Bullying – a way of ensuring conformity?

Why is it deemed so important to be part of the crowd, to be normal, like everyone else? Is this what we are told and led to believe from a very early age? Or is this the conditioning, or indoctrination, that has successfully ensured conformity within the larger community? One thing I know for sure is that this process starts insidiously at a very early age and only becomes reinforced and strengthened throughout life.

My earliest memories – not including early childhood where there was still a modicum of innocence within – are of being bullied consistently and viciously because on some level I didn’t fit in. Yet I wasn’t even sure what it was that I was supposed to be or do in order to be accepted. Yet after a while my awareness shifted, I didn’t want to be anything like the  nasty girl who led the gang that bullied and made my early years in school a living nightmare. If there was one thing that I was sure about it’s that being malicious, nasty and bullying was not healthy nor a desirable way to live. The bullying continued in the classroom and in the school playground. There was no respite from it. And this happened about sixty years ago, so what we’re dealing with in our culture at the moment isn’t new. Our cultural values and attitudes evidently don’t seem to have changed due to the bullying epidemic prevalent in all areas of our society.

Talking to the bullies, getting parental support, telling the teachers met with no changes to the status quo. This particular group of young girls had decided to use me for target practice. To this day I wonder what their home lives were like. Did they witness violence, intolerance and constant anger? Or did they, for some reason unknown to me, feel insecure or unloved? No matter the reason, they needed to feel strong and secure and could achieve this only by bullying someone. As a young child I abhorred the use of violence, but maybe that was due to the fact that my father would smack me and innately my sensitive nature shied from all things violent and cruel. Anyhow, how did I resolve the issue of the bullying? As young as I was I knew that it could not continue, just as the awareness was strong that adult intervention was ineffective. My opportunity for revenge occurred one day. I’d been needled, name called and tormented once too often and instead of turning away I turned on my tormentor and lashed out. I hit, kicked, bit and scratched. Oh, there was quite a ruckus in the playground as a result. The circle of observers and those cheering us on grew in size which in turn resulted in unwanted attention from the teaching staff. End result was a visit to the principal’s office – oh, shame of shame. Parents were called in and I received quite a scolding for unruly behavior. But, and this is a biggie, the bullying stopped. The girl leading the gang kept her distance from me and after that school was less traumatic or unbearable.

Would I advocate anyone taking the same action I took those many years ago? Not necessarily. It’s really a matter of picking one’s battles wisely. However, I learned something extremely powerful from that one ferocious playground scuffle. No one, and I mean no one, would ever bully me again. Fast forward many years. My two children were at school and the younger was on the receiving end of some mild bullying. I took the issue to the school principal, who in her own way terrified parents and was often considered to be a bit of a bully as well. Instead of being agreeable and malleable I gave it to her straight, told her what needed to be done and that I expected her to do it. Afterwards, in conversation with other parents I became aware that they would have stepped back and not stood their ground with this particular principal. Instead, I was the mamma lioness protecting her cubs and nothing and no one was going to say, “children will be children” to me, as if bullying and picking on someone sensitive was okay.

How can bullying be stopped? How can individuality and uniqueness thrive in a culture that continually narrows the definition of normal and acceptability? I don’t have the answers. Yet I do know that a healthy self esteem and a strong self respect are essential for individual growth and self acceptance. And those traits may come from within, as the nature proponents may argue, or they may be gently nurtured and supported by loving adults throughout a child’s early years. In a nutshell, a massive re-think and healing is needed within our culture. At the moment our world seems so far away from shifting from violence and anger. Yet I still have hope and a strong belief that ultimately this era of conformity, bullying (subtle and vicious), control, etc are coming to an end and that ultimately respect and honor of the sanctity of human values and life will become the status quo!

Speak Up, Be Heard

How do you break an ingrained habit of not speaking your truth? All too often the pressure of parental expectations, peer pressure and societal norms can be such a powerful force, preventing your uniqueness, wishes and inner knowing from being voiced. Is it fear of derision, rejection or even failure that may hold you back from reaching for the stars and following your innermost desires, dreams or aspirations?

