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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 21-Nov-14 12:18:11

Guest post: Anti-bullying week - "No one deserves to feel as low as I did"

Anti-Bullying Week: Teenager Sophie Finnigan describes her experience of being bullied at school, and urges us to teach our teens to stand up for one another

Sophie Finnigan


Posted on: Fri 21-Nov-14 12:18:11


Lead photo

"I know that hurtful comments leave a permanent scar."

Every single day, a primary school child is bullied. Every single day, a secondary school student is bullied. Even in sixth-form college, where we're supposed to be more grown up, people are being bullied. There's bullying in the workplace, and in the education facilities in which we are supposed to feel safe.

Being bullied at primary and secondary school gave me trust issues, wrecked my confidence and left me feeling unsafe every day. I was tall, skinny and ginger, which isn't socially acceptable, apparently. I began to fear going in to school. From the age of 10, I would beg my mum to let me dye my hair - I would compare myself to the other girls in my class and wish I had their figures, their hair, their faces. I just accepted the idea that I was wrong, because people told me that so often.

Some days I still wake up and wish my hair was a different colour, or that I had less freckles, or that my gums weren't so big and that my teeth didn't stick out as much. Other days I am perfectly happy with what I look like. As I have grown older and moved away from the people from my high school, the bullying has become less and less frequent - but no-one should have to isolate themselves just so they can learn to like themselves.

Whether it's about your looks or your sexuality, coming up against abuse when you're still figuring out who you are and negotiating your identity is particularly tough.

No matter how independent you think you are, how you see yourself is always shaped by those around you. I know that hurtful comments leave a permanent scar, and I meet young people every day who have had it worse than me.

I joined the Youth Volunteering Programme with Stonewall so I could become better educated about homophobia, but also so that I could finally gain the confidence and skills needed to tackle bullying wherever I encounter it. It is hard to stand up to bullying because sometimes the bully can turn on you. Although you know it is the right thing to do, you don't want to be called names, too - you can end up feeling like you haven't helped at all, or have made the situation worse. But, if more and more people stand up to bullies it will become much easier to fight for what is right.

Whether it's about your looks or your sexuality, coming up against abuse when you're still figuring out who you are is particularly tough. It is so important that young people feel comfortable in their own skin, and feeling safe and comfortable at school is a massive part of this.

My advice to others teenagers - and to the parents of teenagers - is, if you see someone being bullied, speak out for them. Have their back, because it's likely that they're too afraid to say something themselves. Feeling as though you have friends, people around who support you, can change your life if you're being bullied. If I had had someone sticking up for me in primary school, maybe I wouldn't have lacked confidence in high school, and if someone had stuck up for me in high school, maybe I wouldn't have isolated myself in college. If I see a person being bullied now, I will always stick up for them. No one deserves to feel as low as I did.

Stonewall are currently running their #NOBYSTANDERS campaign to tackle bullying - find out more here.

By Sophie Finnigan

Twitter: @stonewalluk

chelseabuns2013 Fri 21-Nov-14 18:23:50

As an adult I realise that everyone gets bullied as a child. I hate hearing parents go on about how bad they felt at school dragging those feelings into adulthood. I felt so bad sometimes I wanted to die cause of the "bullying" at school, in retrospect I probably made other chdren feel similar feelings. It's all part of growing up that's not to say that parents shouldn't be hard when bullying arises. We all know adults who blame their bad behaviour on being bullied as children and quite often they are manipulative and emotial bullies praying on people's sympathy.

frillyflower Sat 22-Nov-14 08:14:41

Chelseabuns I don't agree with you at all. Not everyone is bullied or bullies growing up.
I was bullied at primary school by a girl in my class. She was particularly nasty because my mother (who was widowed) worked for her parents. She would say horrible things about my mother and father as well as me. She made every day a misery. That school was like a punishment for years because of her.
I was a shy and quiet little girl. i never bullied anyone.
I don't think it has made me manipulative in later life but I do hate bullies still. I would also have been very upset if my children had bullied or been bullied.

JaneAHersey Sat 22-Nov-14 10:19:26

Great article. This is an issue that needs addressing. Children don't always realise they are being bullied as this can be very subtle and both teachers and children are offenders.

I would like to see relationship studies included on the curriculum and given high priority so those who are bullied get the chance to talk about their feelings and those that bully are made to understand the impact of their actions.

JaneAHersey Sat 22-Nov-14 10:22:11

This happened to me in the 1950's to late 1960's. Why is it still happening?

Napac (The National Association for people abused in children) review for Breath in the Dark by Jane Hersey. 28th November, 2012:

"This book is a self written memoir of the early years of a young girl growing up in Manchester with an ill mother and uninterested father, shunned by the wider family and little help from the local community.

She is left to fend for herself and her ill mother with little money and living in general poverty, the struggles she suffered and bullying at school further isolated her from any normality in life. The emotions she went through are clearly felt throughout the book.

Fantastically written left me feeling emotional for the childhood she lost.

I would recommend this book to professionals, survivors and anyone wanting to learn and understand the long/short term effects of mental illness, poverty emotional neglect and sexual abuse also the loyal love from child to parent."

Italiangreyhound Sun 23-Nov-14 15:36:10

chelseabuns not everyone is bullied and what constitutes bullying can vary greatly in different places and at different times. Some bullying is short lived or even one-off incidents, which people can easily recover from. Other kinds of bullying can go on for years and can totally shred a person's ability to withstand stress etc.

ALL bullying is wrong, but systematic bullying, sometimes by multiple people, which is ignored by 'classmates' and those who should be protecting children is incredibly damaging.

All bullying should be tackled.

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