When I think of abuse, the word “bullying” generally appears towards the bottom of the list. However, bullying has seeped into our society and culture like a plague…a plague that is now being fed by social media and getting deadlier every day.
During a recent workshop with 25 teenage girls living in the NYC shelter system, I proposed this question, “How many of you have been bullied?” I, myself, raised my hand. Then I asked, “How many of you have been bullies?” I raised my hand again. I then asked, “How do you feel when you are bullied?” There was silence. Then one girl raised her hand and replied, “I feel like killing myself when I’m bullied…”
I remember being a child and being taunted for being poor, for not having clothes, food for school and for acting “like a girl.” It crushed me, kept me in a place of disturbing solitude and left a scar for life (well almost). Thirty years later, I now have the gift to share with these beautiful girls my experiences, how I survived and how they can, too, to help them overcome bullying…
After an initial discussion around bullying, I generally ask each girl what they like about themselves the most. Their answers would range from their smile, their hair or their personality (to name a few). But then, there are some who will answer, “I don’t know,” or with a very sad face say “Nothing…” That used to be me.
When this happens, I normally start a conversation with each individual girl, asking them about the things they enjoy on a daily basis. I ask, “Do you like music?” At least one of them will say “Yes!!” With this answer in the air, I like to have a little fun with it. I ask, “So if you listen to music a lot, you must like to dance?” The answer is generally, “Yes.” I follow up by asking, “So you like the way you dance?” And, they generally respond with a giggle and “Yes…” That is when we all have our “Ah-ha” moment and realize that there is something that she likes about herself. We take it a step further and in minutes, I identify things I noticed about each girl that were beautiful, without even spending a day with them.
And, how about the things they don’t like? Well, one by one I help them see how that list is untrue, and how sometimes it maybe their strongest asset. My workshops focus on exploring individuality. I point out to them how individuality is becoming less and less important in society, because we all want to identify with a celebrity. However, we often forget that every celebrity makes it his/her job to be individualistic.
As a male, who is a beauty professional and works for NYC Fashion Week each season, it’s my job to transform women. These girls value my opinion. Can you imagine I spent most of my life thinking I was worthless, and now I have enough self love to help others? For this I’m grateful.
Please join me next for part 2 where I continue my discussion and share how these girls help transformed my life. Stay tuned…
Image Source: Blenheim School, Surrey, UK