I've written a little about some of these topics before but it's my blog so I get to repeat myself as often as I like.
Part of the experience of being bullied is creating a defense system. Some people do it by becoming bullies--you can't get picked on if you are doing the picking. Some find other ways. Bottomline, as children, without the help of wiser people, you are going to come up with systems that don't cut it over time.
You will bring your old, deficient defenses with you into adult life completely unaware they are deficient. When situations arise that resonate with who you were at age 8 or 10, you will trot out your old remedies and defenses and find them strangely lacking.
My old remedy was to lean against my creative talents. As a child I was very productive and skillful when it came to art. I received lots of praise from adults and sometimes from my peers, so even though I was terrified of being chased home by gangs of angry girls or cruel boys on dirt bikes or accosted in the hallway by some skeevy kid with bad skin, I had art as a refuge.
My creativity held me up for a long time. At least it did until the time that I wanted to take my art into a bigger arena. I quickly discovered that there were people who wouldn't like my stuff. Also, that I wasn't as skilled as others.
It devastated me. I was completely unprepared for my coping mechanism to come up short.
My lack of awareness, finding out that I was vulnerable in the one area I thought I was bullet proof, caused me to run away.
My life existed in two parts--the part of me that got all my self worth from being good at something and the other part of me that was broken, denigrated and deeply hidden.
But I didn't know that I was operating like that. And out of that I created a life of shielding and avoidance.
For years I lived looking over my shoulder, watching for the people who would sense my vulnerability and rip me to shreds. It became harder and harder to share the things I was interested in because of excessive concern over criticism.
The list of things I said "no" to was ridiculously long. Teaching or any career where I would need to control a room or deal with unruliness was absolutely off the list of possibilities.
Instead of dealing with people, I developing skill after skill so there would always be something I could hold up to protect the broken bird living in my heart.
But because I could never be perfect in any of my pursuits, eventually those things became new ways for my broken bird to be rebroken.
I ran for years until I recognized I couldn't "skill" myself into safety.
Eventually, the broken bird must be seen for what she is to be healed.
And it is hard. Because with it comes acknowledging that someone else saw you as less than...a person ok to harm. And for me came the double shame of lacking the resilience to stand up to the rigors of a critical world and therefore never being able to take creative risks.
There is a word that comes to mind for someone lacks resilience and that can be harmed. That word is "weak".
With such a mindset, it's a wonder that the broken bird can ever see the light of day.
As I've said before, I feel a certain safety in writing. As I imagine you, my readers, you are infinitely kind and empathetic. I imagine you've been there. That you have a broken bird too.
The illusion of that safety allows me to write and start the process of being seen. Of giving my broken bird heart light and oxygen.
In seeking and finding others to witness, to bring compassion, to hold space, to seen and be seen--by and by, the broken bird is healed.
The world is not a perfectly safe place. People will not love you automatically. They also will not universally embrace your brokenness.
There are plenty of scenarios in my daily life where I don't feel safe--but I don't avoid them anymore.
I'm more ok with not being perfectly defended--with being vulnerable. I don't need my list of accomplishments to protect me as much. I'm less perfect today than I have ever been.
But I have a better sense of where I can bring my broken bird out into the light. And I do.