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Proud to be weird

15 January 2013

The good

Before I was taught that I was weird.

Before I was taught that I was weird.

I had a happy childhood. I grew up in the newly developed suburb of Bollmora, south of Stockholm, Sweden. Our flat was big and modern, the surroundings mainly forested and there were playgrounds and paved bicycle paths everywhere. We had a dog called Zondor, a very kind but rather stubborn boxer. It was the early 1970s and things were good.

When I was six I started pre-school, and the year after that first class at the school proper. Over the next four and a half years, I made a few friends, an enemy or two and had a couple of crushes on girls in my class. Pretty typical stuff, all told.

I wasn’t bullied. I was a bit shy, but somehow rather cocky, and I actually ended up in a fight over something silly that I’ve forgotten now. I lost the fight.

The bad

Then, when I was 11, we moved to the countryside in Åland, Finland. Things were suddenly very different. I was different, what with my big city accent and slightly cocky attitude. Within five minutes I had been targeted by the class bullies.

I don't remember it looking this idyllic. Or red, for that matter.

I don’t remember the school looking this idyllic. Or red, for that matter.

The following four and a half years were not happy years. I quickly learned to feel fear, to try to stay invisible and to live with that icy panic in my stomach every time I was going to school. I wasn’t subjected to particularly heavy bullying (it was mostly verbal abuse, assisted by some punching and shoving into walls or pushing into ditches), but it was a constant thing. It was relentless. I went from being a self-assured happy boy to an intimidated and scared one.

As I tried to keep my head down and myself out of trouble, I could feel my self-esteem dissolving and disappearing. Anything I showed an interest in was immediately ridiculed. I was left with no doubt that I was different and weird. If I was particularly good in a subject at school, I was targeted for being a teacher’s pet. If I was bad at something I was told I was worthless.

Yes. Worthless. More than anything, I was taught to feel worthless.

The different

Things changed for the better once I was out of primary school. Most of my bullies went for practical educations, whilst I went to Ålands Lyceum, the local sixth form college or high school. I wasn’t bullied anymore, but I was still shell-shocked and withdrawn. I had learned that people could be mean and sadistic, and it would take years before I would recover from that.

The thing is that I was still the same self-assured person somewhere deep inside. There was a conflict inside me, a fight between my two personalities. I had been taught to feel worthless, but I didn’t actually believe that I was worthless. I’d learned to modify my behaviour, and to not trust other people, but I still knew somehow that I was worth something.

This made it easier to rebuild my confidence, but the scars from having been bullied wouldn’t go away completely.

Proud to be weird

I rather enjoyed teaching. It was very rewarding and a real ego boost. (Picture not of my actual pupils)

I rather enjoyed teaching. It was very rewarding and a real ego boost.

And today, the same conflict lives on. I still have two fundamentally different forces fighting for dominance inside my brain. But, with the benefit of 45 years experience, I’ve regained most of my confidence. (No doubt partly due to me working as a teacher some 15 years ago. After all, there are few things that boost your confidence more than to manage to stand in front of 25 surly teenagers and try to teach them science on a daily basis.)

So today, my original personality usually wins out. Most of the time. I still have relapses. I still sometimes feel like an outsider; like I don’t fit in. I can still get that icy panic, even though it’s less frequent and less intense than it used to be.

The difference is that I now know that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change who I really am. It doesn’t define me. I’m still me and I know my worth. I might be different and weird, but I’m proud to be weird. I’m proud to be me.

And that’s something no one can ever take away.

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 January 2013 09:08

    My son went through a period of bullying. Two years worth. But he was somehow able to keep his sweet wonderful self intact until he went to a bigger school. The bullies from all the other schools squared off with each other and he was able to skate past them.

    Like

    • 15 January 2013 09:15

      I’m glad to hear it!

      Yes, I think if we have a good enough sense of self-worth, we can somehow remain true to ourselves even after having been bullied. Yet another reason to make sure our children know that they are loved.

      Like

  2. 15 January 2013 10:04

    You show me where these people are who bullied you and I will fight them! **I will totally lose, but I will fight them.

    Like

  3. 15 January 2013 10:08

    I went through some stuff too that I try to block out mostly. My friend asked if I was worried that ignoring stuff will make issues pop up later. I told her when that happens, I usually try to think about how weird Stephen King is. Have you tried thinking about how weird Stephen King is?

    Like

    • 15 January 2013 10:10

      Stephen King is weird. And one should never underestimate the power of denial and suppression.

      Like

      • 15 January 2013 10:23

        I “favoriting” this comment. There is no button, but I’m doing it anyway. FAVORITED. There, all done.