Conforming to the norms and expectations of others is draining and often results in playing roles, depending upon particular situations. I know how it works. I played the game for about forty years, not realising just how destructive it is to wellbeing. Actually breaking free from the game playing routine was tough as I held onto fears of being derided. Not being heard or understood is debilitating to the psyche. Feeling different was one thing but actively being scorned, even bullied, for perceived differences wasn’t something that I was keen to welcome into my life. It was easier to play the game, figuring out what others expected and then engaging in role playing, somewhat like being a chameleon.

It all changed when I made the decision to leave the education sector and apply for a position in a government agency. All I knew was I could no longer continue with my teaching career. Unexpectedly a very senior person in the system shared that he’d mentor me in the process – and he did an excellent job in more ways than he’ll ever know. A simple technique he shared for responding to questions from an interview panel was the key for my truth to gradually being spoken and shared with others.

Simply put, he encouraged that I spend time in front of a mirror where I was to pretend to be responding to the kinds of questions that would be asked by any interview panel. What I rapidly discovered is the importance of facial expression, intonation, lucid speaking, appearing confident and more. The more I practiced in front of a mirror the stronger within I became.

It doesn’t matter what the issue or concern is, this technique can be applied to practically all situations. If you’re gay and are fearful of sharing this openly, if your career preference doesn’t match parental expectations, if your interests do not dovetail with friends’ preferences, or if you are fearful of fully expressing your feelings to someone in a position of authority, or to a loved one, or to simply learn how to say “no” to people this simple technique can work wonders.

Figure out what you need to say. Statements beginning with… “When such and such happens I feel…..” are empowering. No blame, use self empowering language. Spend a lot of time in front of a mirror rehearsing. Observe your facial expressions and body language. Hear the tone of your words strengthen the more you practice what you need to say. When the day comes and you finally need to speak up, to own your truth it’s highly likely you won’t express yourself exactly as you’ve practised. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve begun to break the habit of holding back, of not living in your truth.

The first time you say “no” or express your difference will be the toughest. After that it’ll become easier and the need for rehearsals will lessen.

Becoming authentic will eventually be your M.O. and from that there will be further growth and shifts in awareness. Just taking that first step of fully expressing your truth is probably the toughest. I promise it get easier. It’s a process, it’s part of this journey we call life.

 

My Greatest Gift

Just about everyone I know or meet is carrying some kind of pain or burden. Often a brave face is shown with attempts to minimize the stress that’s creating the worry within. Let’s face it, life is filled with challenges, obstacles and definitely isn’t always as sweet as we’d like.

It doesn’t have to be this way – not 100% or 50% or even any of the time. This morning I read a striking quote by Louise Hay that speaks volumes.

I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.”

So, how can thinking be fixed? Is it as difficult as you might imagine? If you’ve read my book “A Square Peg” you’ll have followed my journey from one perspective and conforming life into another, totally unexpected lifestyle which enabled many hidden aspects of myself to emerge. One thing I didn’t share in the book, but which is actually an important part of my ongoing life journey is something I was guided to do daily.

I was guided to give gratitude. It was a journey of learning. Initially I commenced by saying “I am grateful for the food on my table, roof over my head, money to pay the bills, etc”. In time I came to view such things as the Tangibles. After a while my gratitude practice expanded to include the Intangibles. These are such things as love, laughter, optimal health, peace of mind, friendships, etc. They are the important enriching aspects of daily life.

Finally there was another aspect included in the daily practice. I commenced giving gratitude for such things as particular pieces of furniture, clothing etc – needed but not necessarily within in financial budget at that stage. Here’s the important part of this particular gratitude practice. It’s stated in the present tense as if it’s already there. Not that it will be, but it’s in existence at the moment.

Within 3 months I noticed that I felt happier within, held more constant thoughts of appreciation, felt better about myself and life generally. In terms of manifesting things physically – well, that took a bit longer, another 2 to 3 months. The bigger the item desired the longer it may take.

Here’s the thing about gratitude practice. It’s a daily thing, sometimes it happens many times each day. Being in appreciation and giving gratitude is without doubt one of the easiest and most powerful ways of changing thinking.

