Monday, May 21, 2012

Frugal Fitness Fights Bullies

Bullying has been in the news a great deal the past year, and even the past two decades since the first big school shooting at Columbine. This past year, there have been even many viral videos of kids talking about being bullied along with suicides and acts of violence associated with online or homophobic bullying. Bullying can result in a lot of health problems in the world, which is why I'm talking about it on this site. I HATE bullying, but it is a part of life and something you deal with in school, the workplace, from your family, and society in general. This is a very difficult but very real topic to discuss with a lot of factors that come into play. There are a lot of different opinions and experiences on the subject matter, I'm just going to discuss some of my thoughts and experiences.

As pretty much everyone has, I've been bullied plenty in my life so far. I have always been very short for a guy, now standing at a whopping 5 foot 5 inches. I started getting bullied a little bit when I moved back to Massachusetts at the age of 10, and I was shy and much shorter than most. I was also a competitive gymnast, so that didn't really help much. I didn't have a lot of friends or self-esteem and had somewhat of a generalized social anxiety as well until I started to improve around 16 years old. I wasn't exactly stuffed into lockers or beat up, but I was made fun of a decent amount, ignored, or physically pushed around a bit by some school kids. While I was athletic and relatively book smart, kids at that age aren't very open to people who were different at all whether it was sports they played or physical appearance.
I really started turning some of my anger and frustration into energy at the weight room, and at age 16 started packing on some actual muscle, size, and strength. Suddenly I started to get made fun of and ignored less and less. By the time I was 18 and could bench press nearly 300 lbs and deadlift 400 lbs, I was almost never made fun of. What a coincidence eh? Sure some of it may have been people maturing with age, but it was also because I had greater physical size and could stand up for myself. This reason was actually one of my major motivations for becoming a certified personal trainer at age 18: to help others strengthen themselves to improve their self-confidence and minimize being bullied.  From that point on, I was never really bullied that often physically, just financially bullied by a few wealthy clients or corporations I worked for and eventually I had to stand up for myself in a different way, including helping others to make the most out of what money they do have.

While that might seem kind of like a simple and pointless recollection of events, the way getting bullied made me feel and how it affects me to this day is much more astounding and complex. As a youth and young teenager, I started to get anxiety, depression, and a pattern of self-loathing because I saw myself as worse than many others in many ways. I started to think that I deserved to be ignored or bullied, or that I should not complain about it and just keep it to myself. I still have thoughts of hate and anger regarding individuals that bullied me 10-15 years ago and it is seared into my brain (clearly something I need to work on but that's another story). I've often noticed even today that I am very defensive, aggressive, or assuming the worst in people because I don't want to be put in that situation again. On a few occasions, I've even become the thing I hated most and bullied others, maybe subconsciously in a preemptive manner, with my physique or whatever resources I had at my disposal. It is simply a sad cycle of events that have led to many of my positive and not so positive attributes. Some positive things have come out of it, and some negatives.

But here's the way I see it: Not all these childhood bullies are to blame. Some of it is due to youthful ignorance, which we all have displayed. A lot of it has to do with their anger and trying to find an outlet due to bullying or abuse from others in their lives. Those people may have been abused or bullied by others and responded in turn. Or the kids (or adults) just have extremely low self-esteem or insecurities themselves and make the wrong choice of taking it out on others, or knocking someone else down to feel better about themselves. Bullying goes on all around us from abused individuals, people crying out for help, fallout from random unfortunate events, miscommunication, and even good intentions.

I don't know what can be done to reduce bullying, and I honestly don't think it can ever be completely eliminated. I certainly don't advocate that pumping iron is the only way or the proper way to thwart bullies, that is just the reality of what I did in my life. I think one of the only things that can really be done to improve any situation is to try and reverse the trend by starting a positive cycle. Do something nice or above and beyond for someone else, and they will pay it forward. That will create something positive for their children, their children may act more respectful to others in school, kids are bullied less, and they don't grow up to be pissed off and hurt others in turn. It's not going to be that straightforward or easy but maybe that can help. Try to empathize with others and think twice before committing an action that can hurt somebody.

Start a Positive Cycle to Help Stop Bullying and Abuse

  Stay Frugal & Fit My Friends!

Michael J. Schiemer B.S. CPT
Owner of FRUGAL FITNESS Worldwide Wellness & Elite Cheapskate 
Owner & Personal Trainer of RESULTS Private Fitness Boston, MA
Author of The Frugal Diet, The Frugal Workout, & The Ultimate Fit Guides 
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