Ask Andrew W.K.: Dealing With Bullies

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Photo Mallory Turner
[Editor's note: Every Wednesday New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]

Dear Andrew,

I'm writing because I'm being bullied every day and I just can't take it anymore. I'm going to be starting my sophomore year of high school this fall, and every day I've just been fearing it worse and worse. I used to be a pretty happy person. I was picked on a little bit in middle school and before, but once high school started it's just way more and I'm so depressed now that I just hate my life. There's this one group of students, both girls and guys, and their whole hobby is making my life miserable. They go on everywhere and say lies about me, and also make fun of me in class and say I'm a slut, which isn't even true at all. They've stolen my backpack a bunch of times, and one time they gave it back to me and they had dumped soda all over everything. I hated every day of my freshman year. My mom let me stay home from school as much as possible, but if I miss too many days next year, I won't pass my classes, and the teachers were already getting mad at me about it. I just can't win no matter what I do. My mom has tried talking to the teachers and the principal and even the parents of these kids. But the more they teach them about how bullying is wrong, the more they always find a new way to be even more mean to me. We are now considering trying to move me to a different school. My mom is hoping to move to a different town, so we can have a fresh start. Why are people so mean? They are ruining the happy person I once was.

Signed,
Help Me Please

See also: Ask Andrew W.K.: How to Cope With the Death of a Friend

Dear Help Me Please,

No one can break you. You are a billion times stronger than these bullies will ever know. You are even stronger than you know. No matter how hard it may seem to keep your head up and keep going, you must hold on to your power, and not give in to their cruelty. hey want you to feel bad, and your feelings are the one thing you have control over. You might not have control over what they do, but you can always control how you respond to them.

You can simply refuse to let them break your spirit. The most important and valuable possession you have in this whole world is your spirit. Your spirit is where all the best things about you reside. Your spirit is where your courage, strength, kindness, love, creativity, happiness, inspiration, care, belief, and imagination all live. The mean people of the world want to break down your spirit so they can destroy all the beautiful things that are protected inside of it. But guess what? There is only ONE person in the world that can break down your spirit, and that's YOU. You have the one and only key to the lock that guards your spirit, and you never have to give it to anyone unless you want to.

Bullies are very tricky. They work very hard to manipulate your emotions through fear, cruelty, and brutality, until we think the only way to get them to stop is to give in to them. They trick us into giving them the key to our spirit. That's the game they're playing, and their delight is in seeing if they can win the game by breaking down the walls that guard your precious heart. They will tempt you in every way. Just like the wicked witch tried to tempt Snow White with that delicious apple, these bullies are tempting you with relentless and exhausting abuse.

Just like Snow White, you have a true beauty that they don't think they have, so they feel the only way they can enrich their souls is by sucking the beauty out of yours. But YOU CAN STOP THEM. It takes two to play this game, and the most surefire way to never lose to a bully is to never play along with their stupid game in the first place. That's how bullies work. They start this game with you and your mind, and if you simply don't play along, they can never win. People often say, "Just ignore the bullies," but that's not the same. Ignoring them doesn't work. You simply just don't let them break you down.

It's like being afraid of the dark. If I'm afraid of the dark, I can't simply ignore that it's dark. It's too obvious and in my face. But I can feel afraid of the dark, and just choose to not give into the fear. You just feel your way through the dark and keep moving, instead of collapsing on the floor and cowering in fear. Some people see a problem and run away because they're scared. But courageous people see a problem and run towards it -- even though they're scared too. We don't ignore the problems and hardships and fears in our life. We keep living and doing the best we can, even with the problems, and the mean people, and less than ideal situations. Why? Because we have spirit. We have heart. We refuse to be beaten. And all you have to do is just - keep - on - going. Especially in those moments when it feels like you can't take one more breath, your spirit will see you through.


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14 comments
cloudproud2013
cloudproud2013

