A few years ago, my daughters and I were in a play where it wasn’t all applause. At least, not for her. Because one of the adults was mad at me, she took out her anger on Beth.
Yeah, not a real adult way to handle frustration, but we’re all messed up in some way, right? Every rehearsal, she belittled and hurt her, until my teenager hated being in a show she had been excited about.
Something had to change.
I think the real teasing started for me in third grade. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the blue cat's eye glasses I got that year. OK, so I loved blue. (Still do.) But my parents definitely should have steered me away from that particular fashion choice.
The painfully shy awkward girl who got straight A's and could always be found in a corner reading a book? That was me. It made me a target for cruelty I didn't know how to manage until much, much later.
Do you want to have lots of friends? Do you want people to scramble to sit next to you at the lunch table, or stand next to you in the kickball line? Do you want people to light up when you walk into a room and get excited at your very presence?
Yeah, me too.
Sometimes, though, we want others to like us so much, we can make them feel pressured, and no one likes to feel pressured. Sometimes, we think we can impress others by letting them know how important we are, or how much we know. But when we do that, we often end up making them feel put down, like we think we’re better than they are. And when others feel put down or criticized, they probably won’t like us very much.
But when we make the people around us feel good about themselves, they will want to be around us! If your friend misses what seems to be an easy shot in the volleyball game, instead of making her feel bad, tell her, "Good try! You’ll get it next time." If she made a B on the spelling test even after studying for hours, tell her, "Some of those words were really hard. You should feel proud of that B!"