Here’s the second ‘FutureSelf’ post. I hope these stories continue to empower and inspire. I hope you read them and where necessary draw strength from those who have faced similar problems as the ones you may be dealing with right now. Let them be a strong first hand reminder that it is so, so important for you to hang in there, speak out, see it for what it is and push on through. There is a breakthrough coming. Find it. Seek it out. You will be amazed at how empowering your new sense of perspective is when you do.
I was reminded of two very important things when reading these following stories; firstly, bullying is always about some form of envy – the very fact that you are being targeted, believe it or not, is because you have something the bully or bullies don’t have. It might not be clear what that thing is, but know this – the ONLY reason you’re a target right now is because on some level he, she or they are wishing they had it. For some, it is easier to attack the thing that makes them jealous than to go out and find it for themselves. Be proud and grateful for who you are and for what you’ve got. No one has the right to suggest you don’t deserve it. No one.
The second thing that starts to form a pattern here is that things do get better in time. Sounds like a cliche I know – but it’s here, in black and white. Several examples of people who had a terrible time at school finding out that things really did improve at college and/or university.
“This too shall pass”
The most important thing to remember is that it’s not just a cliche. It’s real, tangible and absolute fact, and it’s as relevant to you – someone who hasn’t reached that point yet – as it is for those who have and are looking back. Things WILL get better. Be there when they do.
Here are some more examples of how:
From S, who writes a letter to her future self:
Hello me in one of the worst schools in the country (that turns out to
be true, they look at statistics and things and it really is the worst
place you could ever have been).
I’m just writing to tell you something important.
You’re right about nearly everything.
You’re right about just surviving until the end of school. It does
stop, it does improve, those people do go away and new people don’t
take their place. You’ll only ever have to deal with those people at
this time. That’s really not fair. If people tried to treat you like
that in your 30s you would take them down with a look…but they know
you when you’re 14, 15, 16, and they know you won’t defend yourself.
Here’s a secret, they don’t really think that badly of you. The thing
is they know they can say painfully awful things about you and you’ll
take it because YOU think it. They know you won’t disagree. They know
you have no counter argument. They know you don’t think better of
You think they have a point.
You don’t think they’re horrible people because of what they say to
you, you think they’re really mean to point it out.
If a fat, ugly, stupid, probably dirty masturbating lesbian like you
walked by you wouldn’t say it to their face. You’d think it to yourself
and leave them alone. Why can’t they just think badly of you and leave
Because they don’t think it.
They are saying and doing worse and worse things just to see how much
you’ll take. How far they can go with it until you get a backbone.
And once you did, once you tried, remember?
Joanne R was slagging you off in front of everyone during rounders
(you’re right, that’s a stupid game, nobody plays or likes) and all her
flunkies laughed at you and the teachers heard and didn’t care so you
had it. You turned to her and said “Oh fuck off!”
Then those same teachers left you to carry the equipment back in with
her. You were left to walk off the school field with her. You were left
with her, with your arms full, while she held a single hockey stick and
told you to appolgise.
You were wrong about that.
She knew then what I know now. She was never going to touch you with
that thing. She didn’t dare hit you. If we could swap I’d let that
stuff fall, step up to her and tell her to go ahead. Fucking hit me,
You won’t believe it but she would have gone pure white and shat a
She’d have either backed down in front of her spineless little friends
or she’d have been forced to take a swing and then she’d have been
gone. You know that she’d be gone. She knows that she’d be gone.
Everybody knows she’d be gone. You had the power and you didn’t believe
You thought she could beat you with a hockey stick and the teachers
would ignore that too. All her friends would stay her friends. Nobody
would have seen a thing and she’d get away with it.
Everybody, teachers included, knew you would always give in. They left
you alone in a classroom to ‘decide between you’ who was going to stay
in the Design and Communication class and who would have to change to
Design and Realisation class. There was only room for 1 and D&C means
you designed a thing and got a GCSE for it. D&R meant you designed a
thing and then had to go into the other room and make it from wood and
metal and acrylic, soldering irons, drills and saws.
