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Beating Kryptonite

I was probably around the age of four the first time I remember being bullied. While my memories at that age are mostly vague, I remember that bad incident very clearly.

My parents had one of the only swing sets in the neighborhood. It was nothing fancy. Two swings. A couple of bars on the side. And a small slide. It was blue and white and made of metal. The neighborhood where we lived had kids of all ages. And they all used to come over and play on our swing set. From the time I was young, I had an inherent fear of doing anything dangerous - which included “tricky” moves on my swing set. And so while all of the neighborhood kids would flip around on the bars, I just stood to the side and stared.

I was a starer. A nicer description would be to say that I was an observer. But honestly, I was one of those kids who would look fixedly upon anything that caught my attention. And so, in my superhero underoos with my tommee tippee sippy cup (I remember this fact, which is why I’m guessing that I was four years old), I just stared while the other kids laughed and screamed with pleasure as they performed uncoordinated gymnastics moves on my 1980’s swing set. While I was enjoying my grape Kool-Aid (or whatever beverage my mom gave me - that’s one fact I’m fuzzy on), one of the older girls (let’s say she was around nine years old), came over to me with a nasty proposition. She said, “I want you to do a flip on the lower bar.” I shook my head, indicating that I didn’t want to. I was afraid that I couldn’t do a flip and would get hurt in the process. After I responded with a hesitant, but fearful “no,” she replied, “If you don’t do a flip on that bar, I will turn your skin inside out and it will really hurt.” Yes, she said those exact words! I still remember it verbatim to this day. I wasn’t sure how she was going to do it, but it sounded painful. I didn’t cry. But I was scared. I really thought she was going to turn my skin inside out. And so I left my own backyard and went inside my house, watching all of the kids (including the mean girl) play and have fun on my swing set. I was only four years old, maybe five. And for whatever reason, I didn’t tell my mom or dad. Not until decades later when I was with my family reminiscing about the old days in our neighborhood and all of the great families we got to know. I slipped in the story of the mean girl. I still remember her name (first and last). But I wouldn’t know her face if I saw it again.

That exchange clearly left an impression on me because I still remember it, even as I’m nearing forty. The word “bullying” is used a lot today. I don’t remember using it back when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure it was only reserved for boys on the playground who got rough with other boys their age. In the fifth grade, I remember one of the boys in my school punched a nun in the stomach. He then crawled out of the classroom window and ran away from school. He was definitely labeled a “classroom bully.” I remember his name too. I won’t write it down because I’m sure today, he’d be ashamed of acting like Mike Tyson in the ring with Sister Marcella. That sweet, old lady didn’t stand a chance.

Some people would say that I was bullied a few times as I got older. In high school, a girl threw spaghetti sauce on my sweater. When I confronted her about it, she punched me in the face. Her arm came up short, so it didn’t hurt that bad, but it was still a punch. When I started working as a television talk show host, I would received nasty emails from time to time. These messages were filled with unkind comments about my body, my face, and sometimes my clothes. And even the other day, as I was pulling into a metered parking spot at an outdoor mall, I came across an angry shopper. This woman was standing by the meter and tried to wave me away. She said that she was saving the spot for her husband. I can be generous, but when it comes to first come, first serve parking, the spot is mine! Well, this lady wasn’t subscribing to my “I got here first” theory. She said some nasty things to me. And for a moment, it kind of shook me up. You might say that all of these incidences were a form of bullying. But, I never categorized them that way. I always figured that they were either mean people with issues, or just having a bad day. And I, unfortunately, became the punching bag. Yes, some people are just assholes. But sometimes, you never know what that person might be going through on any given day.

Many years ago, I worked with someone whom others considered a bully. This person would yell, threaten, and use foul language at co-workers. It was unsettling to watch. And ever worse to experience. But then, over time, the observer in me witnessed something. I saw that other people in this person’s life spoke to that person in the same disrespectful and volatile tone. And that’s when I realized that this co-worker became a victim of someone else’s issues. By choice. And I’m sure it’s not uncommon. Nasty people often treat others the way that they’re treated. It’s easy to do. But with some conscious effort, we can try to not be affected by other people’s bad behavior.

