Cyber-bullying effect: “Growing up I was ashamed of my disability”



We’re happy to introduce Karin Hitselberger as a guest blogger today. A freelance writer and graduate student of disability studies at the University of Leeds in England, Karin blogs about life and disability issues at Claiming Crip and writes about the intersection of disability, fashion and body acceptance at Ceep Style. You can follow Karin on twitter @Karinonwheels!

It does get better: On conquering mean girls and being comfortable in your own skin

by Karin Hitselberger

It was right before the beginning of ninth-grade, and I was playing around on social media. Suddenly I saw a link with my name in it. I decided to click. Immediately I wished I hadn’t.

Scrawled before me on the screen was a hate website about me, started by my so-called friends. I was upset, and embarrassed. All I had ever wanted to do was fit in, and now people were writing awful things about me for the whole world to read.

At first I didn’t want anybody else — outside of the throngs of people I was sure had already seen it — to know what happened. I felt like it was my fault.

I managed to tell my mom and she was really supportive, but the whole experience destroyed my confidence for a long time, and made me feel ashamed to be myself.

That was 10 years ago. I’ve learned a lot since then. I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed, and I couldn’t be prouder of the person I’ve become. Over the past 10 years I’ve realized that the things that you are bullied for may just be the very things that turn you into the person you strive to be in the future.

Growing up I was ashamed of my disability. I didn’t want to stand out or be different, and that experience with bullying made me feel very isolated and alone. As I’ve gotten older though, many of the best parts of my life have been because of my disability, not in spite of it.

I have learned to be proud of my differences, rather than ashamed of them. I have learned that people hurt you because they’re trying to make themselves feel bigger. I have learned it is never your fault. I now know for a fact that it really does get better.

I also know that unfortunately there are still mean girls (and guys) out there who bully other people from behind a computer screen and forget that their online hatred has real life consequences.

It still hurts, but now I am confident in who I am and I will never change just because of somebody’s cruel words.

Remember, bullying doesn’t always leave physical scars. Don’t ever let anyone minimize your feelings or experiences by telling you “it’s just words, it’s not a big deal,” because words can hurt just as much as a punch. Words have power, online and in person, so use them carefully. It’s important to be responsible with what you say and what you type because you never know how it might affect somebody else.

More than anything, remember, what makes you unique and different also makes you awesome. Differences like disability don’t make you any less worthy of a person or any less deserving of respect and love.

Ten years after eighth grade I can honestly say I am so proud to be the person I am. The things that make me different are also the things that have made my life the most valuable and the most beautiful. Being different has given me some of my greatest experiences and my best friends, and no matter what anybody says, there’s nobody I would rather be than exactly who I am.


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