Jo told you it was you who was going to change classes and you said ok.
You get a E in that GCSE.
As soon as you get out of there, follow your plan, your plan is right.
Go to the college farther away, not the one everybody from your school
goes to. None of them will be at your college, your friends all go to
the same one.
THEY FOLLOW YOU!
You’re not the hanger on they all put up with, you’re the one they hang
on the words of. You’re the one who makes them laugh. You’re the one
who makes them stronger and tells them “Don’t put up with that shit”.
You don’t have somebody to be that person for you but you don’t need it.
Soon that thing you do, come home and go to your room and cry the day
out and then carry on as if you’re fine, you won’t need to do that
I wish you didn’t have to feel about yourself the way you do, but if I
wasn’t you then I couldn’t be me now.
I’m difficult, I tell people no and stick to it, I stand up for myself
and spend a frustrating amount of time telling other people to do the
You’ll have a friend who is way cooler than you, pretty and fun and
everybody loves her (even your family love her!) and she will tell you
about something going on with her that she’s afraid to take a stand on
and say to you “…that’s not right, is it?” and you will say “NO!
Bloody well no! Don’t stand for that.”
You’re backing, your voice, makes other people lift their head higher,
push back their shoulders, push out their chest and stand up for
themselves. They think that their instinct was right because they have
your backing. You are the strongest person they know.
I’m not blowing my own trumpet, somebody has told me that, actually a
You still think shit about yourself, unfortunately that’s part of who
you are, but soon you won’t take anyone else voicing those thoughts.
Nobody talks shit about you…other than you.
You’re even getting better about that.
You see some of them after school, as an adult, when you’re all real
Some of them don’t remember you at all.
Some of them recognise you and forget who THEY were, they think you’ll
be as happy to see them as they were to see you.
Some of them you will never see again for the rest of your life (this
makes me smile).
Here’s another thing you were right about, that time is the worst time
of your whole life.
It will never be as bad as that.
Those people who keep telling you how you feel is the best you’ll ever
feel, those people who seem to want you to die? They really do think
school is the best time of their life. They have had such disappointing
lives that they genuinely do believe that.
For all those girls, Joanne, Samantha, Sarah-Jane…they really do look
back on it fondly. Right now they aren’t happy. The moment they left
school they stopped being happy because they stopped being important,
Last week you met up with Leigh in Stratford and you both laughed all
evening. You talked about everything in your lives and something
amazing happened…you tried your hardest, both of you, and you
couldn’t remember the full names of anybody who wasn’t important to you.
You’re both going to get hold of Kelly and Claire before Christmas and
those 3 people at that school who weren’t trying to kill you (or make
you feel like it at least) will get together for the first time in ages
and laugh at how stupid we were.
Because you were all stupid.
You should have been laughing about it, that’s all.
From S, age 37 (You live to thirty fucking seven! Can you believe
PS – Yes, you give in and go by the name S…as soon as you do
you’re mum stops calling you that in front of people. Typical.
PPS – Dad’s still alive, N’s married, you’re going to New York for
the 3rd time next year. Everything gets so much better!
From A, who found solace at university:
It’s difficult looking back now, attempting to remember how it felt in those moments. Mainly because I think I’ve tried to hide them so forcefully at the back of my mind, whilst trying to build my life back up.
The thing that strikes me the most was that I couldn’t define it as bullying. You don’t feel like you can tell a parent or a teacher, or anybody for that matter, if somebody is just refusing to be friends with you. It felt pathetic and attention-seeking if I complained because they looked down at me, because they didn’t care about me, because I was just filler to them.
I remember spending 5 years at my secondary school feeling inadequate. Dreading walking through the gates every morning. Developing a nervous twitch in my hand just to stop myself from turning around and running as fast as I can back home. Becoming paranoid every single second of every day, and not hearing a laugh or a whisper without immediately hating myself just that tiny bit more. Feeling like my heart was going to break every day because nobody cared or even noticed my existence. And just having to carry on.
Because it wasn’t my fault. I should have put myself ‘out there’ more. But, there’s only so many times you can try without losing the will to live completely with every failure. So I just decided hiding would be the best solution, wishing I was invisible became a favourite pastime of mine throughout my teenage years.
