Suzanne is an actress, and former Miss Arab USA, who devotes much of her time to ending bullying in schools through her work with notMyKid. Her post for us today is about fear and the pain fear brings. Yet her post also brings us wisdom surrounding self worth, and leaves us with hope for a better tomorrow.
Fear can do strange things to people.
On September 11, 2001, our entire country was fear-stricken and naturally, everyone responded in so many different ways. I’m of the opinion that people are born inherently good and learn hatred through experiences. The experience we all shared that day manifested our fears and wreaked havoc on our souls in a way that it seems we are still recovering from.
I was in high school when the attacks happened. My first thought was the same as everyone else’s, “Oh no! How terrible! Those poor people.” Approximately two seconds later my thought was “God, please don’t let it be an Arab.”
I’m an American-born Palestinian and have deep ties in the Middle East. I’ve always been so proud of my heritage. My parents really did a good job at balancing us within two cultures. But in my day to day life, it wasn’t a looming factor. I was an ordinary school kid who went to class, hung out with friends and had a mad crush on a boy in school. I wasn’t always thinking about my heritage. It was just there.
Until that day. Until I became embarrassed and scared to be me. Scared of what it meant.
The kids around me suffered from a separate fear. The fear of another attack, the fear of the unknown. And often times, I became their proverbial punching bag. In moments of fear, it is normal to find the humor in things.
It’s unfortunate when that humor is at the expense of others. I started getting compared to the most evil man alive. And the thing is, my classmates knew that I had no connection to these heinous crimes. I was just the obvious choice if you wanted to lighten up the situation through the conventional ‘bullying/making fun of someone’.
And in those moments, I hated who I was. I secretly wished for blond hair and a last name like Anderson or Smith. I didn’t want to be me. I was afraid of that.
I now travel to different schools across Arizona and talk to students about my experience with bullying. Obviously, the primary objective is for students to hear this and either, stop bullying or stand up for themselves or others who are victimized. But there’s something else. Something that I have found to be far more important.
Through the years, I have learned that happy people don’t bully, secure people don’t bully. If you know someone who’s a bully, chances are that they have some internal struggles and manifest their pain in an unhealthy way. I learned how important it is to not bully the bully as they have their own struggles. It makes it so imperative that these people feel that they are valued, that they are worthy of being loved just as they are without the need for intense ego trips.
Meanwhile, bullies prey on the weak. As strong as I used to be, in that moment when I was ashamed of who I was I became the perfect target for a bully to use his words to hurt me. At that time, my self worth went out the window.
I believe that this strongly applies girls today. A person could bully us all day and night and it wouldn’t make a difference if we felt that we were of value, if we loved our bodies, if we knew that we were smart and capable.Self worth is the underlying factor of every issue where we experience fear through verbal bullying.
I’m quite aware that so many young people are physically bullied and that’s something that is beyond what I am describing here. But let’s imagine that everyone- the potential bully and the potential victim- had an understanding of self worth. I think it’s safe to say that bullying and fear of it would decrease exponentially.
We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m optimistic that it’s getting better. It’s become more and more acceptable for people to be unique and different. Gay kids are cool, smart kids are cool, athletic kids are cool. We are who we are and it’s nothing to fear!