According to latest statistics reported by SNEHA, a 24-hour suicide helpline in India, 2300 children under the age of 14 took their lives last year. For most of us in India, we grow insensitive to death numbers over a period of time. As long as the numbers don’t personally affect us, they do not have the significance to occupy our mind space.
Let’s pause for a while here. Take a moment and write down the list of all your closest friends from memory. Friends with whom you have shared some of the precious moments of your life and those who make life worthwhile. My list with a lot of concessions on what I consider ‘precious’ and ‘worthwhile’ makes it to double digits. Now imagine that number multiplied by 200 times. Depressing this might sound, but imagine losing 200 times of what you considered valuable in life for a suffering which was easily avoidable. Not for lack of access to physical health treatment but for lack of sensitivity and empathy amongst all of us. How do you know then if you or your close friends are being victimized?
Bullying in my mind is the exercise of power by the more powerful in subtle or explicit ways which leads to loss of status, voice or self-esteem for the less powerful. The victims could be children, girls and women, minority groups or even subordinates. It could happen in any of our institutions — family, schools, colleges, workplaces and social organizations.
The first step to developing self-awareness about whether you are being bullied is to understand what your rights as a free individual are. Children are much more vulnerable compared to adults because of the fact that they are far more gullible and less knowledgeable about their own rights. Therefore, I will focus on children and how they should identify bullying. Also, having been a teacher in primary school, I felt very strongly about any such transgressions. Though, it is less an issue in my judgment when the children are younger than when they grow into their adolescence, it is nevertheless important to teach the mindsets of equality and empathy very early.
The first and foremost thing to develop as a child is the skill of reflection. An ability to articulate your thoughts, feelings, emotions and ideas in whatever language or form you are most comfortable in. It could be even through performing and non-performing arts. If you are being bullied, it is important to understand that you DO NOT have a problem. For this to happen, it is important to understand your underlying thoughts, feelings and emotions.
If someone around you is making you feel bad or low about yourselves, making you cry, or in the worst case scenario physically abusing you, DO NOT accept the status quo. It is easier to recognize the emotional and physical trauma but more difficult to understand the psychological. In the case of first two, immediately stand up for your own rights. If you are still being overpowered, seek help immediately from people you trust – close friends, family or higher authorities. In the last case, you need to communicate your emotions and feelings through words, pictures or actions to trustworthy people. Feel free to ask their opinions on whether they think what you experienced constitutes bullying.
Over a period of time as you reflect more and continuously get feedback on managing your emotions, you update your beliefs about what constitutes bullying and how to handle it. You also grow confident about protecting others whom you think are going through phases you had been through. You will also be doing a world of good to those bullying by making them recognize their mistakes early. To err is definitely human, but to silently accept it is doing injustice to yourself and the other person as well.
So, stand up. BE brave and BE free. Because, you deserve to BE.