and hope. The medication for uncertainty is hope.
Everything about our lives, our attitude, and our happiness, is about perspective. Some look at the proverbial glass as half full. Others look at the glass as half empty. Still others look at the glass and wonder how it was possibly created, or the reflecting colors, or for a chosen few . . . . when in the hell you are going to drink it!
We all have immediate responses to life’s changes, particularly in a tragedy. However, as we heal, we can begin to change perspective. What did this teach me? How might I grow from it? How might I change and help myself, and how might I help others?
One example of feeling completely empty and helpless is being the target of a bully. Many of us experienced it as children. It is an extremely difficult trauma, and with the advancement of social media, it has become so much worse, and has grown into the adult world as well. We were called “losers,” “weirdos,” or made fun of because of our physical appearance. Sometimes we were made fun of or laughed at for our beautiful creative talents.
It is important to reflect back on the lessons we learned and how we grew from being bullied. I know it sounds incredibly Pollyanna to suggest that we see the silver lining, but there is a huge one when it comes to the selfish and mean infliction of bullies. We cannot change them or their thoughts, but we can refocus our own outlook. We can learn to recognize the four beautiful gifts they gave us. We are handed courage, compassion, hope, and healing.
For many of us, we developed a healthy strength of endurance. We were not afraid to leave home and begin a new life. We learned a sense of confidence that gave us the power to be strong and build a new future. Each difficult lesson that made us feel different and alone became another step toward making us unique and our own individual. “Normal” is boring. Who wants to be normal?
One step towards empathy for others is to experience our own misfortunes. When we are able to help others who are going through a struggle that we have overcome, it gives us the ability to be of service, and that is the direct road to happiness. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see a child being bullied. Hopefully he or she will also grow and become a better person because of it, but it still does not justify the cruelty or lighten the pain in the moment.
We can also learn to accept the “gift of bullying” by acknowledging the difficulty, and then looking for the purpose. We may never find purpose, but we can allow ourselves the exploration. We do that with unblinded hope. "It will get better, and I will be stronger."
Everyone is unique and different. Recognizing that statement is the beginning of healing from the ridicule, and the shame that it creates.
Our society promotes shame on so many levels. No one is perfect. It is that imperfection that makes us unique and forms our real identity . . . not the identity that society says we “should” be. We learn to internalize shame, which stops us from embracing and being proud of who we are. Finding one's true identity is the opposite of shame.
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Who wants to be perfect? It is our imperfections that allow us to present our gift to the world. If we can’t become good at being vulnerable with our talents, we become damn good at shame.
What we may perceive as our imperfections are often our most beautiful gifts. I am a strong believer that artists, performers, writers, and musicians are given a deep soul, which is meant to explode into emotion and joy to the world. Yet, it is vulnerable to offer that gift, and it is often rejected or underestimated. Society, particularly in our teen years, does not appreciate sensitivity.
Hopefully we learn that being vulnerable, and offering our creative gifts, is the path that eventually overpowers the shame. When we talk to others about our feelings, which can sometimes be displayed in writing, art, or music, we are releasing the shame. That is what will prove the bullies wrong and shine a light on the beauty of being different.
Mitchell, Stephen, (1991), The Enlightened Mind, HarperPerennial, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, New York.