Initially I merely made the statements of gratitude. They were sentences only. However, I found that after some time there was actually a feeling happening. I felt gratitude from my heart, it no longer was merely a mental exercise. Once the energy of feeling had built up then the manifestation became more effortless. My thinking changed automatically, no longer seeing the worst but seeing the reason for whatever was happening and then being able to express gratitude for its occurrence.

While I cannot speak for the intended meaning behind the Louise Hay statement I can hazard a strong guess that she, in her own way, also found it possible to live in a state of gratitude and appreciation.

Exposure – How Does It Feel?

It’s finally happened. My book is published and now available for general perusal and comment. How does it feel? Elation that this lengthy process of writing and publishing is finally coming to an end, but also trepidation around what’s next.

Writing a memoir is something I never anticipated doing, but now that it’s completed my next concern is how people will react. Just because I found and accepted my differences, uniqueness and even weirdness doesn’t mean that feelings don’t come into the equation. My UNDERBELLY has been exposed for the whole world to read and comment on. And, my intuition says that there’s definitely going to be some interesting comments about its contents, and about me in particular!

Having spent a large portion of my life doing my best to appear normal and like everyone else this sharing so openly and honestly in my book is totally out of character. My privacy has always been important, treasured and valued greatly. So, what the heck was I thinking in undertaking this whole process? As per usual, I wasn’t thinking – I merely responded to the prodding from my non-physical space brothers and sisters, my steadfast support team who have provided unequaled guidance for countless years. My trust in them is unparalleled and unquestioning. It is because of this trust that I’ve proceeded and opened up those private parts of my life, and placed them under the microscope for public examination.

Ironically, as the writing progressed it became apparent that while writing about my experiences, understanding and perceptions I strongly realized that this wasn’t about me. In sharing so much and so openly it’s providing the impetus for open dialogue, for others to speak up and to also follow their inner guidance system instead of conforming to the so-called ‘norm’. Remember the controversy created by the book Out On A Limb, by Shirley MacLaine? Her courage in sharing so openly what others may have experienced but been fearful of sharing or acknowledging allowed a generation to accept as normal what was once considered weird, abnormal and unacceptable. She forged the way for many others in living their truth. More than once I’ve been told that A Square Peg: Conformity Isn’t An Option opens up the doors to the unusual phenomena to another level. This humble memoir actually has the potential to shift thinking and beliefs about the nature of reality to a new level.

If it assists others claim their uniqueness and provides an understanding of the unusual then my work will have been successful. If it raises questions, denial and arguments then that’s another step in the learning and sharing process.

As much as we, as a society, are herded together and through a process of unspoken mutual agreement live similar lives on the outside no one can ever take away the personal, inner experiences that enrich the soul and which also urge the soul onto greater things! When the soul’s desires and needs are ignored that is when life becomes complicated and challenging. When it’s heeded then miracles can be expected!

I hope and trust that those brave souls who read my words come to understand the value of honoring their soul purpose, irrespective of where it may lead them. Because in doing so ultimately the rewards far outweigh the difficulties and challenges along the way.

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Motivation and Inner Promptings

Night after night I awoke any time between 2 and 4am with words tumbling through my head. I would become consciously aware of the words in the middle of a sentence and would follow them intently, attempting to figure out what the heck was going on. After a few nights it became apparent that either my sub-conscious or higher self was writing my life story.

Okay…. I had been told numerous times by clients and friends that I needed to write my life story, but like most people didn’t believe that anyone would be interested. I certainly wasn’t interested, why would anyone else be? From my perspective it was history and a somewhat painful history so there really wouldn’t be any point in doing a re-hash of the old memories.

Regardless of my conscious perceptions the mental writing continued, night after night and it was relentless. As with all things there comes a point when it’s time to surrender and accept the inevitable. At that point in time I was living on the land, living very simply, doing lots of physical work and in conditions that were somewhat primitive with no internet and erratic phone connection.

