Learning to Shine: From Bullied Teen to Thriving Actress
I met Sharon in late March. We connected mainly through our interests in bullying and our personal experiences with it. Since then we’ve continued to stay in good contact and we’ve been supportive of each others blogs by reading and leaving comments. Here is her post on shyness and bullying.
I wasn’t born a shy little girl. In fact, I was probably the exact opposite of shy; I used to preempt football games during the holidays by putting a stool in front of the television, standing on top of it and singing my little lungs out. I had a love of music and performing in my blood, for sure. Over the years, I would gradually lose that fearlessness I had, though. Some of it came naturally, from learning that the world can be a judgmental place and not everyone is going to be nice to you. For the most part, I held on to a lot of it up until about junior high.
That was when I first moved from the big city to a smaller city. I went from having friends and living somewhere I loved to a new place where people talked differently, acted differently and I just didn’t seem to fit in. I thought being from a big city would be a shoo-in for people liking you, but it seemed it had the opposite effect. Smaller cities tend to have lots of people who have lived there for years, know practically everyone OR are related to everyone somehow and outsiders stand out a little too much. Junior high was when the teasing started.
I transferred to a Christian school that was run out of a church, so the classes were small. That’s what I had been used to all my life, though. Whoever might have thought Christian schools were immune to bullying or teasing was very wrong. It can be just as bad, but since my class was made up of only about 5 or 6 kids, it wasn’t too unbearable. 7th and 8th grade was the start of me going into my little shell. I learned if I just concentrated on my work and didn’t talk much, people would ignore me most of the time, so I became quiet and withdrawn, at least until I got home and could be myself without fear of teasing.
Then high school came and everything just fell apart. I had to go from little classrooms at a Christian school to a public high school; the thought scared me to death. My parents ended up enrolling me in a high school that was in a town close by. The one in the city I live in is pretty big because all high schoolers go to one school. The one in a neighboring town was a lot smaller, but still big with classes of 20 to 25 in just one period compared to what I was used to: a maximum of maybe 20 to 25 in the whole grade and that would be a school in Austin I went to, not the junior high I went to with about 8 in the whole grade!
My first day was nerve-wracking and scary. It didn’t help that ever since kindergarten, I had been a chubby little girl. I started wearing glasses at the age of 6 and my long naturally curly hair had been cut short just before moving, making my hair look like an afro. Apparently that’s what happens when you have really curly hair and the shorter it is, the more curlier! UGH! These three things had already been a source of some teasing in junior high so what would happen in a PUBLIC school?
What happened was that I was bullied constantly, by guys, not so much the girls. I got called horrible names in reference to my size, such as whale and hippo. Around that time, there was a Pop Culture character named “Pat” that was fat and had an afro and no one could tell if he was a he or a she. I believe it was a Saturday Night Live Character? Well…it still hurts to think about that character, because I was teased endlessly and called Pat because I had an afro and was a big girl. I didn’t look like a boy, though….I most definitely had curves, but that didn’t seem to matter. Over the course of 9th grade, I just kept crawling further and further into my shell like a turtle. I would skip lunch at school and end up starving when I got home because I didn’t want people to see me eating. When they did, I got made fun of. I was a good student who just came to school, did what I had to do and tried to make it through the day, so I could go home and cry. At home, I would listen to the same music everyone else did. I would watch the same shows and movies and dream about the same cute guy actors and I always wondered why no one would ever take the time to get to know me and see I was just like them? Inside, I thought I was a pretty cool girl, but to the bullies, they could care less what I thought. I tried to dress nicely and cute, but it didn’t seem to matter. In 10th grade, I got contacts and got teased for it because I was “trying to fit in”.
I was the queen of ignoring. I ignored even as a guy put his face in my face yelling names at me and threatening to kill me. I tried to cry in private. I even retaliated and hit the guy who was the ringleader once, to no avail. I tried to report him and got a look of sheer disbelief from the counselor. Why should I have even been surprised? The bullying ALL went on within a few feet of all the teachers and nothing was ever said to anyone about it. My bully was the son of parents on the school board. I was an outsider allowed to go to school there where the kids that went there were mainly kids that had been there since elementary. It wasn’t going to stop and this resorted in missed days of school and my mom eventually pulling me out.
I’m glad to say, I eventually went to an alternative school and finished high school a few months ahead of schedule. I went to classes there with my only concern to do my work and go home. I never tried to talk to any other students and if they said something to me, I said the bare minimum back. I didn’t want to draw any unwanted attention to myself.
When I started college in 2001, I kept the same attitude and it was extremely difficult for me to introduce myself or to do presentations. I got through them the best I could…usually with teachers asking me to speak up. I didn’t know any other way to be. I had literally forgotten how to be the fearless child I once was, because I was so afraid that to be THAT again meant I would only get hurt. It wasn’t until years of college, when I lost a little weight, tried out for a singing/dancing group and signed up for Acting class, that I found her again.
Performing was something I had always wanted to do in some way, shape, or form, but I never had the guts. After losing a little weight, I decided to just go for it. I tried out for this group where I would sing solos and dance with the group and I remember being so shy and nervous, but being determined to try. When I made the group, I was so excited and it took some time for me to loosen up and become comfortable, but I got there. I think I got there through my Acting class. This class really pushed me to do things that would make almost anyone nervous. Making silly faces and noises and doing impromptu things can be very scary, but since I was new to it, everyone was so nice and I sensed that the people in this crowd were a lot like me. They seemed to be all people who had once felt like outsiders. People that had felt different and maybe weren’t always accepted for who they were. And they accepted me. They liked how I acted, they liked how I sang. They thought I had talent and they liked ME for me. I could be myself finally without fear of being bullied.
It’s been a few years since then and while I still have moments where that shyness tries to reappear, I’m happy I was able to find myself again and I refuse to let cruel people force me back into the shell again. I’m a worthy person just like everyone else and I have a voice that deserves to be heard!
To read more of Sharon’s posts, click here to visit her blog. She is very approachable and easy to talk to, and you will enjoy reading her writing. There are some great poems and short stories on her site that she’s written too. She’s currently trying to break into a career as a free-lance writer.