Hilary Weisman Graham is an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and novelist. She lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband and son, roughly thirty minutes away from the nearest grocery store. She is currently working on a new YA novel as well as a script for The Disney Channel.
Hilary has allowed me to share her personal story with you today. I can only hope it makes a difference and touches someone, in some way.
The Bully in My Head
by Hilary Weisman Graham
I’ve been on both sides of the equation: the bully and the bullied. The details of these incidents are unimportant, even though they stand out as some of the clearest memories of my youth. What’s important is the why. Why did I, a kid with friends, good grades, two loving, caring parents, and a (relatively) stable home, need to make other kids feel bad about themselves? Conversely, why did I let the kids who taunted me get away with it? Why didn’t I ask my parents or teachers to intervene? And the one time I did ask a grown-up for help (the principal of my junior high, who did absolutely nothing) why did I view his ineffectualness as an acceptable response?
The answer, as best as I’ve figured it, isn’t so much about the outside forces I was exposed to—the compassion and tolerance my parents raised me to believe in, or even the broken “look the other way” culture prevalent at my school—as much as it was about what was going on inside my head, which, I can assure you, was as bad, if not worse, as the taunts of my seventh grade bully.
“You deserve it because you’re fat and ugly,” I’d tell my thirteen-year-old self. “Of course no one’s going to help you.”
With messages like this floating through my brain, it’s no wonder I sought release by preying upon those weaker than me, no wonder I accepted my own persecution as par for the course. I was already being bullied constantly—by myself.
Even through high school, college, and beyond, when the bullying by and of others had thankfully ceased, I was still beating myself up on a regular basis. For years, my best friend Sue tried to point this out to me with the gentle reminder: “You’re being really hard on yourself, Hil.” But it’s only in the past decade or so that finally I realized what she meant.
Today, I’m proud to say that I practice self-compassion on a regular basis, which means forgiving myself when I quote-unquote fail, and loving myself, not in spite of my perceived inadequacies, but because of them. I recently read an ARC of the much-lauded YA novel SKINNY, by Donner Cooner in which a 300-pound fifteen-year-old girl named Ever goes through a risky gastric bypass operation in order to silence the negative voice inside her head (who she’s named Skinny). Ever survives the surgery, but the sad thing is: so does Skinny. And until Ever learns that she has the power to change her damaging self-talk, it doesn’t matter how much (or how little) she weighs.
My point is—we can teach kids to be kind to each other, and put the spotlight on bullying in our schools, our homes, and in our communities—but I don’t think the problem will ever stop until we learn to stop bullying ourselves.
1 Concert. 2,000 Miles. 3 Ex-Best Friends.
Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends. Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3. But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books. Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show. Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?
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