I will never forget when I was younger, (second grade to be exact), I got in trouble for standing up to a bully. The bully in class was being mean to all of the other students, and I stood up to her, telling her we would not let her be mean anymore. That being said, I was also the only little girl that would accept playdates with her, I played with her separately and tried to explain to her that she was being mean, but after that 19th push on the playground, I realized it wasn't cool to be mean, and I had to do something about it. When I told the teacher this, she turned it around on me. She called the little girl's mother and told her,"Amanda is being a bully and is not letting the other girls play with your daughter."
I bring this up because I remember it so distinctly. I remember at that moment realizing, sometimes when you stand up for what you believe in, you are not necessarily loved by all; even more so, if you are not careful with how you stand for something, your words can be misconstrued, and you can end up the bad guy in the situation. As I got older, I realized that the mean girls actually were the cool girls, but it never made much sense to me. I was always friends with everyone in my entire grade and wanted to get to know everyone, but the popular kids made fun of people who were different, they acted like they were better than everyone else and they left people out. I remember watching that same experience when I was a first grade teacher. Every single morning, I would ask my students to talk to me about something other than school for one minute to build a like-minded community of individuals who can build off of each other's ideas. If you have ever been to a Catalyst Week, you will know what I am talking about as I now do the same thing with adults every month.
There was one instance when a little boy in the class was bullying a little girl and instead of speaking in hypothetical terms, I remembered weeks before the little boy had talked about his big brother being mean to him during his one-minute turn. I brought this back up to him, explaining, "put yourself in her shoes, you are now doing what your brother was doing to you and how does that make you feel?" Because we were in a community where we had been vulnerable, shared our feelings and thoughts and fears, he was able to relate to the little girl and his apology was sincere. Most teachers did not teach this, in fact based on my instance with my previous teachers in a very good public education system, I can openly admit, I did not receive such dynamic learning in my 21 years of education, which is why it is so important to look back to when we were kids instead of trying to solve issues as if we are well-rounded adults.
My parents and Sesame Street taught me how to treat people, how to be kind always, how to not judge, to stand up for what I believe in and to be humble, but that unfortunately is not the norm. According to the American Justice Department, bullying statistics show that one out of every four kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence. It's also not just in the classroom; Bullying has increased due to the opportunities to bully online. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has cited that 52 percent of students have reported being cyber bullied before.
So where does this leave us? There has to be a shift. I realized that for so long I have been a mediator, one who has been standing between two lines, making sure neither side (the mean "kids" or the nice "kids") would be angry at me, never saying anything that would ruffle anyone's feathers. Someone who is very important to me recently told me to stop asking permission for things in my life and to start just doing them. I have been complacent and timid when it comes to demanding and standing up for what I know is right, and it starts with even the smallest of things for myself.
I see a shift in our consciousness for what is cool. It is no longer cool to make fun of someone, call someone a jokingly mean name, talk about someone behind their back on email or speak negatively about someone you work with, are friends with, are enemies with, are exes with, it's not cool. It's cool to be kind, to think bigger, to go above and beyond to operate from a place of kindness all of the time. Viacom has recently profiled this in partnership with the Born this Way Foundation, creating a new "currency of cool for high-schoolers" with a foundation of kindness.
I am so proud to announce two very well-known TED speakers this month who will be speaking at Catalyst Week next week Simon Sinek who uses kindness as a foundation. I am no longer afraid to stand up to those who are negative, who are poking fun, or are getting down to a level that is beneath them, who are gossiping, excluding or who are making people around them feel like they are not good enough. When you act from a place of kindness, you act from a place of confidence and I believe when you stand up for what you believe in, when you act from a place of love and kindness, those teachers, those mean girls, those negative role models will just fall to the wayside.