Looks can be very deceiving.
Being bullied for your appearance is the number one reason given by students for why they might bully another person. Of course, as adults, we already know that this is just not right. Not everyone has the means or ability to change their appearance.
My Own Personal Experience
Being only 5’4″ in high school with my last name, and having an undiagnosed disability made things extremely difficult, to say the least. The constant comments about my height have only slowed down since I got older. I constantly heard all kinds of names and comments about my size. The growth spurt I kept waiting on never happened. Even today more than 50 years later I still have trouble accepting that I am as tall as I will ever get. But, I have learned to deal with it. Short people are just smarter. Yeah, that’s it. We are just smarter. It’s my lie and I will tell it any way I want to.
Seriously though, having to accept that you might be different, whatever that is, can come as quite a shock to a lot of us. You might be taller, or heavier, or have some type of disability like I did. I was born with Tourettes, OCD, and ADHD. The point is, anything that makes you look, sound, or appear different from other people can be a reason for why you get bullied. Does it make it right? Absolutely not! But it does happen. As I said above, there are many reasons why kids are bullied about their appearance. It could be about their height, weight, race, skin issues, or disfigurement.
The YMCA researchers did a study of the effects of this type of bullying. They discovered that 55% of young people get bullied for their looks. Of those they found that it causes the following:
• 60% tried to change their appearance in some manner.
• 53% became anxious
• 29% became depressed
• 24% started eating less
As you can see. It has a significant effect on most kids. 3 of the 4 could end up causing more trouble for our children. Depending upon how it was handled the last time. It could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Other key findings from the Be Real Campaign’s ‘In Your Face’ research include:
- 54% of young people who experience bullying about the way they look, do so by the age of 10
- 1 in 2 of young people reported becoming anxious as a result of being bullied about the way they look
- 53% of young people think bullies have insecurities about themselves / their own appearance
Another surprising thing. When girls bully about someone’s appearance it is far less noticeable because it is mainly psychological. It is done primarily with the use of social, verbal, or online tactics. This can also lead to the victim developing body dysmorphic disorder. Girls are also judged on unrealistic ideals of what they are supposed to look like. This can also lead to a damaged self-esteem.
When boys bully the number one way is physical. A fight in the school hallway gets noticed very quickly, and hopefully stopped quickly by a school employee before anyone gets hurt. Some boys actually like the feeling of being judged as a good fighter. That definitely was never an issue for me. I was never thought of as a good fighter even though I was constantly being forced to fight. I never liked it though.
How Old Were You When It Started?
54% of children state that the appearance bullying started before they were even ten.
Policies Against Bullying
Social media is a major source of bullying. Most social sites state they have policies against bullying. But the users still find ways to do it. I have read that Instagram is one of the biggest sources of bullying because the photos that are posted are not necessarily a true picture of what is going on. A large percentage of the photos are photo-shopped to make things appear to be far more interesting than they really are. Selfies are a creation of social media. A selfie can also be easily photo-shopped online to enhance the overall presentation.
Teens have the tendency to compare their lives against what they think other teen’s lives are like based upon what they see in the photos which can be completely unrealistic. Again, this can be a major source of frustration for teens which can lead to harm of their self-esteem.
Size is No Defense
In my book about bully-proofing I tell a story about a young man that shot himself in the boys bathroom in junior high. He was 6’6’ and weighed 275. He was not a natural athlete and his vision was not the best. So he got bullied constantly for all of it. One day after lunch he had had all he could take and shot himself in the boy’s room with his dad’s gun that he had brought to school that day.
I can’t even describe how tragic I think this was. NO child should ever have to endure being pushed so badly that they think suicide is the only way out.
Your Best Defense
True, not everyone is going to look like a model regardless of how much makeup or stylish clothes you wear or how much bling you have on. BUT, everyone can improve their appearance by learning how to improve their appearance to the best level you can. Forget about whether you look as good as the head cheerleader or not. Concentrate on what you look like. Always wear clean clothes that are in good repair. Find your own style and work to make it the best you can. Pick a hairstyle that looks good on you, not because it is popular. Carry yourself with some pride. Be proud of who you are regardless of what anyone else says. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about what you see. If not, then work to improve it to the point where you are happy with it. This is all anyone can ever expect of you. Never forget the old saying of “Less is more.”