I think the best way I could describe it would be as a vicious cycle; I would continually try to make myself appealing in various ways (hiding my intelligence, allowing them to put make-up on me, giving them money) they would take advantage of my need to have friends and then get bored of whatever novelty I had come up with that time, and repeat.
After 7 years of feeling out of place and isolated, choosing to go to university could have gone two ways for me:
1) I would be in the exact situation only 130 miles away from my parents: the only people I could trust and rely on.
2) I would finally be allowed to be myself and have real friends for once in my life.
Luckily for me, the latter came true. Unbelievably, I now send this email in my house with my best friends currently in my 2nd year of university. I have people I can trust, rely on and actually have a good time with.
It was difficult to adjust at first. A complete lack of trust on my part made it hard to open myself up to new people. But it happened. It actually happened.
I cannot stress enough my disbelief at my situation! I completely believed I would be alone forever, struggling to make friends because I believed it was my fault. But it wasn’t, I just didn’t fit in with the people that I happened to be surrounded by. It was just bad luck. Fortunately, I’ve fallen on my feet and although my life isn’t perfect (who’s is?!) I now feel like I’ve met people I’ll know for the rest of my life.
Although it will sound cliched and completely insincere, I want people to know that their situation isn’t unique. After reading Izzy Dix’s poem ‘I Give Up’ I felt, as inconsequential and pointless as this may be, that maybe somebody might read it and completely relate. Exactly like I did with ‘I Give Up’ and maybe if Future Self had been around when Izzy needed it, her story would have been entirely different. I remember needing somebody who could completely understand what I was going through, or to at least know I wasn’t alone in my loneliness. So this is just to say, no matter how much they ignore you, no matter how much you feel the need to blame yourself, no matter how dark it gets: there is always somebody there for you. You might have to look around a little, you might have to struggle on through no matter how hard it gets, but they are there. And you are not alone.
From C, who champions the power in speaking out:
If you are being bullied right now I want to say to you, don’t give up.
I saw this comment from the author Sylvain Reynard on Twitter the other day:
“Hey, you. Yes, you. You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. And doggone it, people like you. Enjoy your day, Sylvain Reynard”
I favourited it and when I need a boost I go back and read it. I was bullied by my circle of friends throughout the whole of my last year at school. It started on a Monday morning with them all turning their backs on me.They fabricated an increasing number of lies to turn themselves and others against me. They surrounded me and daily stripped my confidence with their cruel lies and taunts. One even got someone to punch her in the face and told her parents I did it so I would get in trouble! Getting up every morning to go to school took every ounce of effort I had. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise the person staring back at me.
17 years later and I still have no idea why or what I did wrong. The truth is I’ve stopped needing to know. I did nothing wrong. I’ve always been me. Sometimes people love me, sometimes I’m annoying (I even annoy myself), sometimes people need a break from me but I’ve never pretended to be someone I’m not. I’ve never pretended to like something so someone will like me. I know what I like and I’ll never apologise for that. For 17 years I have dealt with the aftermath of that year of my life. I’m nearly 34 now and I’m finally ready to move on and claim my life back. I have some people I trust who are helping me to move on and put the past behind me. I had dark days where I wanted to give in and make it stop. But I always managed to control those thoughts with a hope of what was still to come in my life.
Don’t wait 17 years like I did to claim your life back, start today!
You did nothing wrong.
Tell someone today that you need their help. Start with a parent, sibling, relative if you can’t make them listen scream until they do. If they can’t help write a letter to your doctor and ask for their help. I did this and saw a councellor who gave me some coping mechanisms that I still use today. Find a new circle of friends, get a new hobby, go to a different college, school, university, job anything. Completely remove their poison from your life. Delete your social network accounts, remove that avenue of bullying from them.Block their phone numbers and change your number; only give it to people you know you can truly trust. Don’t make excuses for the bullies or justify their behaviour, there is no justification, EVER for making someone feel bad to make yourself feel better. I did this, I turned it round on myself, hated myself because there was 7 of them and 1 of me. I had to be in the wrong. I even started to believe their lies.
