Thanks to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLESN), January 15th-19th has been declared as No Name-Calling Week. No Name-Calling Week is a period of time organized by K-12 educators and students to end name-calling and bullying in schools (GLESN, 1/8/18).
They offer a robust and inspiring website with the tools to help educators and make this week a possibility for students. These resources include access to lesson plans and activities, the opportunity to share artwork that promotes inclusivity and kindness, and even a pledge to make their participation official. Knowing that our youth are benefiting from this type of learning is phenomenal because it creates a safe atmosphere where students feel validated.
I remember going through my schooling and interacting with peers who didn’t always have the nicest things to say about others; it was truly heartbreaking and severely damaging. I can distinctly recall several moments where my classmates were brought to hysterics because of some of the terrible and detrimental things that were being said to them. When we are young, it is difficult to understand why this type of language is used or why it is directed at us.
A skill that I have learned over the years, is to consider the larger picture. Not just in terms of “walking in someone else’s shoes”, but more so, in understanding that there is always more going on than what little interaction you have with someone; in reality, you usually are such a small part of the picture. So, when I was told by my peers that I was obnoxious, weird, and not good enough, it wasn’t a reflection on me, rather a projection of what my peers were experiencing. The choice to label me with such negativity could have come from so many places; difficulty at home, the unnerving pressure to “fit in”, or their own low self-esteem.
It wasn’t something that was easy for me to understand then, but in thinking back and analyzing the whole, everything makes much more sense. Over time, what my classmates falsely labeled as obnoxious, weird, and inadequate, I have redefined as passionate, unique, and deserving of more; because that was more accurately the case. Though it was painful when I was younger, I feel as though with time I’ve grown wiser, more observant, and more in tune to what those around me are or or could be experiencing. In the end, their disdain taught me resilience, perceptiveness, and empathy, and I am thankful for that.
I’m sure the adolescents and adults who are reading this, are wondering why an anti-bullying program designed for K-12 students is of any sort of relevance to them. Many may be questioning how we, as mature adults who presumably have outgrown the infamous fad of name-calling and bullying, can also be expected to participate in No Name-Calling Week. The reality is, that we may be the demographic that needs to pay attention to the importance of this week the most. Many of us, for a variety of reasons, still partake in name-calling, and what is shocking and saddening, is that our bullying is typically directed towards ourselves. This is why, I am challenging myself, and those reading this article, to participate in No Name-Calling Week by practicing self-love and only using kind words.
In a society where it seems as though everyone has crafted the “perfect” life (think: social media and the experiences we choose to share), it’s easy to get caught up in ideas that aren’t always necessarily a reality, and even easier to use toxic words against ourselves as a result. In fact, if I earned a quarter for every time that I used self-deprecating terms towards myself in the past year, I could pay off my student loans tomorrow, and sadly, many of us could say the same. Not enough people are talking about the way that we talk about ourselves, and its a problem.
Of all the people in the world, we spend the most time with ourselves. Why would anyone want to spend all that time with someone who continuously puts them down? I’ve found that the most damaging names that I have been called, have been the ones that I have created and used to label myself; because shrugging off the critiques of others is easy, but the things we tell ourselves seem to transform into a little bit of truth, a self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way. Self-depreciation is bullying in its worst form, and it is time that it comes to an end, and I believe there is no better way to start, than by following the example that GLESN sets with No Name-Calling Week. It is time to stop bullying ourselves and to start living a life where we too feel validated. Go here to find out how to participate!
By: Katie Ahrens, AiT Contributor
“Register for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week!” GLSEN, www.glsen.org/no-name-calling-week.