        Like

  4. 15 January 2013 10:12

    Sometimes I think the chemicals in my brain got messed up. Something about learning to produce oxytocin by bonding when you are younger. If I could just produce more oxytocin, I’d be like a regular person. I would even watch Dancing with the Stars. And maybe the sports.

    Like

    • 15 January 2013 10:15

      Please don’t be like a regular person. We need weird people to keep all the normal people at bay. And sports.

      Like

  5. 15 January 2013 10:14

    Wait… This is supposed to be about YOU, not me! Where are those people who bullied you again? I’ve decided that rather than fight them, I will leave dog poo on their porch.

    Like

  6. 15 January 2013 14:16

    I’m proud you wrote this. You know my history with the same thing, and I know how hard it is to think about such things, let alone talk about them.

    I *also* want to cause pain and havoc toward the people that did this to you, even if they are adults now, living what is (hopefully, undoubtedly) a miserable, small life. Look at adorable happy Andreas up there. How could anyone have bullied him? That makes me stabby.

    You’re my kind of weird, Andreas. That’s the best kind of weird to be.

    Like

    • 15 January 2013 14:28

      Aw, thanks! It’s really nice to know I have your support.

      And yes, let’s hope their lives are properly miserable. That’d be most satisfying.

      Thank you! You’re weird too. And that’s a compliment.

      Like

  7. 15 January 2013 15:06

    Aw Andreas. OMG. I think I now understand your Bond-supervillain style personality. Calm. Calculating. Clever. With a little bit of craziness.

    But you’re right. I was also bullied and was yanked unceremoniously out of a high school as a result of it (a school my mum made me go at the other end of town miles away from my friends, so unsurprising) and certainly colours you in a very influential time of your life.

    But, these things make you stronger and help you become a better person, friend and parent in the process. Hopefully my friends and family appreciate what I had to go through to become the apparently wonderful person I am today.

    Like

    • 15 January 2013 15:17

      Bond-supervillain? Really? You sure you’re not just saying that to make me happy?

      Yes, it colours you and makes you stronger. In a way, I wouldn’t want to be without the experience today. Although try saying that to my teenage self; I’d have traded the experience for peace of mind at the blink of an eye. But I was young and foolish then, and didn’t appreciate the value of experience later in life.

      Like

    • 15 January 2013 15:28

      (By the way, did you notice I’ve tweaked the fonts? 1em/16px, baby! Yes, I’ve now got proper font sizes on my blog!)

      Like

  8. 15 January 2013 22:09

    Although I mercifully either shunned or let out all the bullying feelings through lots of tears in grade school, I got my fair share of it. The one thing to look back on it for me is that it makes us the people we are today and makes us stronger. Plus, if you think about kids’ motivations, it is a bit empowering to know that weirdness makes us interesting, and all those boring kids were just jealous. 😛

    For some strange reason, I didn’t know your blog was on WordPress, and have been following via email, but now am officially following via WordPress! Woot! 🙂

    Like

    • 15 January 2013 22:28

      Quite. It’s true that we were probably bullied because we were more interesting than the bullies. And now in hindsight I wouldn’t want to be without the experience I’ve gained from having been bullied in school. But it was a dark time, and I still carry plenty of unprocessed rage and hate, which is something I don’t like.

      Still, our emotional scars is what makes us us. I only wish that I’d known then what I know now. But that’s not how it works, I guess.

      Like

    • 15 January 2013 22:29

      Also, thanks for following me! 🙂

      Like

  9. 20 January 2013 16:04

    I want to find a way to dig out that empowered and confident me I know still exists somewhere in there, too!

    Like

    • 20 January 2013 16:24

      I believe it takes time, so be patient. Also, try to do things that you find a bit scary and intimidating. That should accelerate the process. Best of luck!

      Like

  10. 5 February 2013 00:32

    I get this completely, although my experience was just the opposite. People I met at school, other students, teachers, etc, thought I was smart and funny and pretty cool. My mother, and following her lead, my three brothers, however, told me daily that I was ugly and creepy and “not nearly as smart as you think you are” (I didn’t, I never understood what the hell people were talking about when they called me smart). When the people who are supposed to love you the most and be your champions aren’t, you grow up highly skeptical of anyone who expresses a different opinion of you.

    Like

    • 5 February 2013 01:14

      That’s horrible! Your family is supposed to support you and build your confidence – not tear it down! This makes me very sad.

      I’m glad, however, that you got some positive feedback elsewhere, so that you didn’t grow up feeling all worthless. Because none of us are. And people who try to convince us otherwise are just small and petty and probably scared of the sheer life force within us.

      Like

  11. 20 February 2013 21:58

    You guys and gals are ALL weird. Please take that in the awesome spirit in which it is intended.

    Like

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