Don’t be mistrusting of new people. Don’t walk with your eyes on the ground. Don’t hide away in the corner at parties or make excuses to not attend at all. Don’t hide away from your life. Find the kid at school who feels the same way as you do and help each other. They’re there, trust me. You just never needed to see them before.
LIVE YOUR LIFE, YOUR WAY, ON YOUR TERMS, IT’S THE ONLY ONE YOU HAVE!
We can’t let the people who want to tear us down win. We have to fight them every day. We have to be strong enough to ask for help when we need it. If you scream loud enough, someone will always listen. Never give up hope of what your life might be one day. I never did and never will. Never ever forget that someone loves you right now and in the future you will meet more people who love you, don’t ever stop looking for them! When you find them your life will change forever and the pain you feel now will be a distant memory.
You are worth so much more. You deserve so much more. Please believe that.
From S, who made life changes and found peace:
At school, I was the smart one. Others hated me, isolated me, called
me names, spread rumours, the usual playground bullying tactics, all
because I was more intelligent than them. This meant that I was
intensely shy and couldn’t stand up for myself even though I knew deep
down that there was nothing wrong with doing well at school and that
they were just jealous. At times I found myself deliberately not doing
as well in tests and assignments, or lying about how well I had done,
just to get a few moments peace. Things eased when I did my A-levels
because all of those girls had failed their GCSEs and left, and I felt
happier and safer because now it was ok to be me, and I went to
university which I was very proud about.
But at university, I experienced a different kind of bullying. I
joined a university society and (I thought) became friends with a lot
of them. They were all geeks and nerds, so I felt a bit at home there,
as I’d been an outcast in my life. But one of them took a liking to me
which became obsessional, I started getting harrassed and emotionally
abused, and when I spoke out about it, I was ostracised from a lot of
the people I thought were my friends. They all told me to shut up and
not to ruin the group by causing divisions even though the man had
harrassed me, even spiking my drink one night so that he could rape
me. I experienced a catalogue of cyberbullying from one man who I had
been childhood friends with, but because he was friends with my
attacker/stalker, he decided to send email threats and horrible
statements from his workplace at London School of Economics. Even
though my boyfriend and I contacted that university, nothing was done
to punish him for sending abuse via their email system and he is still
a lecturer there to this day, whilst I was made to feel like a freak
just for reporting horrible and illegal behaviour from his friend.
Some years later, I experienced more abuse from a man in a different
social group, and because I spoke up about it, I was bullied online
and in person, made to look like a liar, and continually made to feel
scared because this man was a Tai Jitsu fanatic and continually
threatened to use the techniques he had learned on me. The people I
was friends with didn’t want to hear that one of the people in that
group could be violent against women or could lie to/about women,
despite his history of cheating on every woman he was ever involved
with, they just wanted to keep the peace, so I was ostracised and
forced away. I still occasionally encounter these people and none of
them think they did anything wrong. They have also spread all sorts of
lies about me to people I know and it’s horrible. I wish they knew
what they had done, and hope they read this although they probably
wouldn’t even think it was about them.
But it got better. I refused to put up with any of this so I moved to
a new city and made a lot of friends who have never hurt me, and who I
absolutely love. I have a fantastic job that makes a difference to
people, and lots of hobbies that I enjoy. My life is so much better
and I know now that none of what happened to me was my fault – it was
all due to the jealousy or warped minds of these bullies. I am only
saddened that I had to move to another city to escape it and that I
sometimes encounter some of these bullying cowards, but my life is
wonderful now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I would like
people to know that whilst bullying can and does happen to people who
do not deserve it, and it is truly terrible and isolating and
terrifying when it does happen, that things will get better.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I promise that they will get better and
you will find the security and happiness you deserve.
From J, who also found solace at university:
School is a place where everyone longs to fit in. But it’s also a place where people don’t hold back on recognising and outing your insecurities. At school my confidence got knocked down time and time again from people who just thought it was fun.