I was threatened on my swing set. But I don’t have a swing set phobia. And I even learned to flip on the uneven bars in gymnastics class (although I was never very good at it). I was punched in the face. But I never became a fighter (although I can spar with words if need be). And I was anonymously told that I was ugly and fat. But I know that neither one of those descriptions of me is true (although I have felt that way after I knock out a bag of Doritos all by myself).

Words and actions can be powerful. And sometimes, they may feel like our kryptonite. But our reactions can override any negative storyline that comes our way. There are times when we’ll fall short. And maybe we’ll even punch back.

But when that moments comes...

When you have to decide IF you’re going to let someone else’s actions hinder your growth...

Consider this...

Do you want to become a victim of another person's issues?

Andrea Vecchio

About the author

Andrea Vecchio (@andreavecchio) is the founder and author of Live Your Playlist, creator and host of the digital series Driving Cleveland, motivational speaker, life strategist, and Emmy-nominated television host.

5 comments on “Beating Kryptonite”

  1. Larry Rudd Reply

    Hi andrea…enjoyed your piece. I thought it was going to go a different way but you suprised me at the end. I agree with your conclusion dont let others define you and dont allow others intolerance to affect how you view yourself.
    I view all the latest emphasis on bullying with mixed thoughts. I agree children should be safe and should not have to fear being physically or verbally attacked. I also think learning to stand up for yourself and knowing how to react to an asshole is part of growing up. If parents do their job and teach their kids ways of dealing with the inevitable jerks they will meet in life the kids will come out ahead in the end. When you can stand up for yourself in a non violent way and let someone else know that you are confident with who you are and that their views of you are really unimportant to you thats power. And its infectious.

    • Andrea Vecchio Andrea Vecchio Reply

      Larry,

      I love your thoughts and insight! And I agree, we need to teach children and ourselves how to use words effectively. And much of that begins with confidence. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your thoughtful response.

      Andrea

  2. Neil Reply

    Andrea

    Enjoyed the blog, as usual. One thing I never quite understand is when people send nasty emails about their clothes and bodies to the people in the media. What purpose does it serve? Why would someone take the time to go out of their way to be mean to someone? I could appreciate if they want to critique the story they did but not attacking the individual they don’t even know.

    However, over time, I’ve come to learn that people that do this are insecure and don’t like themselves so they need to cut other people down to make themselves feel better. They are also somewhat narcissistic.

    As for all the hate mail you received, just know it is a very small minority. There are a lot more people that think very highly of you and your talents. Keep up the good work.

    See you on Twitter & FB. Haha

    Neil

    • Andrea Vecchio Andrea Vecchio Reply

      Hi Neil,

      Thank you for this comment. I’m so happy that you enjoyed this blog!

      When I first started my work on the air in television, those nasty emails were tough to stomach. It’s always unsettling when someone you’ve never met decides to attack your God-given appearance. It’s cruel. It can be hurtful. And it’s absolutely bizarre. But you are 100% correct… and it’s as the old cliche goes… when people tear others down, it’s usually because they don’t feel good about themselves. I logically knew that, but it took a long time for me to accept it. When I get messages like yours, it’s a reminder to me that there are WAY MORE kind people rooting for me as opposed to the ones who are hoping to see me fail. And I think the same goes for everyone in life.

      xxoo

      Andrea

  3. rick myers Reply

    i am stunned that bulling has gotten out of control. kids are taking their own lives because of it. there seems to be no end. am sorry for what you went through lady. those words had to hurt deeply. dont remember myself being bullied. though as i entered high school. at 4 11 86 lbs. i did have some rough times. nothing that has left scars,or bad memories. i think bullies just are so incessed with attention,or to prove themselves to be big. they do this horrible thing. i dont see this ending soon in our society.i wish it would though

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