I was bullied as a child. It's weird because when I remember the things that other children said to me in upper elementary school, it still hurts a little. Logically, I can see now that they were just kids. But it still feels weird, and when I was recently reintroduced to a girl who made fun of me in sixth grade, she still intimidated me. I thought it kind of odd that the shame I felt as a child was still a little bit there after all these years.
The saddest thing that I have learned over the past ten years as a blogger and entrepreneur is that bullying is not just for children. My experiences being harassed, insulted, diminished and slandered as an adult are incomparable to my childhood.
The first time it happened I felt shocked and a little sick. I tried to fix it by reasoning with anonymous commenters and defending myself. But it didn't make me feel better and it didn't stop it from happening again. So for the longest time I have worked to tune it out. I have lived with bullying as a sort of dark cloud in my life. I can ignore it for the most part, but every once in a while someone says something that really messes me up for a little while. It never gets easier.
Through the years I have been approached by countless friends, acquaintances and strangers seeking advice for how to deal with cyberbullying, especially after their first experience. I always give the same advice and it never seems to be what they want to hear. The reality is, no one can shield themselves from negativity. I tell them to rally their support system, to be confident and that negativity is the price of success. It's not earned or deserved. But it still hurts.
I don't talk about this topic online much because, well, I don't want to give it more power than it already has. I believe in focusing on the positive because the Internet already has so much negativity. But today I decided to open up the conversation because it is important and, like so many other women I know, I want to find ways to counteract negativity with kindness.
I recently watched this TED Talk with Monica Lewinsky, and I was floored by every minute of it. It's 22 minutes long, so grab a coffee and some headphones. It's so worth it. (Here's a transcript version if you prefer to read the speech.)
Shame cannot survive empathy.
I love that. It is incredibly comforting for me to realize that while I can't control what others choose to do online, I can make a real difference by spreading kindness.
I want to live in a world where women work hard to help and encourage each other. Don't you? We can do this together. We can make a real difference.
Let's say the nice things we think. (You know, the ones we usually don't take the time to type out.)
–Your clicks matter.
Let's say NO to clicking on negative articles and message boards (even/especially legit news sites!).
Next time we see someone being shamed, let's leave a kind comment.
These are small, simple actions that we can take to choose kindness and create a healthier Internet.
Leave me a comment if you commit with me to practice these positive actions starting today! Elsie