Words hurt. They hurt because eventually you start to believe that’s there’s no point. Things got better for me, I spoke out and people stopped. But my confidence and self esteem had been knocked so far down, sadly not just by them, but by myself to.
I became my own worse enemy. I doubted everything I did. I felt like giving up. I developed anxiety and became depressed.
I’m now 22 and I still have bad days, I still have days when I freak out and want to run away from everything. But I’m better than I was, and I believe that I will keep on getting better.
I’m in the third year of my writing degree at uni and I never believed I would get that far. I surrounded myself with people who I could trust, people who cared, people who would help me. And I try to do the same for them.
We’re always told to let the past be just that but the truth is, when your confidence is hit so many times, it takes a lot to get it back. It takes time.
I’ve learnt that those who attack our insecurities are the ones who can’t face their own. They gain power from making you feel weak because that’s the only power they have. You have the power to be great, to achieve, to change the world. If people want to tell you otherwise then let them, because you’ll show them they’re wrong. There’s help out there, you’re not alone. Don’t give up, because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, you don’t know what you’re future will be.
From C, who realised that bullying is always born from envy:
I was bullied at school, pretty much constantly between the age of eleven and sixteen. The saying goes that our school days are ‘the greatest days of our lives’. For someone who is bullied that saying cuts deeply as I remember feeling that the rest of life must be extremely miserable if there is truth to that particular old chestnut. I feel my secondary school years were taken away from me…sometimes. Then I remember that I am a fit, healthy and happy man who has recently turned thirty. Those days passed and I’m so glad I persevered and didn’t give in to those that made my life a misery.
There are still occasions where I wish I could go back and tell myself some words of wisdom to make getting through and improving my school life easier, but I’ve accepted that I can’t change the past. What i can do is look toward the future and if any way I can help those currently struggling in their school days then I’ve laid some ghosts to rest.
I went to an all boys grammar school – note, not a boarding school as some people assume, just a place where I had to do an exam to get in. I wasn’t that smart, and I certainly got away with doing the bare minimum so I was never going to be an A* student. The school was in Gloucester and had a nationwide reputation for rugby. I wasn’t a sporty child either. I was pretty good at football but not good enough to represent my school. With that and the lack of academic endeavor I felt very much in a small pool of boys who would never really feel loved by the establishment. A bit of an outcast.
One thing that I could at least be, I thought, was popular. I befriended a boy, who I will refer to as ‘my tormentor’ from now on, as he was the only boy in my class in year seven that had come from my primary school. I didn’t like him from the start truth be told but when you are forced into a group of people you immediately seek those you can identify with the most. Plus he was good at rugby so was in with the popular crowd. Sadly for me he turned out to be a simply horrible boy. He would hit me, call me names and make up songs whilst encouraging others to do the same. Yet when I suddenly stopped hanging out with him because of this or would stand up to him, as I did on the odd occasion, he would suddenly become friendly again. It was a manipulative way to behave and it ensured I was always on my toes yet grateful for a friend. It was emotional turmoil and I hated him for it.
It was only at the age of twenty-two that I admitted to myself I had been bullied. I’d always just thought that being unhappy was school was my fault. That I wasn’t a good person and that’s why my tormentor treated me very nicely. However in hindsight realise that it was the opposite. What I would say is when people tell you to ‘be yourself’ it is the very best advice. If someone doesn’t like you for who you are it is most likely that there is something about themselves that they hate and perhaps are jealous of in you. This could be money, confidence, happiness, talent, a stable family…anything. I remember my tormentor telling me how awful I was at acting and writing. Incidentally this is now how I ply my trade as I always loved it and always knew I would want a career in it.
The irony is that these bullies are the way they are because they are not happy with themselves and so they try to make others miserable too. Remember that. Remember that whoever is bullying you has a serious issue that they are not dealing with. That is up to them to work out in time. Their words and actions are a reaction to how they’ve been raised and that is not your fault. Each person on this planet has the potential to be wonderful. The best thing to do is to focus on you, spend time only with people that make u feel good and talk to someone if you’re being bullied. Don’t let the bastards grind you down!