After a few weeks of this mental writing I knew there was no option. It was time to find a small place, with telecommunications access and to set myself up to write – which is exactly what happened. The book basically wrote itself. The words poured out as if of their own volition. The clarity and lucidity of the memory recall astounded me because consciously I would have been challenged to remember everything…..yet as the words formed on the computer screen I found the details of my recall quite astounding, as if I was back there, in that space, that place and time.

Having spent so many years purging old, painful emotions and memories I didn’t expect my body to respond to the writing, but it did and in a big way. At times I found myself crying and hurting so badly over events and situations that I’d thought had been healed. My stomach hurt with tension, it was even difficult to continue writing at times. But somehow that inner drive kept me at it. Overall, it didn’t take very long to write and I felt purged, cleansed and definitely much lighter once it was completed.

Was it my intention to get the book published? It actually wasn’t as going through the process healed whatever still needed to be healed. Yet, at the same time not publishing the book would have meant that the whole process wasn’t complete. And, somehow the whole process has flowed effortlessly and seamlessly – an indication that all is as it’s meant to be.

However, if there’s one thing I can highly, highly recommend it’s that writing one’s life story is extremely cathartic and healing. It’s liberating and while it involves the resurfacing of stored pain it ultimately allows the deep seated wounds an opportunity for expression and release, resulting in new-found feelings of release and freedom. Not all life stories ever get into print but ultimately it’s the resultant release of old, painful memories that is the reward. By the way, I’ve used journaling as a means of releasing stored pain and that also is a letting go and healing process.

A Square Peg: Conformity Isn’t An Option has many levels to it. When I commenced writing there were no preconceived ideas about what should or should not be written. As I said, the book wrote itself. It’s basically about the importance of honoring the self, of breaking free from the bonds of conformity (which is often much harder than imagined), and about following the heart’s desire – even when society and people close to you don’t understand or accept what is happening. Ultimately I hope, and trust, that my story is an inspiration to those brave souls who also resist conforming to the ‘norm’ and who also have to come to terms with their oddities, quirkiness, weirdness etc!

 

Why I Write

 

Welcome to A Square Peg blog. If you feel different from those around you, if you are fearful of expressing your truth, your dreams and aspirations then maybe this Blog will help you gain understanding and confidence to express your truth honestly and in a space of integrity. I’m not going to tell you how to do this but hopefully through a process of sharing, reflecting and steady confidence building that you’ll eventually feel truly comfortable being unique and different.

All too often society, via family beliefs, habits and traditions, set expectations that may not fully resonate. In addition, further pressure is exerted from peers, the media and the wider society in general around what is considered ‘normal’. Once this normality, often subtle and unexpressed but nevertheless present, is accepted then everyone acts upon it believing that this is the way things are meant to be.

Being somewhat of a friendly person and having a congenial disposition I have met countless people and engaged in a great number of conversations over my lifetime. Interestingly, often I meet people who confide their weirdest experiences and who say “I haven’t shared this with anyone else”. The reason they are reluctant to share their unusual experiences is because there is a deep seated fear of being viewed as crazy or different. If I had been given a dollar for every story heard I’d definitely be wealthier. In addition, I often hear younger people say that they disagree with traditions and beliefs handed down through the generations but are fearful of sharing their perceptions with their parents and larger family. Fear of derision and scorn along with fear of offending loved ones are possible reasons for holding back from expressing their truth. Then there are students who follow in the family footsteps and undertake a field of study to keep the family tradition going, irrespective of their personal preferences. Believe me, this is a common occurrence!

While your journey is your particular journey with all its attendant experiences I do hope that you’ll connect with others of similar ilk, learn to feel comfortable expressing your individuality, and eventually come to an acceptance of just how important you are. All I ask is that any sharing undertaken is done so in the spirit of collaboration, support and respect. We’re all attempting to make sense of life in a world that often appears as if it’s gone insane or is in a constant state of chaos and flux. We’re all important. We all have a part to play in this thing called life. Let’s make the most of whatever we hold within, let’s share and support one another as much as possible. Remember….

“Reality is purely a perception of the individual mind. It follows, that since no two minds are alike, no two perceptions of reality are alike. It further follows, that what reality is to one may seem complete madness to someone else.” – Yefim Novikov