Best Friend Bully

When I was younger, bullies were portrayed as mean kids who stole your lunch money or beat you up on the playground. Sure, that existed, but I was a fairly quiet, keep to myself type of kid. I didn’t draw a lot of attention so the “bullies” didn’t seem to target me. At least that was what I thought. Unknown to me at the time, I was being bullied by my best friend. I didn’t recognize it.

As I have come to learn, bullying can take many forms. It can be stealing from someone, damaging personal property, types of hazing, name calling, spreading rumors, and/or social isolation and exclusion. Add social media to this and the trauma is intensified.  I can remember being mocked for my skinny legs or buck teeth but at least it wasn’t posted and duplicated to hundreds of “friends/followers” in a nano- second. Believe me it was embarrassing and traumatic enough! Luckily, it did not have the same long lasting effect it could have. I was bolstered by my success in athletics and academics so I developed a healthy self esteem. But back to the best friend…

She and I were inseparable and had so many similarities that everyone called us the “bopsey twins”. I felt so secure in our friendship that I told her my deepest secrets and I trusted her with my feelings. For whatever reason, one day she began to act differently with me. She started to criticize my looks or my personality. She picked fights over small things. She was angry with me a lot. I didn’t understand and thought it was me or something I had done. By the summer, she began hanging out at the neighborhood pool with two other girls and the three of them taunted me. I felt suddenly awkward, unworthy of a friendship, and alone. It was a very painful summer and I felt this trauma for years. Not only had I lost someone that I trusted would always be there for me, but I thought it was because I wasn’t cool enough, pretty enough, or fun enough. We became “friends” again after the pool girls dropped her but it was never the same. I was left feeling somehow incapable of having a true friend.

Over MANY years, I have grown to realize that what she had done was project her own insecurities onto me and bullied me to make herself feel better. Since then I have been fortunate to have some really wonderful friends that made me feel valued as a friend. I have also had, from time to time, a friendship that would begin to turn towards the same pattern of insecurity and bullying. At least by then I had the experience (and scars) to recognize what was happening and evaluated the authenticity of the friendship. Some friendships were salvageable and some were not.  I did learn though that the first step to countering bullying behaviors is to recognize them and not allow the hurt to change who I am. I also learned what a true friend is and that support is the best protection from bullies!

 

Jennifer Bleiweis is a Board Member and the current Race Director for Girls on the Run of Alachua County. She has lived in Gainesville since 2005, happily married to her best friend Mark, and mom to three, Samantha, Max, and Jack. She is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist with a passion for wellness.