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Standing Up for Myself

The only thing I thought I was good at was being lonely. And trust me, it’s not a good thing to be good at

Everyone always says that having friends is really important and I couldn’t agree more. You see, growing up, I had everything I needed, but there was one thing missing — friends.

I don’t know how it all began, but school was always really hard for me. When I was in kindergarten, I would sit alone on the side, while the other kids played together. I was scared to go over to them because I thought they wouldn’t want to play with me. I felt like I wasn’t good or cute enough for them to include me. Those thoughts made me feel worthless and I believed I wasn’t smart or talented at anything. The only thing I thought I was good at was being lonely. And trust me, it’s not a good thing to be good at.

Things did not get better. In fact, they only got worse. My classmates would say mean things to me. They told me that I smelled bad. They asked me inappropriate questions like, “Do you still wear a pamper?” (A pamper is a diaper). I was so embarrassed that I would just go to the bathroom to cry.

The girls also made fun of my shoes and clothing. They said they were funny. I was confused and didn’t know what made my shoes and clothing funny, but I’d ask my mother to buy me different clothing. I so badly wanted to do anything that would make them stop.

Even when a nice girl wanted to be friends with me, the bullies made sure no one came near me. Everyone was too scared to be friendly to me.

I made a mistake by not telling my mother what was going on. I felt hurt all the time, and I had to run away from the bullies at school. I was too scared to speak up because I didn’t know how the bullies would react. So I kept all the misery inside, but it was a really bad idea.

In first grade, I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore and finally told my mother what was going on. I was tired of feeling so lonely and hurt. My mother first made sure I understood that no one has the right to treat me like that, and that I don’t deserve to be talked to meanly. This was eye-opening for me because I had started to believe that I wasn’t important. But my mother kept telling me that I was loved and lovable. She made me realize that the problem wasn’t with me, but with the mean girls.

Then my mother started teaching me how to stick up for myself and feel proud of who I am. It was very, very hard to do, but I did it anyway. For example, when someone asked me something inappropriate, my mother told me to answer them back in a way that would make them feel silly instead of me just running away or crying. So the next time someone asked if I wore a pamper, I held my head high and said, “Why? Do you want to know if you’re wearing the same color as mine?” My mother taught me to talk confidently with a strong voice and say, “Don’t talk to me like that.”

I also learned to answer their nasty comments. If a girl insulted me, I learned to say, “Wow, I never knew! Thank you for telling me!” in an exaggerated way. The girls were very surprised by how I spoke back to them.

One time a girl told me that my dress was too short. I thanked her for telling me. I couldn’t say it as strongly as I wanted, but she looked shocked and then walked away! I was so proud of myself.

As I started sticking up for myself, my classmates slowly realized that being mean to me wasn’t fun anymore. I made a friend, and then another.

Even though things had gotten a little better, girls still treated me meanly. One girl would take my schoolwork and say, “This is so messy, I’m throwing it in the garbage,” and then she would. Another girl would tell me how dirty my shoes were and refuse to stand next to me. There was even a classmate who would say things like, “We’re the best group except for Shaindy.” Sometimes, I felt so hopeless that I couldn’t even stick up for myself. It made it especially hard that there was one very mean girl who laughed and made fun of me when I did work up the courage to answer back. She would whisper to the other girls in front of me, they would giggle together, and she would pinch her nose when she was next to me and say, “Ew!”

Through everything that happened, my mother kept telling me to be strong and stand up for myself. Once, when we were working on a project, a girl passed my desk and pushed my stuff to the floor. Before, I would have stayed quiet or just started crying, but this time I said in a strong voice, “Excuse me, pick it up please.” She looked surprised but she picked it up. These little wins gave me the courage to keep trying.

Something amazing happening as I started feeling more confident. I discovered things I’m really good at. One of them was that I could speak a fluent English. In my European town, most girls only spoke Yiddish at home and were just learning English for the first time in school. But my parents spoke English to me since I was little, and my mother read English books to me. It made me realize that I could be proud of my language skills.

I also found out that my love for reading made me really smart. I knew many things that my classmates didn’t know. This made me more knowledgeable and helped me learn faster than everyone else.

As time went on, more and more girls started to see my talents and realized that I was a fun person to play with. Once I had a few friends, other girls became less scared to come over. However, there were still a few really mean bullies, like the one I spoke about before. They would make faces at me, make fun of the girls who were playing with me, and tease me because I’m short.

When I started third grade, my school mixed the classes. There were lots of new girls in my class, and since most of us didn’t know each other, it was a great opportunity for me. I ended up making some fantastic friends. One of the reasons the classes were mixed was to help the bullying issue, and it made a big difference.

Now I’m in fourth grade and have the most amazing teacher, Mrs. Katz. She always encourages me and helps me feel good about myself. With her support and my mother’s, I feel more confident and am surer of myself. Mrs. Katz gives me compliments and points out my talents to my classmates. She tells me how much she believes in me. In fact, she chose me to be the first public speaker in our class, which made me feel very special.

As my classmates mature, they have become nicer and mean girls aren’t tolerated as much. Now I have lots of friends, and I know that I deserve to be treated like a person. Being smart, kind, and knowledgeable, along with the support of my teacher and mother, helped me become more confident.

I am so thankful that I’m no longer lonely and miserable, but I haven’t forgotten the awful times I went through. If you’re being bullied, here’s my advice to you:

Tell your mother or teacher right away. Don’t be afraid.

Stick up for yourself in front of the whole class. I know how hard that is, but it is so important to show the girls that you are confident.

Don’t believe the mean things that are being said about you! They’re not true!

The girls that are bullying you are doing it for attention, or because they are insecure. It’s their problem, not yours! Remember, hurt people hurt people. If they were happy, calm, and confident, with a good life and a great family, they would not have the need to bully you. Don’t forget that.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 971)

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