How to approach bullying

By Antonio Gonzales

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