Bullied kids need our love and support; I have first hand practice at this and know from experience what to do. The best medicine is often an older friend or big brother, big sister that can show them that life does get better. That can relate to them on their level. Take them under their wing and show them that what happens in school doesn't matter that its just school. It shouldn't be this way and that something is wrong with the kids doing the bullying not the victims. Spending time with them taking an interest in their lives, even a couple of hours a week can make all the difference in a bullied kid’s life. A couple simple acts of kindness a few kind words, asking that kid how his day is going, if he wants to go to a movie, or doing something with an older boy or girl that they might look up too can mean the difference between life and death for a kid thinking about self harm. I was told more than once growing up that because I never picked on kids that others did, that I stood up for them and never judged them and always treated them like a human being that they didn't self harm. I was shocked to find this out, that some of the kids I simply talked with or played cards with, at a local coffee shop ended up staying alive due to those simple acts of kindness. That buying a kid a drink and talking about music, cars, simply listening to what they wanted to talk about not being a parent to them but a friend when they were having a bad day. Kept them from coming home from a brutal day at school and offing themselves. Ever since then I have always had an open door policy at my home, anytime a kid is in trouble and needs help no matter the time all they have to do is knock at my door and ask for help. I don't judge them and I don't lie to them. LGBTQ, Straight, BI, I don't see color, or gender they know I won't lie for them but I will talk to them and offer what help I can. If it means going to court for the kid that is in trouble for fighting to try and stop being bullied or the kids from broken homes with no place to sleep that need a place to crash. I have given them my bed and slept on the couch so they could make it to school the next morning. Talked to teachers about their attitudes towards kids that are being picked on and dealt with the police to resolve some issues. Better that than have a gun taken to school and a kid do something that s/he regrets for the rest of their lives. I was picked on in school but I am a big person with big shoulders and have always tried to stand up for the weaker kids around me. I tell them that if I have to I will carry them until they are able to walk again then that is what I will do. I cannot teach you how to talk to your children; most don't want you to do it. They want someone that they can relate to that they think is not going to judge them and they respect. In parent terms they want someone that they feel is cool and by definition makes them cool by being with that person to be their friend. Old school rules of popular but that is the key. Let your kids be who they are going to be, don't try to control them it only makes bullying worse. They are trying to stop it by changing who or what they are then let them try. We both know it won't work but they need to find out on their own. It will stop a lot of fights with you and your child, let them express their anger give them a way to vent get rid of the rage. Don't bury them in church places like that it will only make the issues worse. Religion is not sympathetic to children being bullied in most cases it’s at the heart of the matter. I am not saying let your 12-year-old son run around with a college aged Frat boy to parties and be drunk in the street acting like a fool. But being seen hanging out with older friends that are interesting and can show that son that life does get better that their are reason to go on fighting is the name of the game. That working hard in school needs to be met with being able to get something out of it besides getting into a good school making lots of money. Kids don't see that until they are in College and parents stop paying for everything for them. Most don't get it until they have had and lost that first job after college. So expecting your elementary school kid to want to tough it out be picked on all the time just to get into a good college to make lots of money is not a winning strategy. You might as well be telling them that they have to walk to the Sun and back 1000 times before next week. And parents that think going in and kicking the bullies azz is the answer or that kids need to just toughen up have no idea what its like to be a kid. Have you watched a group of young kids the way they act what they do? They are functioning on a lot higher level than when their parents were that age. Most parent assume that they are doing the best they can for their kids because they are out making millions of dollars and both parents are working and not making the millions a year. However, either way someone else usually TV is the one raising the kids in the house. A child would settle for a lot less "things" in the house and even a lot less "House", "Cars", "Junk" just to be able to spend time with both parents and know that they are loved by both. Problem is parents assume or associate making money with love of child because they are able to buy that child more crap they don't want or need. I am getting to the point, this sets up a whole new dynamic of my parents are richer can buy me more crap then your parents can, the rich kids picking on the poor kids bullying them over things that should not matter but the greed that parents feed off from after all "Greed is God, used to be Good" translates to the playground. Never mind that the poor kids are getting more time with their parents getting more real love because the parents are able to spend more real time with the children. Was going to make a few comments about LGBTQ kids and how best to help them, since I was one now I am an LGBTQ adult. But they need basically the same things as the others but possible with more love and understanding that its not just a phase and this is who your child is get over it accept and love them for the rest of their lives. Don't try to change them let them be free to be who, what, how, nature made them. Finally never ever let you child leave your site without telling them that you love them and mean it when you say it too them. You never know when it could be that last time that you get to say it too that child. A hug, a kiss on the cheek might be the last things you ever get to give your child. 

Act Up! Bullying the new LGBTQ plague!

