Kim Holterman, bullied, childhood, teenagers

Although statistics show that one out of every five (20.2%) of children report being bullied in school, and up to 43% of them have experienced repeated episodes of bullying over the course of their lives, there is still no evidence as to what instigate a widespread behavior that is known to cause long-lasting psychological issues and trauma.

At what point does a child decides that it’s ok to bully another?

Does it start as a joke? 

Does it come from insecurity?

And why no one is able to properly address the issue and offer an effective solution?

Above all, what ignites a desire to belittle another child? Is it the upbringing, the environment, or a more general lack of values and respect for human life?

These are just few of the many questions I constantly ask myself as mom of a teenage girl and a survivor of early childhood bullying. I worry because I have lived the consequences on my own skin and I don’t want my daughter to experience any part of that, and I worry because I don’t believe the educational system is placing a strong focus on addressing this issue and finding a solution that works. 

Because of bullying, every sigle day, thousands of young children’s lives are being effected in profound ways, while the parents are left feeling helpless and powerless. They see how their little one, who means the world to them, turns from being a  bright and shining human into a scared little bird. There is no guidance, no support, no action plan to address the issue and make it go away. 

Most people think of bullying as a common and normal issue among children and teenagers, but there is nothing normal about it.  All children are born full of confidence and aware of being good enough. They feel beautiful, worthy, and open to receive with ease. To them, every person is equal, no matter their background, the color of their skin, or even the language they speak. Every single person is good enough to play with and to become their best friend in the whole wide world if so they wish. 

But then, something happens. 

Something that makes them see uniqueness as a threat.

Something that makes some child good enough and others not.

And just like that, judging a person for the way she looks, she dresses, or the way she lives her life becomes acceptable. 

5 year old Kim

5 years old Kim was a happy little girl.Cheerful, curious and kind with everyone she met. She loved to go to school, playing with her classmates, and having playdates. That is until she and her parents moved to a new neighborhood and her entire world changed overnight. New school, new neighbors, new friends to make.

It wasn’t long before her new classmates started to judge her, to tell her that she was too fat, funny looking, and that she was not worth playing with. They were the same age she was. Five years old who had no ideas how long lasting scars can be.  

When I look at pictures of myself at the age of 5, I can’t find anything “strange” or “unusual” about that little girl. All I see is a normal 5 year old, who lived with two loving parents and a younger brother and sister. However, I can see a sadness in her eyes, and vividly remember how she felt and why…

When the bullying first started, I remember trying to explain to my  parents what was happening to me, but I can see now, they had no idea how to support me or what to do to help me. They met with the teachers, of course, spoke to the principal at my school, but nothing changed. The school took no major actions to stop the abuse or help me navigate those difficult years.

Was it because they did not want to fully see what was going on or they just didn’t know how to handle it?

Those early school experiences led me to believe that I was destined to feel unseen, alone, and judged by my own pears. So I swallowed my needs and my desire to thrive, create, and express my full potential and focused on being the best big sister to my siblings. Taking care of them became the one thing that made me feel safe, valuable, useful, and worthy of my parent’s approval. In fact, the only times I ever felt appreciated by the people around me was when I did something for them, when I was the care taker.  

But who was taking care of me?

It took me years to rediscover my worth and to learn how to stay connected to it. Years to start loving myself again, honor my own needs and desires, invest in my ideas, and set healthy boundaries with those around me. Years to give myself permission to live my life on my own terms without worrying about others judgments and opinions. Years to recognize this is a life-long journey I need to stay committed to every single day.

Each day I wake up, I embrace that commitment fully, because I know my little girl looks up at me. I know that despite all my flaws, fears, scars, and open wounds, I can offer her an example of a powerful woman who owns her worth and loves her selves. Above all, I want to show her that most and foremost, a woman has to love her own self first, before she can love someone else completely.

And for those of you who just like me, didn’t learn self-love from your own mother, know that healing is possible and that is NOT too late. Remember, I was that woman, I was that little girl who was convinced from a very young age that I couldn’t be liked and appreciated just for being me. Friendship and love were not available. Not for a long time.

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that I was worth loving, and most importantly, that I was worth loving myself. I know now, that when I love myself, I am capable of loving others deeply and completely. It’s never the other way around.

In fact, if there is only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: 

You have the power to change your story, to impact your future and you daughter’s future. Write a story that you can tell your children and grandchildren, a story they can tell their own children long after you are gone. 

Your legacy will remain. You  can be their example, you can teach them and, most importantly, show them how to love themselves, and how to decide that no matter what, you are good enough.

May your legacy spread self- love for generations to come and may you choose to give that little girl within you a second chance to live the life that she deserve.