Confessions of a bully

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All this talk about bullying in the past week hits close to home with me.

I was a both a victim and aggressor at different points in my school days.

As the bullied, I was so afraid of getting beaten up for a period in junior high that I stayed in the house for six months, leaving only to attend school or play hockey.

When I went to school, I'd sprint home after the final buzzer rather than stick around for the bus and expose myself to potential confrontation.

And, when I went to hockey, my parents or older brother had to pick me up.

I was in survival mode and scared, a lot more afraid than I needed to be.

It was the lowlight of my teen years.

Having always been extremely outgoing and super social prior to this, I was sent to counselling by my worried mother.

Looking back on that, seeing the counsellor got me out of the house and within a few months I was back on track.

As the bully, I was never threatening or violent - not that I can recall anyway - but I did say some pretty mean, nasty and unfair things to people for no other reason than to get a laugh at their expense or to make them feel inferior to me.

My cruel comments were usually about their appearance, something they had done, or some perceived shortcoming.

I'm not going to repeat the kind of things I'd say because I'm still too ashamed - almost 30 years later.

I know it hurt them, shook their confidence or even brought tears to their eyes.

I also know that in those instances, I was an idiot.

And that's the point I'm trying to make, really.

Being bullied is traumatic and can consume your existence, but with help and time, things will get better, a lot better.

For me, luckily, I've aged to the point where being bullied is only a memory, and it's not an entirely negative one, to be honest.

I look back on conquering my fear and anxiety as an accomplishment, a lesson in overcoming adversity and dealing with difficult people - important knowledge that continues to have value throughout adulthood.

But being a bully, on the other hand, stays with you. The hurt you caused others can, and will, haunt you, if you've got any kind of a conscience at all.

Sometime, 10 or 15 or 25 years later, you'll be walking through the mall, or waiting in line at Tim's, or downtown at a bar, and you'll come face to face with one of the people you mocked or insulted.

And you'll hang your head in shame and feel about an inch-and-a-half tall.

And when an occasion arises to apologize, the person won't really buy it, or else they will say with a cold look, "Yeah, you were an asshole."

That's been my experience with bullying, and it's the first time I've ever written about it.

I do so with the goal of giving one victim hope or making one bully stop.


Reach Steve Bartlett by email at Follow his tweets at @SteveBartlett_

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Recent comments

  • mary benoit chipman
    October 20, 2012 - 12:19

    Hi Steve,I can relate to being a victim but not an aggressor but I do feel that both suffer ,one from being abuse,the other doing the abuse,no matter what it is,name calling etc.We have certainly come a long ways from saying mean things to whats happening in school or outside school today.They are very cruel,like punching each other in the head ontil something happens,remember on the news about the girl who had a shunt in her head,she keep her arms over her head to protect herself.That really troubles me that someone (teen) would actually go that far,as far as somebody dying.I remember bring my daughter to school when she was young and we were waiting outside for the bell to ring and the door to open so she could get in,their was a boy there that was bullying another and for a moment I forgot I was there with my daughter,fear and anxiety overwhelmed me,I was once again that child,20 years after the fact and I was feeling as I did.That was scary.This is my believe only that saying prayers at school in the morning and afternoon was a real plus for me,it keep my conscience clear,I was not the perfect student but when I hurt someone it broke my heart and I tried to make up for it and say I`m sorry.I really believe that prayers works,it changes who we are on the inside so the outside is better too.Thats what keep me going,and one day while riding my bike I had a profound taught that if their ever is going to be a change in this world it has to be brought about by love,I was only 8or 9 when that came to me.Not some foolish kind of love but love that looks beyound the bully and see the frightened child he really is,loving the abused kid and helping him/her to understand why their behaviour is like it is (bullies).I know it takes a lot more work than this but half of the problems is understanding.I want to thank you for sharing your story with us readers who go through similar things as well,it was a really good article.mary

  • Ken O'Brien
    October 17, 2012 - 09:23

    Thanks for your honesty. I was the brunt of bullying in Grades 7 through 9. It made it hard to go to school sometimes. Then in Grade 11, I'm ashamed to say that I joined in when people were making fun of one guy in particular. His life would've been hell. I bumped into him years later and told him how sorry I was to have treated him that way. He was gracious. Having been bullied, I disappointed myself by trying to blend in with the crowd and the cool guys. Big mistake. We have to treat one another better. Again, thansk for your honesty.

  • Kelly B
    October 16, 2012 - 10:16

    I don't remember you being bullied probably because at the same time I was tortured. I'm sorry it happened it you. I became the victim of several bullies when i started Grade 6 at C.C. Loughlin. It continued for the next year or two at G.A. Mercer. It was terrifying and life-altering. I too sprinted home from school. One day a bully punched me in the stomach, one day they pulled the door handle off our screen door trying to get at me, and on the last day of school i was pushed off my bike and tossed into a ditch. I was mobbed with snow. I was teased for being the new girl - as I had moved to Pasadena for Grade 4 and 5. It was a time in my life I'd rather forget. My parents didn't send me to counselling. Instead, I had to get into survival mode the best way I knew how. I didn't turn into a bully, but I started to run with the rough crowd. And it worked - no one touched me again. But hanging around with the hard tickets didn't benefit me in any other way. My grades suffered, I turned to cigarettes and beer to calm my nerves and while I didn't get into trouble, as such, I wish now I had kept on the straight and narrow. My fear today is that my own children will be victims. It worries me to death, but because of what I experienced, I think I will be better prepared if it does happens. Thanks for talking about this subject today. Hugs