Comment - Bullying and Self-Esteem
I was talking with a friend about the topic of bullying. I’ve had some experience on the receiving end from my childhood but not really enough to adversely impact my self-image or my memories. But now that I have a son bullying has become an important issue in my life. My son is shorter than almost all his friends and in most cases it’s almost a head shorter. He is definitely due a growth spurt as he has not hit puberty yet (or it’s in the very early stages) but the mental impact of being taunted or put in his place due to his short stature is weighing on his mind. One time he confided to me that he felt “inferior” because he was small. This was a sad moment for me for all the obvious reasons. My son is a very sweet boy. He is a very good student and I believe he has a bright future. But this kind of needling from his friends is impacting his self-esteem.
Now some might say it’s just the normal things that kids deal with and soon he will grow and that will be that. But to me it’s more. We all joke about men with the “Napoleon complex” and unfortunately I now know more than ever why this seems to be the case with so many short men. In my view it’s because they clearly must compensate for the preference of women for “tall, dark and handsome” men. Now of course that’s an old saying but in general young girls are attracted to men with strong physical attributes because in the 8th grade the mental side is not fully developed for either sex. This in turn teaches the short man/boy that they must find something else to attract women and end the taunting from their male “friends.” This may be obvious to many but possibly objectionable to girls who might say it’s not true that they contribute to a short mans ego problems. Regardless as I watch my son interact with his friends I see him flinch when someone mentions his height or asks him when he is going to grow. And of course they always say it when a cute girl is standing nearby.
Obviously I’m emotionally driven by this issue and a few months ago I wrote a poem on the matter:
My response to all of this has been to fill my son full of my unconditional love for him and my approval of him as a person. I feel he is drawn to me beyond the normal father-son relationship. He still allows me to have lunch with him at school and in fact has told me that his friends think I’m a cool Dad. So hopefully these things are the counter-weight in his life. I’ve also tried to encourage him to develop some interests in the arts or something that can be his; something that can make him feel strong and independent. But lately I’ve wondered about that.
Using myself as an example I must say that I’ve always been a pretty confident person. I had lots of friends in high school; most of whom were the more popular kids. I was not super confident when it came to girls but that changed as I grew up. My career has been pretty good but I’m no business super-star that’s for sure. Now I’m 53 and for the last four years I’ve been writing poems and song lyrics. My entire self-image has become about being a poet. It has taken such a hold of me that I don’t talk about my career with anyone unless specifically asked. It’s just a non-issue. I make money and that’s it. But my ego and pride over my writing (which has been fueled by so many positive comments on hubpages) has given me self-confidence for all situations. It’s as if I know who I am and I have nothing to prove. It’s a feeling that is very comforting regardless of how smart, how handsome/beautiful, how rich or how clever other people may be in my presence.
Oh… well… I must admit some moments of insane jealousy over the attention Stan Fletcher and Doug Turner Jr. receive but we can’t all be perfect right? This would be the perfect spot for one of those smiley emoticons but I don't have one handy so just look at my picture on my profile as that smile will have to do. So it appears in general that I’ve actually acquired some of that Zen on the inside that we all wish to have. Of course I still act cocky at times and I’m sure the true Zen-master is much more like Cane of Kung Fu fame than I. But it’s the inner feeling to which I refer.
My wonderment though is this: Why is it necessary that I create something or have a “show-piece” of sorts (my poems for instance) to achieve this feeling of worth regardless of whom is in the room? Can I not achieve this for the mere fact of being and that I am loved by my family? Is that not good enough? For some reason it’s not. I’m sure it’s rooted in my need for ego-gratification which means I’ve not achieved that magical “Zen-like” feeling at all. I’ve only been able to string some words together that sound good but in fact may or may not be indicative of my true inner peace. Maybe I’m not at peace at all. I have to admit that when my poems run their course and no longer attract comments that I feel a bit disconnected. I wait for the next explosion of inspiration impatiently because obviously I need the attention. This is my clue that I’m still a work in progress.
So what does this have to do with my son? Well it makes me wonder if an 8th grader can achieve peace for the mere sake of being if a 53 year old man can’t. I don’t want him to try to achieve things just so he can brag or feel like he’s keeping up with everyone but it seems we all need some sort of accomplishment or ability in order to take our place at the table in social settings. It’s really a sad state of affairs but our egos are so dominant in our lives that we find ourselves trying to display our worth so we can be accepted; or beyond that: glorified.
Regardless, I will continue to guide my son in the ways of the golden rule but there is still work to be done towards his self-image and ability to weather the wise-cracks (I’ve purposely steered away from the much used “abuse” word). I hope I can somehow find the key so he can open the door to inner-peace but in the end I know he will have to do it himself. All I can do is support him, praise him and give him my undying love.
It’s tough being a parent. But maybe it's tougher being a kid....