Nicole Lau

Rising above the bullying

Like many others who are from middleclass families in Malaysia, I was enrolled into a private international school for my secondary education in hopes of opening up more doors for me in the future.
However, bullying is a common problem around the world and affects all level of society. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, the dark clouds of bullying are always looming just over the horizon.
My family was not wealthy enough for people to get jealous of nor had I any outstanding academic results to boast. I was really just your average everyday girl; skinny, short and constantly fighting witha pimple outbreak. Perhaps the issue of a teenager having pimples wasn’t really such a big deal, but I remember that the bullying started with people calling me “pimple face”; first behind my back and soon in front of my face.
Words have power and constant insults hurt. That being said, uncomfortable as the words were, I could choose to ignore them and get on with my life. However, such things rarely remain verbal.
One day, a guy decided to be difficult to me out of the blue. Perhaps he woke up on the wrong side of his bed. Regardless, I found nasty words written in liquid-paper all over my desk in class. Not only that, my entire school bag and books went missing. I sought the help of the class prefect but to no avail.This was my first taste of how verbal bullying can turn physical quickly.
If there was one thing that I did excel in, it was sports. I enjoyed pushing my physical abilities to the limit and felt empowered in bettering myself each time.
As you already guessed, the bullies struck again. I remember a particular incident amongst many others where someone secretly pulled my name out from one of my favourite sport and entered it into another game that I was not particularly fond of.
Perhaps they thought that my sporting ability was easily transferable across different sports and wanted me on their team to help them win. We lost, and as expected, all the blame was put on me. I remember this particular incident most clearly because it seems that it did not matter to the bullies even when none of the events leading up to the bullying was my causing.
Soon the popular girls started picking on me and that is when things went from once-in-a-blue-moon to a continuous barrage. I can be walking by myself one moment and have a hand shoving me from behind the next. And guys will start sprouting horrendous swear words for no particular reasons other than to get into the good books of the popular girls.
I was actually quite lucky that the degree of bullying I was subjected to was not extremely bad like those we have seen in so many videos. I shudder to think how I would cope with if things turned violent like they had in those videos.
I am not sharing my story for some major revelation or closure, but to highlight the fact that bullying comes in all shape and sizes. I did not reach for any assistance because I feared that others would just say that I was overreacting and I believe that I was not the only one who felt that way when things were happening.
Who is to know whether the bullying would escalate further if we had not graduated and moved on?
What I hope now is for more people to take notice that bullying often starts with relatively harmless things such as name-calling that most would view as a non-issue but can quickly escalate into small acts of violence, that can then very quickly grow out of hand.
In a way, bullying is like a drug that gets one hooked or the devil that demands a bigger sacrifice each time. So do take a moment to observe happenings around us. If we can, speak up to protect others.
Personally, I am not glad for the experience, but proud of the lessons I took away from it. I am now charting my path in the world of modelling where the environment is truly cutthroat and the past experiences have served me well.
Becoming a model was actually to prove to myself that I can make it no matter the consequences or the barrier that was put on me. Who cares if I am considered too short for the industry, I will write my story myself from now on.
Nicole Lau
Nicole Lau