Act Up! Bullying its everyone’s problem!

someone.
someone.

it can seem like hell when you're bullied in high school but never drop out and never give up. maybe you need to change schools to feel better or go to a school in your neighbourhood but once the last day of high school finishes you'll feel free and a lot more independent and everything will probably be better after that. I used to be bullied in high school and felt like killing myself a couple times but since then I've never felt that bad and everything has gotten way better since then and I have some good friends now and I forgive some of my friends from back then cause they were pretty cool and weren't that mean to me but make sure you get good marks and change schools and you'll probably be doing better than these bullies in the end cause most of them don't do well in school but I can't see how they couldn't like you but good luck.

sgrogan1
sgrogan1

Someone should tell this kid that when they go to college none of this shit will matter. They'll have the friends they want and enjoy the things they want. I was a bit of a jerk when I was a freshman in hs but realized i was hurting people I thought I was joking around with and spent a lot of time trying to make sure I didn't hurt others because I was picked on when I was in grade school. By the time I got to college every kid, bully or the victim, has their own stories that they get to let out and people develop relationships through their different perspectives of what it was like growing up. Growing up is just that, growing. People like this ALWAYS come out stronger, braver, and more passionate than those who never had to deal with adversity in life. It may not be great now but as long as they do what AWK says and recognize that fear without ignoring it, allow it to become part of who their character is, not soley what defines them, they can finally Grow. Those that are bullies their whole lives will feel the Karma sooner or later. They may not pump your gas, or ask if you want fries with that, but they will go home and notice something is missing their lives. What they don't realize is that nothing is missing in it, its just that they are so focused on hate and manipulation that they too are missing out in what makes living life happy. I really wish this kid the best of luck and can't wait to see the great things they do one day!

raindogs70
raindogs70

Some people let bullying consume them, or it becomes their motivation to succeed in life. Whenever a girl says other girls are calling her a slut, it usually turns out to be the girl is pretty and the bully is jealous. It's just that at that age, people want respect from their classmates and friends, not their parents. I just think that the school she's going to and the school saying they can't do anything about it - there's  anti-bullying advocates that would LOVE to know the name of that school. 

Lisa A. Pero
Lisa A. Pero

Why does he look like he belongs at Madam Tussauds in this photo?

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classic53174
classic53174

Andrew, you've done it again.  Your advice is consistently sincere, well thought-out and compassionate in its tone.  I'm bowled over every time I read a new posting in your column.  I guess I never expected such eloquence and a deep understanding of feelings from you, so shame on me for that.  Keep up the great work dude.

dialectair
dialectair

I love everything Andrew WK said - especially about alchemy. Situations like this are the most challenging time to practice kindness. It's like jogging in ankle weights. You can come out of a situation like this with the ability to handle stressful situations with grace and love.


At the same time, sometimes it's a good idea to just pack it up and leave a miserable place. For example, Michelle Knight got away from her kidnappers. Nobody's recommending she stay with them and use it as an opportunity to show them kindness.


Trauma like this can be too intense. It can wreak havoc on a person's self esteem. It's not until you're free from this hurtful dynamic that you can finally dust yourself off and start healing.


So, in my opinion, it's good to know when you're dealing with some healthy opposition and when enough's enough. No need to put yourself through hell.

syr.del
syr.del

"someday you will look back on these times and be proud of yourself for never giving up."  You will never look back on this time and remember how good it was, or with fondness.  You may remember good times, but as a time in your life it will never be a good one.  But if you can follow through, like ADK suggests, you can be proud and you can view it as a good experience in so far as it made you a stronger and hopefully better person in general.

basilhill
basilhill

Fantastic response. Andrew WK. Thank you for sharing your experiences and that advice that I just hope helps the person who wrote the letter.

ras6x
ras6x

I agree 100% with everything said. I have a different perspective to add too though. I was also picked on in High School. I made the choice to go somewhere else and remove myself from the situation. In my new situation, I found new difficulties. Many of them were similar to why I left my first school. However, I was able to handle the same challenges in a new place easier because moving locations gave me the freedom to go out of my "fear zone" for a minute and allow myself to remember who I was. For that reason, I'm glad I changed locations. It gave me the time and peace to remember who I was and whose I was so I could face those challenges on different footing.

mrivera1513
mrivera1513

Andrew WK. You are one bad ass dude. Seriously, you are so refreshingly honest & legitimate without minimizing this kids legitimate feelings. A lesson that some of us don't learn until later on in life is what it means to be brave. Bravery is not being afraid of nothing. It's being afraid and deciding not to let it break you. This kid is brave, your honesty is brave. Those bullies are afraid and unfortunately there's nothing this kid could do or say to make their lives worst than they already are. Great advice!  

cloudproud2013
cloudproud2013

Nice job keep up that cyber Bullying Lisa A Pero "Why does he look like he belongs at Madam Tussauds in this photo?'  


How about if you don't have anything nice to say you STFU! Do I need to tell you what the FU stand for? Your bullying in an article about bullying got to love Trolls in Cyber land. 

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